This report highlights what we see as the best independent sources of information on corporate impact. We use many of these sources in our ratings of company and fund impact at Ethos.
As a socially-conscious consumer or investor, how do you determine which corporations are fulfilling their social and environmental responsibilities (and are deserving of your money)?
Independent organizations that share a mission of corporate responsibility and accountability can help. These are organizations that research company social or environmental impact or work to change corporate behavior.
We evaluated organizations based on several criteria (see the
methodology section for details, or the
appendix for ratings data):
relevance to UN Sustainable Development Goals,
rigor of analysis,
breadth of issues covered, and
Find out how well brands support your causes before your next trip to the store, or before you make your next investment.
Top Corporate Watchdogs
Updated September 9, 2020
= issues covered by organization
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As You Sow is the nation’s non-profit leader in shareholder advocacy. Founded in 1992, As You Sow harnesses shareholder power to create lasting change that benefits people, planet, and profit.
One way to use: discover best- and worst-impact companies on issues like waste, clean energy, and CEO pay ratios.
CDP is a not-for-profit charity that runs the global disclosure system for investors, companies, cities, states and regions to manage their environmental impacts.
One way to use: look up ratings of company impact on climate change, water, and deforestation.
Violation Tracker is the first wide-ranging database on corporate misconduct. It covers banking, consumer protection, false claims, environmental, wage & hour, health, safety, employment discrimination, price-fixing, bribery and other cases. Violation Tracker is produced by the Corporate Research Project of Good Jobs First.
One way to use: avoid buying from or investing in companies with significant fines related to the environment, worker safety, or another issue you care about.
The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) works to improve the lives of working people. It is the democratic, voluntary federation of 55 national and international labor unions that represent 12.5 million working men and women.
One way to use: avoid companies that have a very high CEO-to-worker pay ratio (data published by AFL-CIO).
Human Rights Campaign is America's largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer equality.
One way to use: discover companies doing the most (and least) to support LGBTQ equality at the workplace, using HRC's Corporate Equality Index.
JUST Capital measures and ranks companies on the issues Americans care about most so you can then act on that knowledge.
One way to use: discover US companies doing the most to build a more just, equitable future.
B Lab creates and awards the B Corporation certification for for-profit organizations. Certified B Corporations are businesses that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose.
One way to use: shop and invest with certified B Corporations, which are legally required to consider the impact of their decisions on their workers, customers, suppliers, community, and the environment.
Ceres is a sustainability nonprofit organization working with the most influential investors and companies to build leadership and drive solutions throughout the economy.
One way to use: discover best- and worst-performers on issues like air emissions by electric power producers.
Corporate Knights Inc. includes the sustainable business magazine Corporate Knights and a research division that produces rankings and financial product ratings based on corporate sustainability performance.
One way to use: discover top-rated companies for sustainability.
ShareAction is building the movement for responsible investment, working to transform the investment system and unlock its potential to be a force for good.
One way to use: discover best- and worst-impact asset managers on issues like climate change, biodiversity, and human rights.
Preventing adverse impacts on workers, communities and consumers is one of the most pressing challenges almost every company faces in today’s globalised marketplace. The CHRB seeks to tap into the competitive nature of the market as a powerful driver for change in confronting this challenge.
One way to use: find companies rated the best (and worst) on protecting human rights throughout their supply chains.
DiversityInc's mission is to bring education and clarity to the business benefits of diversity.
One way to use: find top-rated companies for diversity and inclusion, based on human capital practices and outcomes.
The United Nations Global Compact is a voluntary initiative based on CEO commitments to implement universal sustainability principles and to take steps to support UN goals.
One way to use: .
The #breakfreefromplastic Movement is a global movement envisioning a future free from plastic pollution.
One way to use: discover which consumer companies are the largest producers of single-use plastic.
Working Mother is a magazine dedicated to working mothers.
One way to use: find companies doing the most to support working mothers.
The American Sustainable Business Council (ASBC) is a business organization serving the public policy interests of responsible companies, their customers and other stakeholders.
One way to use: find examples of how business can play a positive role in building a more sustainable future.
We Mean Business is a global nonprofit coalition working with the world’s most influential businesses to take action on climate change.
One way to use: see examples of large corporations working to accelerate the zero-carbon transition.
SIPRI is an independent international institute dedicated to research into conflict, armaments, arms control and disarmament.
One way to use: discover companies involved in the global arms industry.
BSR is a global nonprofit organization that works with its network of more than 250 member companies and other partners to build a just and sustainable world.
One way to use: see examples of companies working together on issues like climate change and workers' rights.
The Enough Project supports peace and an end to mass atrocities in Africa’s deadliest conflict zones.
One way to use: get research related to company involvement in conflict mining.
2020 Women on Boards is an organization working to increase the percentage of women on company board of director seats in the United States.
One way to use: avoid companies that score low on the Gender Diversity Index (GDI), a ranking based on percentage of women on the board.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is the largest animal rights organization in the world, with more than 6.5 million members and supporters.
One way to use: avoid buying from or investing in companies that conduct tests on animals.
Equileap aims to make a difference, as well as a return, by accelerating gender equality in the workplace.
One way to use: find brands and companies that best support gender equality.
350 is an international movement of ordinary people working to end the age of fossil fuels and build a world of community-led renewable energy for all.
One way to use: get information about how you can help hold companies accountable for their climate impact.
WBCSD is a global, CEO-led organization of over 200 leading businesses working together to accelerate the transition to a sustainable world.
One way to use: find examples of businesses working toward the UN Sustainable Development goals.
The Access to Medicine Foundation stimulates and guides pharmaceutical companies to do more for the people living in low- and middle-income countries without access to medicine.
One way to use: find out which pharmaceutical companies are doing the most to make medicines, vaccines and diagnostics more accessible for people in low-income countries.
Leadership Now Project is an organization investing in high-impact organizations and candidates ("New Leaders") to advance a modern, effective democracy for all Americans.
One way to use: see which companies have signed the Business for Racial Equity Pledge and committed to meaningful progress on equity.
Climate Group is an international organization working to accelerate climate action by bringing together powerful networks of business and governments.
One way to use: find companies going above and beyond their peers on issues like clean energy.
The B Team works to redefine the culture of accountability in business, for our companies, communities and future generations, by creating and cascading new norms of corporate leadership that can build a better world.
One way to use: see research and examples of how businesses can lead on issues like climate change, workplace equality, and governance.
The Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare is the leading global measure of company performance on farm animal welfare.
One way to use: see how well global food companies protect the welfare of farm animals in their supply chains.
We scored organizations with the following criteria:
1. Relevance to pressing global issues
(25% of score).
A 1-10 rating of how relevant an organization’s research or work is to the
17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Organizations are scored based on whether they directly address one or more of the goals:
- 1: the organization does not address any of the UN SDGs
- 5: the organization indirectly addresses one or more of the UN SDGs
- 10: the organization directly addresses one or more of the UN SDGs
(10% of score). A 1-10 rating of how independent an organization is from corporations. We recognize that working closely with corporations can be both a risk and a potentially effective strategy for change. Sponsoring companies may be more likely to follow organization recommendations and change social and environmental behavior.
- 1: the organization is fully run by a corporation or group of corporations
- 4: the organization has corporate sponsors and corporate board members (board members who currently work at a multi-national corporation)
- 7: the organization has corporate sponsors or corporate board members, but not both
- 10: the organization has no corporate sponsors or corporate board members
3. Rigor and quality of analysis
(30% of score). A qualitative 1-10 assessment of the methodologies used by an organization to assess corporate impact, based on:
- Does the organization provide methodologies for its research? A score of 1 indicates no, 10 indicates yes
- 1-10 qualitative assessment of the rigor of analysis conducted. Ethos assesses the degree to which the organization uses basic statistical methods in its research (such as attempting to control for bias) and the depth of research (e.g., communicating with companies to validate information)
4. Breadth of coverage
(15% of score). A 1-10 assessment of the breadth of issues and companies covered:
- 1: the narrowest scope of companies and issues covered, relative to other organizations
- 10: the broadest scope of companies and issues covered, relative to other organizations
(20% of score). An assessment of how well-known and well-liked the organization is, based on:
- Total social media followers across LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook, as of August 19, 2020
90-day global internet engagement rank from
This is an estimate of a site’s popularity, calculated using average daily visitors to the site and pageviews on the site over the past 3 months. The site with the highest combination of visitors and pageviews is ranked #1. If a site does not have enough engagement to be ranked on Alexa, it is given a score of 10,000,000 (lower than any of the organizations with a ranking on Alexa)
- Average score of reviews on publicly-available sites, if available
We convert these three metrics into a standardized 1-10 score, using basic statistical methods (standard deviation and standard scores).
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