Ethical issues highlighted in the score table
We tweaked our environmental reporting criteria for this guide and as a result some companies have lost marks when previously they did well, for example Social Supermarket and Big Green Smile.
Small companies can generally get a best rating if they specialise in products which are of environmental benefit. But here we also demanded that they place requirements on their suppliers to reduce their own environmental impacts. We thought this was justified because most of the retailers in this guide market themselves as ethical – three of them have ‘green’ in their names – and supply chains are where the vast majority of environmental impacts take place for consumer companies, typically 90%.
Using the new criteria, five of the small retailers received a best rating for environmental reporting: Veo, Wearth, Green Stationery, Shared Earth and Ethical Shop.
Many of those who received a worst rating were also taking actions to reduce their environmental impacts by cutting packaging or stocking plastic-free and vegan products. Big Green Smile moved its warehouse to reduce its mileage and Green Tulip has stopped sending out paperwork in its orders. These are positive steps, but as they are taking place in the companies’ own operations rather than in their supply chains they are relatively less effective.
Carbon management and reporting
There are seven large companies in this guide and none of them achieved a best rating for carbon management as they didn’t sufficiently show that they were taking meaningful steps to cut their climate emissions; they didn't report on their emissions including in their supply chains or have a decent reduction target.
Five of them: John Lewis, eBay, Amnesty Shop, Oxfam and Electrofarm, received a middle rating as they were taking some steps. Spark Etail and Planet Organic received a worst rating.
We put lower requirements on small companies – they just have to be taking some meaningful actions. Shared Earth, Traidcraft, Green Stationery, and Big Green Smile all were.
Several of the other small companies discussed measures they took to offset their carbon emissions, for example, one of our best buys, Wearth offset the emissions of its deliveries through support for forestry projects in Brazil and the UK. Whilst this is better than doing nothing, best practice is to avoid emissions in the first place.
Most of the small companies did achieve a middle rating, however, as they were providing a lower carbon alternative. This applied to the four companies that were 100% vegan and to Ethical Shop and Green Tulip, who stocked a large range of products that were recycled, made in the UK, and vegan.
Supply chain management
Of the large companies, only John Lewis and Oxfam achieved a best rating for Supply Chain Management, showing that they were taking steps to ensure workers’ rights in their supply chain.
Of the small retailers, Shared Earth, Traidcraft, Ethical Shop and Veo met the threshold: Shared Earth and Traidcraft because they are fair trade retailers with long-term relationships with suppliers; Ethical Shop because it required suppliers to commit to freedom of association and living wages and published its list of suppliers; and Veo because it required standards to be met throughout its supply chains, not just by its immediate suppliers.