Methodology aka the Ethically Manifesto

This page reflects our current (but changing) system to score companies on their ethical behavior.

Let’s start with the problem first.

Lack of Environmental Consciousness

71% of global emissions are caused by just 100 companies with the majority of them being fossil fuel companies that not only produce fossil fuels but also plastics (if you didn’t know go watch The Story of Plastic). Affluent societies like the US and Europe are riddled with overconsumption.

Lack of Social Responsibility

Human rights have been increasingly compromised as companies search for higher profit.


Lack of Transparency

It is hard to find information as simple as where companies are manufacturing, let alone what the conditions are like for their employees, what materials they use, etc. 

With Ethically, we promote environmental consciousness, greater social responsibility and transparency because we can quantify what it means for the brands to embody these values. We offer a way to help reinvigorate democracy in a time when we are faced with so many existential crises. 

As Greta Thunberg (loosely) said, we as citizens of the world have had 30 years of inspiring words, empty commitments and blah blah blah. We can no longer rely on policy alone to get us where we need to be because there is no time to waste. Fortunately, citizens understand this and are willing to do their part. Unfortunately, it can feel overwhelming because there is so much to do that it is hard to know where to start. Enter Ethically. 

Methodology

We started Ethically with the goal of empowering the collective to effect change by holding businesses accountable because we believe that in addition to voting at the ballots, you are also voting everyday with your purchases. So, we want to provide you and all consumers with all of the information we can find in a convenient and digestible format so you can cast your vote each time you make a purchase. 

In the end, we know that consumption is but a piece of the puzzle. You should align your community involvement, your voting, and your investments as well. It takes all of these pieces and we hope we can help with one part of the equation. 

How we think about the Ethically score?

There is a lot of information out there and at the same time there is not enough information. Our first goal is to sift through all that is discoverable and present the most reliable data sources that we can find. Unfortunately, because most of the data has been created to fulfill investment requirements, the majority of information available is for large, public companies and typically takes a much broader approach to assessing ESG (ESG is how the investment community defines the large world of sustainability – Environment, Social Responsibility, and Governance). 

The Ethically score should represent the start of a conversation not the end. The score will continually evolve as we learn more, as you teach us more, and as the world of sustainability evolves.

Do not take this as objective truth. Our team is made up of humans (& some algorithms) so bias will exist within our score but we will try to make that as clear as possible. This is a really large world and it is hard to summarize but we think it is necessary to do this in order to hold all companies accountable. We will present everything that we find and score a company based on the data that we have so you can have the tools to make an informed decision more conveniently.


To determine a brand’s Ethically score, we start by aggregating all of the data, weighing, normalizing and then scoring within each sub-category: environment, social responsibility, and governance. In order to calculate the overall score, the three sub-categories are averaged. Within the score you will find a numerical score and a letter grade assigned to a range of numerical scores. The scale is from 1-100 for the overall score and for each sub-category the letter grades are A-F.

Our information sources include a broad range of sources from the company’s website and communications, ESG data aggregators and independent certifications, accreditations, government agencies and other standards based systems (like B corp and TRUE Zero Waste). We weigh third party sources according to the scope of issues they address and the quality of their verification.

As we consider scores we aim to gain a holistic understanding of the brand’s impact by considering several perspectives:

  • General Consensus – What does the world say and how does the world speak about the company
  • Self-Reported Data – What does the company say about themselves on their website and in response to criticism. This piece will allow for the company to provide more up to date information to have direct, limited influence on their score. 
  • Verification through Certifications – What can we verify through certifications. This represents effort on the company’s part to be more transparent by submitting information to regulating bodies. 
  • Scale – What is the size as determined by revenue and/or employee count?  This helps us understand not only how much manpower they have to dedicate to continual improvement but also the impact of their operations on the world. 
  • Ethically User Consensus – What does our user think about the brand 

What do our grades mean?
Here is a guide on how we think about our grades so you can determine where your threshold lies

A

Means that this company has built their business around their sustainability values and have demonstrated values in multiple facets of ESG

B

Means they are a mainstream business not built around sustainability, but have a very clear demonstrated commitment to one or more facets within ESG

C

Means these companies have mixed ESG data or there is not sufficient data in one or more areas. Typically these companies have one area where they are doing well, but be cautious and dig deeper to see if they truly resonate with your values

D

They engage in practices that have significant negative impacts on people and the planet

F

Violations, clear disregard, terrible reputation with no demonstrated effort to change

If we do not have a score it is likely because we could not obtain any information on the company but if you request info for it we will dedicate the resources to developing a score for that company. 

How we define each sub-category in the score breakdown

Environment

We consider the whole life cycle of a brand’s product which includes but is not limited to its resource use and waste management, their policies to address energy use and carbon emissions, impacts on water, pollution and hazardous chemical use and disposal. 


Social Responsibility

We look at brands’ relationship with their workers and the communities that they have an impact on across the supply chain. These include policies and practices on child labor, forced labor, worker safety, gender & racial equality, and payment of a living wage. We consider how well a brand audits the implementation of their values and policies. Some of the questions we aim to answer are: Does it work with suppliers that hold the same values as it claims to hold?  Do they give back? Do the company’s working conditions show high regard for its employees’ health and safety? Do they empower workers? Are other stakeholders’ interests taken into account?

Governance

We explore the ethics as demonstrated by the leadership and the company’s effort to be transparent about their operations.

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