How sustainable are your favourite brands?

News, blog and backgrounds about the sustainability scores of brands

Rank a Brand vs. RSM business students: 11 ideas

Here’s an experiment: 54 master students from the Rotterdam School of Management, specializing in business and sustainability, do brand research for Rank a Brand and investigate its methodology and operations for a few weeks. Then they present their findings. Will this yield any useful insights to Rank a Brand? Do Rank a Brand’s activities even hold up to such intensive scrutiny?

As you may have guessed, we have just conducted said experiment. Multiple student teams from the master Global Business and Sustainability at the Rotterdam School of Management helped rank the telecom sector as part of the course Sustainability & Behavioural Ethics. Meanwhile they investigated how fair Rank a Brand’s ranking system is, whether rankings are based on the ‘right’ values, how Rank a Brand might best treat its stakeholders, and much more.

Their general conclusion: Rank a Brand’s work is well-researched, crucial to creating consumer awareness, and invaluable in pressuring brands to become more sustainable. But, clearly, the road toward truly sustainable production and consumption is still long. That is why students came up with numerous ideas to help Rank a Brand accomplish its mission. Here’s an impression:

      1. Rank a Brand aims to expand to other countries, and thus to other cultures. But could there be valid differences in how cultures view sustainability? A cross-cultural dialogue could be useful to probe whether Rank a Brand’s assessment of sustainability is culturally biased and needs to be adjusted per culture.
      2. Rank a Brand is not alone in assessing sustainability. Other examples are the Dow Jones Sustainability Index, the Corporate Knights’ G100, Good Guide and B Corps. Not surprisingly, these assessments sometimes diverge. Why is this, and could a collaborative effort overcome this?
      3. Rank a Brand evaluates a brand’s climate protection policy, environmental policy and labour conditions. This squarely covers some of the most important sustainability issues. However, there are other areas that are interesting in this respect. For example: should economic sustainability also be covered? Criteria in this area could be covering, among other topics, whether or not a brand avoids taxes.
      4. To what extent should brands be able to compensate low scores in certain areas with high scores in others? For example, if a brand is suspected to employ children, should positive practices such as using renewable energy or recycling waste still be fully rewarded?
      5. Rank a Brand’s A- to E-ratings, while neat, might be confounded with the American grade system or hide the fact that, say, two C-ratings sometimes differ more in their ranking than a C- and D-rating. An alternative could be the less ambiguous five-leaves system.  Furthermore, when hovering one’s mouse cursor over a brand’s ranking, a pop-up window could display separate scores for carbon emissions, environmental policy and labour conditions.
      6. Rank a Brand values transparency: Brands that disclose no sustainability information will invariably receive the lowest ranking. While this encourages transparency, it may disadvantage smaller brands with limited resources to publish such information. What about sending such brands templates so they only need to fill out the required information to receive an accurate ranking?
      7. In a similar vein, Rank a Brand could be more transparent about how its own ranking criteria are established. Sustainability domains are selected from, among others, the Global Reporting Initiative, but how is optimal coverage of these domains determined? And how is decided for each domain which codes and guidelines are sufficiently reliable to be used for the rankings? One way to increase transparency is to send brands an advance notice of new ranking questions.
      8. Brands that are already deeply committed to sustainability probably care about more than just their ranking. What else can Rank a Brand offer them? An industry report with the latest ranking developments, perhaps? Or maybe these brands are willing to share some inside information to further improve the ranking process?
      9. As Rank a Brand grows in size, more formal regulatory procedures may become necessary. Auditing comes to mind, as does adopting codified ethics for non-profit organizations. For example, it could be explicitly stated that rankers have no conflicts of interest.
      10. For Rank a Brand as a non-profit organization, it is an open question how to measure its impact or added value. Statistics such as number of website visitors and brands ranked measure this only by approximation. An interesting KPI could therefore be how many brands receive a higher ranking than the year before. A problem, though, is that higher rankings may also result from other factors than Rank a Brand’s activities.
      11. After visiting Rank a Brand’s website, consumers may have the best intentions to buy sustainable brands, but when push comes to shove, they may not always do so. To make sure good intentions translate more often into actual behavior, Rank a Brand could release a browser extension that allows consumers to see the rankings of brands when surfing—or even shopping—online.

Without a doubt, receiving all these ideas from so many highly critical and bright students is a bit like a swarm of bees in an orchard: very fruitful. And, surely, as we are designing our new website and planning a major overhaul of our Wiki covering our ranking criteria, each idea will be seriously considered. That does not imply, of course, that our experimenting with seeking advice is limited to consulting business students. So, dear reader, linger not, and feel encouraged to share your thoughts!

Calling upon telecom providers to become more sustainable

When thinking about brands in sectors with a need for sustainable practices, telecom providers do not immediately come to mind. However, this sector uses so much energy that a change towards renewables would be a major improvement. This energy dependency is mostly caused by the data centres that allow internet and telephone communications.

Apart from energy, the purchasing of electronics is also a major impact of this sector. By moving to electronics with responsibly mined minerals, both with respect to the environment as to the workers doing the mining, this sector can create much improvement. Finally, telecom providers are often the primary source of mobile telephones sold to consumers. By showing consumers what the impact of such telephones are, and by offering sustainable alternatives (for an example, see our ranking of the electronics sector), telecom providers can nudge their customers to better choices. So, with all this being said, how do the large telecom providers actually perform? Find out below.

Not much change compared to previous update
In our previous update (blog in Dutch only) of this sector, the Dutch brand KPN and its subsidiaries (Ortel, XS4ALL, Simyo and Telfort) clearly took the lead. All five brands received the B-rating, meaning they were well on their way towards sustainability, while there was still room for improvement. However, in this new update, which was done by students of the Rotterdam School of Management, only Ortel was able to keep this rating. The reason behind this is that Ortel does not offer hardware, and in doing so doesn’t trigger the constant purchasing of new devices while old ones still work fine, thereby reducing this brand’s environmental impact automatically. Since KPN does not sufficiently report on its policy for the environmentally and socially responsible sourcing of its hardware (both sold and used), a lower score was rewarded in this update. This leads to the lower C-rating for KPN, XS4ALL, Simyo and Telfort. Noteworthy is that KPN only uses renewable energy which was generated in the Netherlands, by wind or biomass. Furthermore, KPN publishes its greenhouse gas emissions and has already taken steps to reduce them. Finally, KPN shows good recycling results for both consumer electronics and its own electronics, and publishes its waste footprint as well as a policy to reduce this waste.

Besides KPN and its subsidiaries, a C-rating was awarded to Ortel Mobile (a German brand owned by Telefonica S.A. and different from Ortel from KPN) and Hollandsnieuwe (a Dutch brand owned by Vodafone). Ortel Mobile receives extra points for not offering hardware, while Hollandsnieuwe uses 100% renewable energy. The rest of the telecom providers all received either a D- or an E-rating. In the former category are names like Ziggo, T-Mobile, O2, Lebara and Vodafone. While its Dutch brand Hollandsnieuwe performs well when taking renewable energy into account, Vodafone is not (sufficiently) clear on the use of renewables company wide, leading to a lower score.

In the lowest category, with an E-rating, we find telecom providers like 1&1 and Tele2. These brands publish either no or too little information about their corporate social responsibility policy, or too little to be rewarded more points. Our recommendation is therefore to avoid these brands, at least until they show better performance.

Support our work
To be able to do our work, we need your support. Besides your contribution as a responsible consumer making informed decisions using our website, you can also support us financially or by helping in our research as a volunteer. If you want to support the work of Rank a Brand we invite you to become a Friend of Rank a Brand. We ask our Friends to make a contribution of €25 per year, or a higher amount if you can afford it, to enable our work. You will have a say in the sectors and brands that we will assess and can contribute to the further development of our criteria. See our website for more info and please share this post.

Do you want to be kept up to date about our research of the sustainability performance of well-known brands? Then follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and LinkedIn. Furthermore, subscribe to our newsletter through our website.

Searching online sustainability

They are inescapable in our daily lives and we might assume that their environmental footprint is just as small as the electricity it takes to load a webpage. We’re talking about websites. Think Google, Gmail, Facebook, Wikipedia, eBay, Linkedin, Youtube, Dropbox and more. We use them as search engines, for social interactions and for shopping. But behind all the great services these websites provide, one service  does not get the attention it deserves: making sure visitors don’t have to worry about whether their use of the websites’ services is harming the environment or other people in any way.

Rank a Brand has tested that service in the latest sector update about the sustainability of some of the most well-known and consumer relevant websites. For that update, the websites behind those websites have been searched through, looking for policy and policy implementation examples that show the website aims to prevent negative environmental and social impact by its activities.

Background
Websites of the large brands we looked at in this research tend to operate large data centers that require a lot of energy. In that sense, choosing and then transparently and actively communicating their use of renewable energy, would make these website brands great potential examples and stimulators for choosing renewables. Furthermore, a large quantity and diversity of electronic parts is needed to build and maintain those data centers. In order to make sure those parts are sourced sustainably and with respect for workers’ rights, website brands should have procurement policies with minimum criteria for both the suppliers they source from, and the suppliers of those suppliers. Additionally, as e-waste is globally reaching  millions of tons per year, a fierce policy on electronic waste from data center servers and corporate computers by website brands is another criteria included in this update.

E-waste is a growing problem that all brands in this sector should consider when forming policies for how to properly dispose of their electronic waste such as data center servers and corporate computers. United Nations University’s estimations indicate that current e-waste arising across the twenty- seven members of the European Union amount to around 8.3 – 9.1 million tons per year; globally this is estimated to be around 40 million tons per year (Huisman J. et al. 2008 Review of Directive 2002/96 on Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE). Bonn: United Nations University, 2007). See also our manual for more information on e-waste.

Results
The results of this ranking show that while some improvements are being made, in general scores have unfortunately dropped. Most points are being scored regarding questions about climate protection measures in general, and the use of renewable energy specifically[2]. A total of 16 out of the 23 website brands report on policy measures to minimize, reduce, or compensate greenhouse gas emissions, thereby representing the relatively as well as absolutely best scored assessment element. Another 8 of those have actually disclosed the annual climate footprint of their own operations and have already reduced or compensated at least 10% of these emissions in the last 5 years. 11 of the website brands have an overall Power Usage Efficiency (PUE) of their data centers of below 1.5 (for more information on PUE, see Wikipedia).

Regarding the environmental protection, none of the 23 website brands present a convincing policy for responsible disposal of e-waste – including reporting on respective annual results. Only 4 of them, being the Alphabet, Inc.’s brands Gmail, Google, Google+ and YouTube – also ranked highest in this update with a C-rating – have a policy for seeking suppliers and/or service providers that conduct their business in environmentally responsible ways and also provide examples to that. However, none of the brands present convincing reporting on an actual procurement policy for all electronics used in specific detail.

Among the group of website brands that yielded a D-rating in this update, 5 out of 7 brands, being Facebook and Instagram (both owned by Facebook, Inc.), and Bing, Skype and Outlook.com (all owned by Microsoft Corp.), publish their water use footprint and present a policy to minimize that footprint. Thereby, Microsoft Corp. also publishes clear objectives to minimize its waste materials footprint, and annually reports on the results. The remaining two D-rated brands, eBay and Marktplaats (both owned by eBay, Inc.), only scored points in the assessment elements on climate protection measures highlighted in the first paragraph of the results.

The group of website brands that was ranked with an E-rating in this update can be split up into a group of brands that scored some points and a group that scored no points at all. Within the first group, represented by Flickr, Yahoo! (both owned by Yahoo! Inc.), GMX, WEB.DE (both owned by United Internet AG) and Wikipedia, the only points were earned in having a policy to minimize, reduce or compensate greenhouse gas emissions. Yahoo! Inc. thereby also reported about its climate footprint and a reduction of more than 10% between the years 2013 and 2015. The website brands that scored no points at all are Dropbox, LinkedIn, Myspace, Pinterest, Twitter, Vimeo and XING. These brands don’t give any impression yet that social and / or environmental sustainability is on their agenda.

Call to action
So what can we do? It seems that deleting our social media accounts or stopping searching the web aren’t the most realistic solutions to keep ourselves going. Yet there are options to do something. Mailing, tweeting or posting @the respective website brands in public can provoke serious reactions by their representatives. Also, some promising alternatives do exist, such as search engine Ecosia or mail provider Posteo – which seem to put sustainability at the heart of their operations. If these assumptions hold true, we would of course like to research these websites. Your donations can help us to complete this research.

Support our work
To be able to do our work, we need your support. Besides your contribution as a responsible consumer making informed decisions using our website, you can also support us financially or by helping in our research as a volunteer. If you want to support the work of Rank a Brand we invite you to become a Friend of Rank a Brand. We ask our Friends to make a contribution of €25 per year, or a higher amount if you can afford it, to enable our work. You will have a say in the sectors and brands that we will assess and can contribute to the further development of our criteria. See our website for more info and please share this post.

Do you want to be kept up to date about our research of the sustainability performance of well-known brands? Then follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and LinkedIn. Furthermore, subscribe to our newsletter through our website.

Donate to support our next shoe ranking

It’s time for shoe brands to step up to the plate! In the areas of sustainability, social responsibility and transparency, which brands are progressing in leaps and bounds, and which are digging their heels in?

To answer this question, Rank a Brand is asking supporters to help raise the funds needed to update our shoe brand ranking. A crowdfunding campaign specifically for this project has been set up on Pifworld and is ready to take donations. For every €250 raised, we can assess one brand. Donors will have the opportunity to nominate a brand they’d like included in the ranking by leaving a message when donating.

Click here to donate to the crowdfunding campaign for our shoe update

If you regularly check the Rank a Brand website for information from an independent source, please consider making a donation and spreading the word amongst your networks to support this update. Your donation will help us continue our work and increase its impact on brands and consumer behavior.

For this project, all brands will be graded against criteria that covers the biggest issues in the shoe production industry – child labour, fair wages for workers, environmentally-friendly leather tanning, use of eco-friendly materials, banning hazardous and toxic chemicals, and reducing carbon emissions.

Our last shoe and footwear ranking was completed in early 2015 and saw Ethletic finish first with an overall B-rating. However, many of the selected brands showed much room for improvement with the majority  receiving an E, the lowest possible rating. Not exactly kicking goals! But that was almost two years ago and it’s possible they have since stepped up their game.

Are we the only ones footing the bill for that pair of new kicks?
It’s often hard to tell. But brands that publish information about their production chains, the materials used and the people involved in making their products, show consumers that they are motivated by more than just their bottom line. With help from environmentally and socially-conscious consumers like you, Rank a Brand will identify and highlight the shoe brands  currently leading the way and nudge those lagging behind.

See which popular shoe brands were included in the 2015 ranking and how they scored, under the Shoes & footwear sector on our website.

Rank a Brand is a completely independent, non-profit organisation. We rely on donations to grade brands across a variety of sectors on their sustainability, and keep consumers informed. In addition to this project, you can also support us by becoming a Friend of Rank a Brand with a donation of €25 or more per year.

You can also support us in the following ways:

Yearly overview 2016

First of all, we wish you a happy, sustainable and fair 2017! We welcome this new year with its new possibilities, many brands that will be updated or newly ranked, and other projects being started or prolonged. In this blog, we want to take you back to 2016, and show you what we have accomplished with your support.

We also want to use this opportunity to thank you for your support, by following us on social media, by subscribing to our newsletter, by sharing our work, and of course, by purchasing the fairest and most sustainable brands. By doing so, you’ve helped us to enlarge our international community of responsible consumers and put more pressure on brands to improve their sustainability performance. Nevertheless, there is one important way you can help us continuing our work, and that is by becoming a Friend of Rank a Brand. With your financial support, we can do more research and push more brands towards sustainability.

2016: a quick overview
In 2016, we saw many new volunteers join our team from many different countries, and we now consist of a global group of more than 70 rankers. With the great work of this team, we have newly ranked or updated a total of 331 brands this year of which dozens are new. The total number of ranked brands on our website now consists of more than 750, with many more on our to-do list, as requested by you – our users. You can help us realize even more rankings by joining our team of rankers.

Our 2016 rankings were seen by 790,000 visitors on our websites alone. If we include our mobile websites and blogs, the number is even higher, with around 918,000 visitors. Thereby, November was our record month with 85,000 visitors. Never before have we had so many visitors consulting our rankings. What a great prospect for 2017!

Apart from updating and adding brands to our website, we also worked on different side-projects. One highlight is the Sustainable Cotton Ranking 2016. For this project, we examined the use of (more) sustainable cotton by 37 of the largest cotton buying companies. For more information on this project, read our blog.

Coming back to our ranking work: another large project we undertook in 2016 is the ranking of Cosmetics, in collaboration with StoereVrouwen. This is one of our other highlights of 2016, as well as an important milestone. By adding these rankings of popular cosmetics brands, we have served our users by adding the sector that was most requested to our platform. Plus, by also adding Drugstores, we can now proudly say: “Rank a Brand has never before been as complete as it is today”!

Impact of our rankings
The rankings combined with these side-projects generated quite some media attention in 2016. Most of the articles, radio interviews, and blogs are in German and Dutch, still our main language areas. However, more and more often we also see our work being picked up internationally.

Aside from an ever increasing number of critical consumers using and consulting our rankings (Top 3 countries: Netherlands, Germany & USA), brands also notice the impact of Rank a Brand on the way their brand is viewed. Because of this, an increasing number of brands enter into dialogue with us. Furthermore, better performing brands increasingly refer to their ranking. Some examples are C&A, G-Star (from minute 2:00), Fairphone and Kings of Indigo.

To the future
Coming year, we will further develop and aim the launching of our new website. Please help us share this flyer searching for developers and other volunteers to work on the new website. With or without this new website, we expect to hit a million visitors. Furthermore, we plan to further increase our visibility through the general media and social media, to spread our rankings to as much interested people as possible.

In January and February, we will publish our new rankings on Websites and Telecom brands. We will also launch a crowdfunding campaign to attract funding for our next ranking of shoe brands. Of course, many more sectors will be updated in 2017. We will keep you posted on these developments in future blogs and newsletters. We are very much looking forward to it and hope you do too!

To continue our work, we need your support!
Rank a Brand is a completely independent, non-profit organization that, for a large part, runs on donations from consumers like you, who share our vision for a fairer and more sustainable world. If you can spare a small amount, we can keep offering you up-to-date information on the sustainability of hundreds of brands in the areas of fashion, food and beverages, electronics, body care and many other sectors. Furthermore, it helps us to increase the pressure on these brands to become more sustainable, socially responsible and transparent.

You can support us in the following ways:

  • Become Friend of Rank a Brand with a donation of €25 per year and join our community of responsible consumers – simply click on the link and complete the form.
  • Donate directly by bank transfer to IBAN: NL43 TRIO 0390 2148 41 (BIC: TRIONL2U) Rank a Brand, Amsterdam, Netherlands.

Join our team of volunteers and help keep our rankings up-to-date. See Research with us for more information.

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and LinkedIn for updates on the latest rankings, and subscribe to our newsletter through our website.

Share this post with your network!

A guide to responsible Christmas shopping

For those who celebrate Christmas, it often feels like December is over before it’s begun. Whizzing by in a flurry of festive planning and parties, all while trying to wrap things up at work before a hard-earned break. And whether you enjoy shopping or not, finding gifts for friends and loved ones can be stressful. Even more so when you care about the origin of those gifts, the labour conditions of the people involved in their production and the environmental impact.

christmas_blog2_2016

This is the very reason that Rank a Brand formed back in 2009. And it’s times like these that the Rank a Brand website becomes the perfect tool for busy people trying to allocate their festive budget responsibly.

Now that the number of graded brands on our website has exceeded 750, we thought a quick guide to which brands are on our “nice” list would save shoppers some time. This means that the brands mentioned below scored no lower than a B-label in our rankings.

Under Fashion, Clothing & Shoes, you’ll find sustainability information about loads of brands in this sector, with just one, Saint Basics receiving an A-label. Saint Basics produces underwear made with organic cotton for men and women, and they also offer digital gift vouchers – the perfect last-minute gift!

Many of the B-label brands in this sector offer clothing and other fair and environmentally-friendly gifts, conveniently via their online stores.

Greenality has some funky reusable cups by KeepCup, which pair nicely with some A-label tea or coffee beans from GEPA or Lebensbaum. There’s also some creatively designed glass drink bottles from Soulbottles, bags, wallets, socks and jewellery. People Tree is also a great source for accessories, mainly for women, including totes, clutches, slippers and gift vouchers, if choosing becomes too difficult!

For that true individual, check out the bleed range of belts made from cork and recolution for ladies t-shirts with fun and interesting designs.

Most of the brands in our Casual Clothing sector offer winter accessories such as scarves, beanies, gloves and mittens, which make excellent gifts for all ages. But if you’re buying for an outdoorsy type, Vaude may be more their style.

For cute clothes and accessories for babies and kids, there’s plenty to choose from. See Band of Rascals, Cotonea and hessnatur.

In the second half of this year we added Cosmetics to our rankings. In this sector, a B-label was the highest grade given, with Weleda and Dr Hauschka topping the list, closely followed by Sante, Logona and Self. All of these brands have store finders on their websites to help you find a stockist nearby.

But of course, we don’t just spend money on gifts at Christmas. We’re also hosting and attending parties, and it wouldn’t be much of a party without food, drinks and decorations! So be sure to check which brands topped the Supermarket rankings, and our freshly updated Soda and Beer rankings before you start filling your trolley. Scroll down to earlier blog posts if you’re interested in reading about the overall sustainability performance of these sectors.

Finally, for eco-friendly Christmas decorations, including LED-lights, candles and tree ornaments, as well as baking tools such as adorable cookie cutters, we recommend Waschbär.

To continue ranking, we need your support!
Rank a Brand is a completely independent, non-profit organization that runs on donations from consumers like you, who share our vision for a fairer and more sustainable world. If you can spare a portion of your December shopping budget, we can keep offering you up-to-date information on the sustainability of hundreds of brands in the areas of fashion, food and beverages, electronics, body care and many other sectors, and increase the pressure on these brands to become more sustainable, socially responsible and transparent.

You can support us in the following ways:

  • Become Friend of Rank a Brand with a donation of €25 per year and join our community of responsible consumers – simply click on the link and complete the form.
  • Donate directly by bank transfer to IBAN: NL43 TRIO 0390 2148 41 (BIC: TRIONL2U) Rank a Brand, Amsterdam, Netherlands.

Join our team of volunteers and help keep our rankings up-to-date. See Research with us for more information.

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and LinkedIn for updates on the latest rankings.

Share this post with your network!

Soda brand performance fizzles out

There’s nothing more refreshing than a can or bottle of ice-cold soda. What is less refreshing is the sustainability performance of many popular soda brands. Soda brands face challenges with regards to energy and water use, the need for sustainable and recyclable packaging, and ethically sourced sugar and other raw materials – and Rank a Brand’s latest ranking in this sector shows that many soda brands are not up to scratch.

banner-soda-update-2016-en-rab

Rank a Brand reviewed the sustainability performance of 29 soda brands. This review includes an assessment of brands’ policies on climate protection, environmental protection and labour rights. The overall conclusion to be drawn is that there is still a lot of work to be done for soda brands to improve their performance. Only one brand, Lemonaid, scored a B-label, but 26 out of the 29 brands scored either a D- or E-label.

The high scorers
Lemonaid, a German brand, was by far the best performer in the sector – scoring 14 of a possible 24 points. Lemonaid performs especially well with its labour policy, and uses environmentally certified sugar and raw materials for its products. Two other German brands, Bionade and Premium-Cola, earned a C-label, both scoring 11 out of 24 points. Bionade scored well on its environmental policy, while Premium-Cola does better on its labour policy.

scorecard-soda-update-2016-en-rab

The general trends
As mentioned, the overall trend across all brands is poor. While almost all brands have a policy to deal with greenhouse gas emissions, and a number of brands have environmental protection and fair labour policies – it is important to stress that these are only policies, they are not an indicator of a brand’s actual performance. The brands owned by soda giants Coca-Cola (which includes Fanta and Sprite), PepsiCo (which includes 7UP), Dr Pepper, and Red Bull, all scored either D- or E-labels. In addition, the brands Raak and The Original London both scored zero points.

When it comes to reporting on concrete results, only 18% of brands reported a reduction or compensation of their climate footprint by at least 10% in the last five years. Only two brands, Bionade and Premium-Cola, sufficiently report on their use of energy from renewable sources. Finally, despite 42% of brands publishing a fair labour policy, only one brand (Lemonaid) purchases all its ingredients from socially certified sources.

Support our work
To be able to do our work, we need your support. Besides your contribution as a responsible consumer making informed decisions using our website, you can also support us financially or by helping in our research as a volunteer. If you want to support the work of Rank a Brand we invite you to become a Friend of Rank a Brand. We ask our Friends to make a contribution of €25 per year, or a higher amount if you can afford it, to enable our work. You will have a say in the sectors and brands that we will assess and can contribute to the further development of our criteria. See our website for more info and please share this post.

Do you want to be kept up to date about our research of the sustainability performance of well-known brands? Then follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, and LinkedIn. Or, subscribe to our newsletter through our website.

Beer must be consumed, but also manufactured responsibly

When one considers beer brands, they most likely think about the importance of responsible consumption rather than responsible production. Of course, responsible consumption of beer is paramount. However, beer brands have a number of unique issues compared to other sectors, including efficiency per liter produced (water, energy, and greenhouse gas emissions) and the opportunity to use environmentally preferred ingredients, such as organically certified.

Beer-Ranking-2016-EN-RaB

Rank a Brand reviewed the sustainability performance of 33 beer brands. For this research, we looked at the performance of beer brands on multiple issues in the areas of climate and the environment. The conclusion was that, in general, beer brands have considerable room for improvement given that out of 33 brands, only one brand, Neumarkter Lammsbräu, achieved a B-label, while more than one-third of the brands received an E-label. If you would like more information on the general trends in the Beer sector, please read the Beer Ranking 2016 Report.

The high scorers
The best performing brand is Neumarkter Lammsbräu, receiving 16 out of a possible 23 points, and resulting in a score of about 70%. With this score, the brand receives a B-label, meaning it is on track towards sustainability. Among others, Neumarkter Lammsbräu performs notably well in the area of reporting the climate footprint of sourcing its ingredients, which all other brands fail to do. The next highest performing brand, receiving a C-label, is Gulpener. This is the only brand other than Neumarkter Lammsbräu that reports the use of organic or otherwise environmentally certified raw materials for at least 90% of its production volume. Brand, a C-label brand is notably the most efficient when it comes to kilograms of greenhouse gases released per litre produced, achieving a rate below 5,5 kg CO2/litre.

Beer_Brands_Update_2016_EN

The general trends
The overall performance of the industry is not impressive. Out of the 33 brands, 12 received lower than 9% of the points possible, resulting in an E-label, meaning responsible consumers should avoid buying these brands until they show better performance. The lowest performing brand is the bavarian wheat beer Erdinger, receiving a score of zero.

A positive note is that all but one brand have published some sort of policy to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and the majority of brands have also described clear objectives to minimize the environmental impact of packaging. However, these are only policies, and do not necessarily translate into concrete initiatives and convincing results. Less than half of the brands disclosed verifiable climate footprints. Furthermore, concrete reporting on the use of at least 25% renewable energy was only reached by two brands: Gulpener and Rothaus.

Support our work
To be able to do our work, we need your support. Besides your contribution as a responsible consumer making informed decisions using our website, you can also support us financially or by helping in our research as a volunteer. If you want to support the work of Rank a Brand we invite you to become Friend of Rank a Brand. We ask from our Friends a contribution of €25 per year, or a higher amount if you can afford it, to enable our work. You will have a say in the sectors and brands that we will assess and can contribute to the further development of our criteria. See our website for more info and please share this post.

Do you want to be kept up to date about our research of the sustainability performance of well-known brands? Then follow us on FacebookTwitter and Instagram. Or, subscribe to our newsletter through our website.

Sustainability cosmetics sector not fit for beauty contest

For the first time, in cooperation with StoereVrouwen (translated as ‘Tough Women in a powerful way’), Rank a Brand took a look at the sustainability performance of 30 cosmetics brands. For 10 years, StoereVrouwen has been a Dutch platform and campaign agency that has encouraged consumers to realize the power of their purses by spending their money on brands and companies who they can endorse. StoereVrouwen puts sustainability on the agenda with campaigns like Natural Beauty Case, Strip for Fair Fashion, and Fair Valentine.

Cosmetica-Banner-ORG

For this research, we looked at the performance of cosmetics brands on multiple issues in the areas of climate, environment, animal welfare, health, and labour conditions. The full report can be found here. The general finding was that, just like in most sectors, the great majority of brands still perform poorly. Luckily, there are multiple exceptions for ethical consumers.

The winner(s)
The best performing brand is Weleda, receiving 17 out of a possible 26 points, which results in a score of 65%. With this score, the brand receives a B label, meaning it is on track towards sustainability. Weleda performs especially well in the area of environmental and health policy. The brand only uses natural ingredients for its products, and does not use possible harmful substances like synthetic fragrances. Weleda also refrains from animal testing; uses mostly renewable and/or organic ingredients; and has thorough policies in place to reduce its water footprint, material footprint, waste, and packaging.

Scorecard_cosmetics

With a score of 58%, Dr. Hauschka, Logona and Santé also receive a B label. Just like Weleda, they perform well in the area of environmental and health policy. This is achieved by initiatives including limiting the use of hazardous substances, not using petroleum-based ingredients at all, and minimizing waste (including reporting on its annual waste materials footprint). Four other brands perform reasonably well: Botanique (54%), Lavera, Living Nature, and Zao (all three with a score of 46%). For this level of performance, they achieve the C label, meaning they are on their way towards sustainability, but still have plenty room for improvement in terms of more specific reporting.

The general trend
The general performance of the industry is not something to be proud of. Out of the 30 brands, 22 received a score lower than 30%. Of these brands, 9 received the lowest possible label, the E label, meaning responsible consumers should avoid buying these brands until they show better performance. Among these worst performing brands are well-known names like Estée Lauder, Rimmel London and Aveda.

A positive note is that all brands have published some sort of policy to reduce their carbon emissions. Unfortunately, this policy is the only initiative many of these brands have undertaken in regards to climate change. About a quarter of the brands disclosed their carbon footprints. However, concrete reporting on the use of at least 25% renewable electricity was only reached by one brand: Botanique. Other brands state that they are using renewable energy as well, but reporting on type of energy as well as its sources and additionality of supply are not yet clear enough to receive full points for this criterion.

Another area where a lot of ground needs to be covered is labour conditions. As many of the ingredients come from low wage countries, brands need to take responsibility for the ethical treatment of workers in these countries. Although all of the brands scored poorly on three of the four criteria in this area (no or insufficient information is published), the majority of the brands (77%) already purchase tropical ingredients from plantations that are socially certified to have no child and/or forced labour, and provide a better living standard for the farmers, at least to some extent.

Support our work
To be able to do our work, we need your support. Besides your contribution as a responsible consumer making informed decisions using our website, you can also support us financially or by helping in our research as a volunteer. If you want to support the work of Rank a Brand, we invite you to become Friend of Rank a Brand. We ask from our Friends a contribution of €25 per year, or a higher amount if you can afford, to enable our work. You will have a say in the sectors and brands that we will assess and can contribute to the further development of our criteria. See our website for more information and please share this post.

Do you want to be kept up to date about our research of the sustainability performance of well-known brands? Then follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Or, subscribe to our newsletter through our website.

Top brands failing on cotton sustainability

Cotton is one of the world’s most commonly used textiles. However, the production of cotton has led to serious issues regarding environmental impact and labour conditions of cotton farmers. Although various sustainability initiatives exist, many problems and challenges remain, and the overall picture of cotton market sustainability is unclear. In order to shed light on current progress and where further action is needed, Pesticide Action Network UK (PAN UK), Solidaridad, and World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) have commissioned Rank a Brand to research the major cotton-using companies on policies, actual uptake, and traceability regarding more sustainable cotton; i.e. organic cotton, Fairtrade cotton, Cotton made in Africa (CmiA), Better Cotton (BCI) or recycled cotton.

The report creates a transparent overview of the current sustainable sourcing performance of cotton-using companies and offers recommendations for improvement. We studied 37 companies that are estimated to source the most cotton globally, and scored them on three dimensions: policy, actual uptake, and traceability. The scorecard provides a comparison of each company’s performance in regards to sustainable cotton.

The full report can be found here.

Summary of main results

In this research, the maximum achievable score was 19.5 points. No company achieved this maximum score, mainly due to the fact that no company uses 100% more sustainable cotton or is fully transparent on their policies and on the sourcing and manufacturers of their cotton. Of the 37 companies evaluated, only eight companies scored at least 3.0 out of 19.5 points. IKEA Group is the best performing company, with a score of 12.0 points. C&A Global (9.0 points), H&M Group (9.0 points), and Adidas Group (7.75 points) also show some progress on sustainable cotton policies, actual uptake, and supply chain traceability. Six companies scored less than 1.0 point. Twelve companies provided little or no information on their sustainable cotton policies, and therefore, scored 0 points. Companies could be doing better than these results reflect, but not communicate their policies and practices to consumers. It is also possible that some brands do better than the company as a whole, as sustainability practices can vary significantly between different brands owned by the same company. We have assessed at company level because PAN UK, Solidaridad, and WWF expect entire companies shift to more sustainable cotton uptake.

cotton nl

A number of companies participate in sustainable cotton initiatives. For example, ten of the assessed companies participate in the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI). Companies that participate in BCI support actions on minimizing the use of highly hazardous pesticides (HHP), improving working conditions, addressing biodiversity issues, and reducing water consumption. Some companies also participate in other collaborative initiatives and/or cotton programmes. In addition to using more BCI, Fairtrade or CmiA cotton, some companies focus on using organic and/or recycled cotton.

The top scoring company for this report, IKEA Group, uses about 78% of its cotton from more sustainable sources according to the standards applied in this research. Most of the companies analysed do not have clear policies on sustainable cotton. In general, there is still a significant lack of information on sustainable cotton policies, actual uptake, and supply chain traceability in the industry.

Main conclusions

While there are multiple companies that work hard to set the right example, there is significant room and need for improvement in company sourcing and reporting on sustainable cotton, as well as an opportunity to drive market transformation. This research highlights positive developments and outcomes in regards to these companies’ achievements in sustainable cotton. This research clearly demonstrates the widespread absence of publicly available information, concerning the topics addressed for the research conducted for this report. While major brands and manufacturers have published various policies regarding commitments to using more sustainable cotton, traceability throughout the entire supply chain of cotton is necessary to further report on the uptake and implementation of these policies.

Main recommendations

For low scoring companies, we recommend that these companies adopt a policy for more sustainable cotton. After adopting a policy for more sustainable cotton, companies should also adopt a time bound and public target to source more sustainable cotton. Companies may also choose to take part in an organization like Better Cotton Initiative. Companies that have already implemented these initiatives and have received relatively higher scores can continue to improve by mapping their supply chain and using traceability tools.

Multiple standards can be applied for the sourcing of more sustainable cotton. Based on the WWF Certification Assessment Tool, we find that the following currently available standards are the most credible for more sustainable cotton at the production level:

  • Organic cotton,
  • Fairtrade cotton,
  • Cotton made in Africa (CmiA),
  • Better Cotton (from the Better Cotton Initiative – BCI).

Another, non-standardized sustainable option is recycled cotton.

The leading companies assessed in this report made good progress by collaborating with the Better Cotton Initiative. Still, to achieve a sustainable cotton supply chain, more action is needed. Cotton-dependent companies should take responsibility for their impacts and encourage the sourcing of more sustainable cotton. These companies need to continue sending market signals by increasing their purchases of cotton from credible sustainability programmes and reporting transparently on their cotton sourcing. In doing so, these companies would make a major impact for the better, both environmentally and socially.

 

Support our work

To be able to do our work, we need your support. Besides your contribution as a responsible consumer making informed decisions using our website, you can also support us financially or by helping in our research as a volunteer. If you want to support the work of Rank a Brand we invite you to become Friend of Rank a Brand. We ask from our Friends a contribution of €25 per year, or a higher amount if you can afford, to enable our work. You will have a say in the sectors and brands that we will assess and can contribute to the further development of our criteria. See our website for more info and please share this post.

Do you want to be kept up date about our research of the sustainability performance of well-known brands? Then follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Or, subscribe to our newsletter through our website.