The Good Shopping Guide
I recently won a competition where the prize was a copy of the 10th anniversary edition of The Good Shopping Guide and I have been pouring over it with great interest. This is a fairly comprehensive guide to the most ethical--or unethical--companies and brands. 700 consumer brands are ranked and compared in detail in a variety of categories.
There are eight categories that are ranked which include Good Home and Office, Good Energy, Good Travel, Good Money, Good Food and Drink, Good Health and Beauty, Good Fashion and Good Network. This covers everything from appliances to cleaning products, from banks to food for people and animals and much more.
Each category is ranked with either a green circle for the top rating where they have not found any criticisms or negative records, an empty red circle for the middle rating that indicates there are some criticisms or negative records and lastly a red circle for the bottom rating which indicates the highest level of criticism or negative records. I found this easy to see and interpret at a glance. Each brand name also had its parent company listed as well which was very helpful. We already try to boycott a few companies such as Nestle and Proctor and Gamble and I was shocked to learn that one of the products we sometimes buy was owned by P&G! I thought I knew everything they owned.
The first category that is ranked is the environment. This includes whether the company publishes an environmental report about what they are doing that shows concrete targets that they plan to do in the future to minimise their impact. Companies who fail to publish a report get the red circle and those whose reports are inadequate are awarded an empty red circle.
The environment category also includes whether the company is involved in the design, construction or operation of nuclear power stations, radioactive waste handling and/or the mining, processing or reprocessing of uranium. Involvement in any of these will earn the company a red circle.
The environment category also cover such topics Genetic Modification (GM), organic farming and use of rainforest timber. It was very easy to see what companies were concerned about the future and not just the making of a profit in the present.
The second category is animals. This includes animal welfare concerns where the company must be seen to be investing heavily in developing animal testing alternatives as well as lobbying to get them validated and to postpone the search for new ingredients and use the 8,000 established ingredients until non animal tests have been validated in order to be see to be behaving responsibly. In the Health and Beauty section only companies that have been approved by the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV) receive a green circle.
Animals also includes whether the company supports a meat free lifestyle. All of their products must be either vegetarian or vegan as well as cruelty free as far as animal testing goes. According to the guide if eggs must be used they must be free range. This category applies to only the Food and Drink and Health and Beauty sections. A green circle indicates that one or more of the company’s food or drink or personal care products is approved by either the Vegetarian Society or Vegan Society.
The third category is people. This includes human rights which covers sweatshop labour in the developing world, unsafe factories and enforced overtime. Companies are penalised with a red circle if in the last 5 years they have been implicated in human rights abuses (either through their supply chain, or connected to places with proven links to human rights abuses or through their economic presence in Burma.)
The category of people also includes armaments. A middle rating represents involvement in the manufacture or supply of nuclear or conventional weapons and a bottom rating indicates the business was listed as one of the world’s 100 biggest arms producing companies in 2007 by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI.) This is the one that really surprised me and it has made me consider some brands that we buy because I do not want to support the “seeds of war.”
Next in the people category is political donations. This was included because the Ethical Marketing Group who produced the book believes that corporations should not fund political parties. A middle rating indicates the company has donated more than £10,000 (or equivalent in foreign currency) to a political party in the last 5 years and a bottom rating is earned by donating more than £50,000 (or equivalent in foreign currency) to a political party in the last 5 years.
The last categories in people are fair trade and irresponsible marketing. I found this section the most eye opening as it contained much information that I was not aware of about different companies.
Other categories include boycott call where the company will earn a red circle if it has an ongoing boycott of either the brand or the company or public record criticism where the company will earn a red circle if there have been more than one serious criticism in the last 5 years from NGOs such as Human Rights Watch or Friends of the Earth.
In the Good Money section banks are judged as to whether or not they have written off third world debt or provide ethical investments.
Overall, I would say this is a fantastic guide for breaking down important issues and helping a person to “search out whatever in your own way of life may contain the seeds of war” (Advices and Queries 31.) My only complaint is that it seems to be slightly inconsistently organised. Each section has a chart that ranks each product or company. Some of the charts are in alphabetical order by the name of the brand or company whilst others are in order by rank with those receiving the highest numerical scores based on the coloured circles at the top and the lowest ranking scores at the bottom. I could not figure out why some were alphabetical and some were numerical and it caused a bit of frustration. But I felt it was well worth it to struggle through that bit as the information contained therein was excellent. I would recommend this book to anyone who wanted to spend their money wisely whilst making a contribution to a better world.