General ranking instructions
How we rank: the basics
The Rank a Brand score (as seen in the scorebar) is based on a list of questions and is calculated by the number of ‘Yes’ responses to the questions. Each 'yes' gets one point, while the other two responses ('No' and '?') have a value of zero. The more yes's a brand receives, the higher its Rank a Brand score.
To rank brands on their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), we use sector specific reports to determine a list of questions that highlight the most common and attainable 'best practices' in every sector. We use these sector specific questions to investigate individual brands, finding the answers from the information and policies reported on the brand's website. We don’t ask brands to send us additional information; we don’t send questionnaires; and we don’t call them. We believe that CSR information should be readily accessible to the public, and therefore it should be displayed on websites. Therefore we will always request brands to publish additional information online, for us to consider in the ranking.
So we visit the brand websites and evaluate the brand based on what we find there. To screen the brand websites, we advise to use the folowing sources:
- The CSR section on the brand website. The most logical place to find this is: Home -> About us -> CSR (or alternative terms).
- Annual CSR reports. These can be found through the CSR section or the Publications section of the brand website.
- Press releases, found in the 'Press section' of brand websites. As a ranker you can screen the press release titles as found in the index of press released. It is not required to open and read all of them.
- If you haven't found CSR information on a brand website, you can use the 'site search' function. - if available. Please try at least the keywords 'CSR', 'Climate Change', 'Carbon Emissions', 'Environment', 'Labour Conditions', 'Fair Trade'.
- Alternatively, or as a last resort, you can also do a search in Google by typing 'site:www.brandname.com [search concept]'. For example, when you want to know the share of renewable energy Fuji uses, you type 'site:http://www.fujifilmholdings.com/ renewable electricity' (or "renewable energy", if you want the exact search term). Google then shows an overview of all pages of the brand's website where this concept turns up. This will make searching a lot faster, especially for brands that show their useful information all over their website. You can generally just look at the links on Google's first search page. If the information is not present in these links, it's generally not present at all, or to hard to find (and therefore to hard for consumers to find).
Important: Before you rank the brand on the website, first find all the answers to the questions and put them in a Word or Excel-document. Only when you've finished that, rank the brand online. Otherwise the brand is visible on the website with missing answers.
The ranking matrix
All Rank a Brand ranking matrices have 4 columns:
- The Question List
- The Answers (options: Yes, No, and ?)
- The Remarks
- The Hyperlinks (linking to where the answer was found)
The question list
The chosen list of questions is meant to illuminate whether brands are employing the most common and attainable ‘best practices’ in every sector. The questions are based upon research and reports of CSR experts in each specific sector. For example, we refer to Greenpeace International’s report on hazardous chemicals and the Clean Clothes Campaign for its labor Code of Conduct guidelines in apparel.
You can find sector specific question lists through the Main Page.
For every question, you can choose one of three responses: 'Yes', 'No', or '?'. Choose 'Yes' when you find clear, definitive evidence to support your answer. Choose '?' when:
- You can't find the answer.
- You are not sure about the right answer, for whatever reason.
'?' will most likely be your most used answer.
Choosing 'No' is only applicable when you find concrete evidence to support your 'No'. For example, a company clearly states not to have a policy. Or a company having targets or a performance clearly below the level as stipulated in the criteria.
Be careful when deciding on whether to choose 'No'. One important reason here is that sometimes a brand may not have reported its questioned policy/targets/achievements on its website. Protect yourself - and Rank a Brand - from trouble: it is better to answer '?' and explain your answer in the 'Remarks' column. So if you are confused about the answer to the question, or you aren't totally sure if you have scanned the entire website (which is often difficult to do!), just choose '?' as your answer.
Please note that part of the Rank a Brand philosophy is that sustainability information should be easily accessible to consumers. This means that the brand website should provide a clear, logical and traceable path to all its relevant information, including its memberships to collective sustainability initiatives and company groups that share sustainability policies. If you cannot find pertinent information even after conducting a comprehensive website search (this includes using the search function), it is best to apply '?' and support your answer in the 'Remarks' column.
General answering guidelines
- use present tense as much as possible (preferred above past tense in scientific texts).
- use full words to improve autotranslate.
- see link, page(s) XXX', not 'see link, p. XXX'
- it is, do not, does not, are not, was not, were not, have not (in stead of it's, don't, doesn't, aren’t, wasn't, weren't, haven't)
- terms like greenhouse gas (in stead of GHG)
- in the excel masterfile, only change color of cells when changing something from the original, so as to not cause extra work for those uploading the score online.
- for English texts, use points (.) before decimals and commas (,) for large numbers (note that this is exactly climate footprint and climate emissions (not carbon, greenhouse gas, or CO2).
Other words and terms to avoid (and replace with, to improve auto-translate)
- 'tangible' (concrete)
- 'carbon footprint/emissions' (climate footprint/emissions)
- 'on its website', to maximize use of available text per answer
The Remarks column is very important. It is where you explain your choice and describe where you found the information that led you to your decision. Try to be as specific as possible, and at least provide the page number of that 534-page sustainability report.
You must explain and support every answer you give; this is vital so that other rankers and Rank a Brand visitors can follow your decision and thinking process. Additionally, please include relevant information, e.g. when we ask if a company has decreased its carbon footprint by 10%, but you found it was 9% - choose 'No', but mention that 9% achievement in the remarks section!
Also be specific about exactly what is wrong/missing. For example, when we ask for three labour standards and only two are provided, put in the remark which two standards are found and which one is not. This is even more important when the criteria are not mentioned in the question and thus not visible to the public. For example, when we ask 'Does the brand report at least on a yearly basis the results of factory audits, corrective action plans, and re-audits?' and the company only provides the number of workplaces covered without mentioning the percentage in relation to the total production volume, put this in the remark.
When you haven't found any information, make a remark about this and mention the brand name in the remark. For example, for Russell Atheltic, the remark in this case would be "Russell Athletic does not communicate any information on its (...) policy, if there is one, on its website.". When the brand is owned by a conglomerate and it has a clear reference or link on its own website to the conglomerate's website, also check BOTH websites and mention the name of the conglomerate in the remark. For example, in the case of clothing brand Barbara Farber, you could say 'Neither the Barbara Farber or Waalwear Group (conglomerate) website communicate any information on (...)' in the first question's remark. When this phrase has to be repeated for other questions a reference such as this is sufficient: "See remark for carbon emissions question 1.". Don't only put 'not found' in the remark or leave any cells blank, visitors will think you didn't finish your work.
Important: Never put a link in the remark section. This interferes with the system of the website and leads to an ugly layout of the score report.
In the Hyperlinks column, paste the direct link to the document or webpage where you found your information, and please be exact with the link. You can only paste one link in this column. If there are more links where relevant information is found, put the descriptions or the location where consumers can get access to this link in the remark section (e.g. 'click 'Blue Box' on the right side of the website for more information'). Note that in the Rank a Brand community it is inexcusable to answer ‘Yes’ or 'No' without having pasted the link. Thanks to the links, the Rank a Brand method is very easy and efficient for all to participate, and it is light-weight (we don’t have to collect, store, or print documents) and ultra-transparent for visitors.
When you haven't found the relevant information, enter the link of the homepage, CSR-page or the CSR-report where you have searched for the information. That way it is clear for visitors and other rankers where you have searched for the information. Always make sure there is a link in the hyperlink column!
Rank a Brand is designed to evaluate brands as a whole, covering their worldwide expansion. Make sure you use the highest level of the brands' website, mostly this will be the corporate or worldwide website that covers all brand operations and not a brand website for a specific country. In many occasions you can find clues about the brands international organizational structure at the investors relations or about us sections of a website.
1. own website (e.g. for branding purpose),
2. own external advertising (can inlcude social media marketing, like brand specific Facebook fan page by the brand owner),
3. own unique policy (especially when it comes to sustainability).
However, our users might directly search for brands like Divided from H&M Group or Yessica from C&A. To direct them to the respective owner of the store brand add the name(s) of popular store brands like Divided or Yessica as a tag word. Instructions how to do that you can find here.
When brands are part of a group
There are several occasions where brands are part of a company conglomeration (holdings, mother company, etc) with a general social and environmental policy, applicable to all covered companies and brands (e.g. a code of conduct or carbon footprint that is applicable to -the sum of- all brands). If the individual brand has not an own CSR policy, we use the company conglomeration policies and reports. Ideally the connection to the brand owner is clearly communicated with a hyperlinked pathway. It is possible that a brand has an invididual CSR-policy and that the holding it belongs to also has a CSR-policy. In that case, first look at what the brand's individual policy is, and when information is missing, look at the holding's policy. Be clear in your reference in the remark section.
So to summarize, how do you know when to use the brand website or the conglomerate website? Follow these steps:
1. Start having a look at the brand website. Is there a CSR policy or report published? -> If yes, use that information and go to step 2. If no, go directly to step 2.
2. On the brand website, is there any reference to a mother company / corporate brand website? If no, conclude on your ranking. If yes, find the corporate website and proceed with step 3.
3. Is there a corporate CSR policy or report for the mother company? If no, conclude your ranking. If yes, try to find additional answers to the unanswered criteria from step 1.
Make sure that the corporate policies are applicable to the specific brand you rank. A corporate report should state which brands / companies are covered. For example, an integrated carbon footprint is applicable to all brands of the report, so is a company wide Code of Conduct. But a shoe box packaging policy does not necessarily apply to the clothing brands within the same conglomerate.
The rating of a specific brand that is based on a corporate CSR report is obviously less precise than a rating that is based on a CSR report specific to the brand. For practical reasons, we rank as far as information is available. Brands may be overrated, or underrated, as the CSR scores of these brands are higher or lower than the conglomerates average. But without specific brand CSR policies and reports available, the conglomerate policies and reports are the next best source of information to complete the rankings, and still applicable to the brand.
Important: we have lists of ranked brands and their conglomerate companies. Ask a verifier to help you find this list.
When companies refer to third party certifications/ initiatives
We also take the websites of these initiatives into account, on the condition that there is a clear reason to also check these sites. In other words, the brand should indicate that they are a member of a specific initiative, or that they also publish their data on an external site.