This third annual Top Corporate Watchdogs 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 investor or consumer, 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.
This year we started with more than 100 organizations and included the top 50 in our report.
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, independence, rigor of analysis, breadth of issues covered, and reach.
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 December 24, 2022
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.
Our goal is a more sustainable, just and equal planet. We want forests and biodiversity to thrive, fossil fuels to stay in the ground and corporations to prioritise the interests of people and the planet.
One way to use: subscribe to newsletter to learn about corporations involved in greenwashing, deforestation, and other land degradation.
Public Citizen is a nonprofit consumer advocacy organization that champions the public interest in the halls of power. We defend democracy, resist corporate power and work to ensure that government works for the people – not for big corporations.
One way to use: join campaigns that support democracy, worker rights, and affordable healthcare.
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).
Global Canopy is a data-driven non-profit that targets the market forces destroying nature. We do this by providing innovative open-access data, clear metrics, and actionable insights to leading companies, financial institutions, governments and campaigning organisations worldwide.
One way to use: use datasets on country and corporate impact on deforestation.
The Climate Action Tracker is an independent scientific analysis that tracks government climate action and measures it against the globally agreed Paris Agreement aim of holding warming well below 2°C, and pursuing efforts to limit warming to 1.5°C.
One way to use: find out how countries are doing on limiting global warming.
American Sustainable Business Network (ASBN) is a movement builder in partnership with the business and investor community. ASBN develops and advocates solutions for policymakers, business leaders, and investors that support an equitable, regenerative, and just economy that benefits all—people and planet. As a multi-issue, membership organization advocating on behalf of every business sector, size, and geography, ASBN and its association members collectively represent over 250,000 businesses across our networks.
One way to use: find examples of how business can play a positive role in building a more sustainable future.
Germanwatch is an independent development, environmental, and human rights organisation that lobbies for sustainable global development. For us, sustainable development means socially equitable, ecologically sound, and economically stable.
One way to use: learn how EU corporations can support a more equitable and sustainable world.
Forestsandfinance.org is an initiative by a coalition of campaign and research organizations that seeks to prevent financial institutions from supporting the kind of environmental and social abuses that are all too common in the operations of many forest-risk sector clients.
One way to use: find which financial institutions are most involved in deforestation.
Global Forest Watch (GFW) is an online platform that provides data and tools for monitoring forests. By harnessing cutting-edge technology, GFW allows anyone to access near real-time information about where and how forests are changing around the world.
One way to use: find data for monitoring forest health.
For 60 years, WWF has worked to help people and nature thrive. As the world’s leading conservation organization, WWF works in nearly 100 countries. At every level, we collaborate with people around the world to develop and deliver innovative solutions that protect communities, wildlife, and the places in which they live.
One way to use: join campaigns to protect the diversity of life on earth.
Corporate Watch is a research group that helps people stand up against corporations and capitalism. We investigate exploitative bosses, landlords and property developers, companies profiting from prisons, deportation flights, animal exploitation and more, as well as the mega-corporations devastating our planet – and the wider systems of power and profit they work within.
One way to use: read research and analysis aimed at exposing unethical corporate behavior.
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.
We scored organizations with the following criteria:
1. Relevance to pressing global issues (30% 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
2. Independence (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 (35% 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
5. Reach (10% 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 September 26, 2021
- 90-day global internet engagement rank from Alexa. 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).
Ethos is a first-of-its-kind FinTech platform for investors and consumers to align their spending with the causes they care about, including racial justice, workplace safety, climate change, LGBTQ equality, and more.