Responsible Shopper website–GreenAmericaToday.org

Green America Today  is a fairly interesting and useful website–this links to a really helpful page listing a whole mess of companies and stores and how they rate in terms of fair labor practices, good environmental awareness, health and safety, and ethics/governance.

I find them a little hype-y, but on the other hand they don’t just preach, they give actual concrete instances where a given company has assisted or violated their clearly stated (and very reasonable) standards for responsible businesses. 

There’s also a function that lets you compare different companies within the same industry, giving letter grade ratings for each of the above four criteria, and how different stores measure up.  For example, Trader Joe’s is the only grocery store listed that actually gets a “green” rating from this site, with Whole Foods at a fairly close second but still in the “yellow” zone. (Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club, of course, are all the way at the bottom in the “red” zone.) In terms of home improvement stores, Lowe’s outranks Home Depot by a little (though both are in the barely-not-failing “orange” zone) but Home Depot gets a B in Environment and it’s their F in Ethics and Governance that brings them down…and so forth.  Not one airline makes it out of the “orange” zone, but Southwest is at the top of the list with fairly high marks in all categories, with United all the way at the bottom.

I’m not saying this site is an unequivocally positive Superb Source For All That Is Good And Important–I have some problems with it.  For one thing, those letter grades I mentioned above are peppered with “n/i” columns where they don’t have enough info to give a company a rating; some higher-rating companies have n/i almost all the way across and only one category they’re actually rated in.  Also, it seems like nothing actually will make them happy; they give Trader Joe’s its green rating but then complain that while they sell Fair Trade goods, they don’t do enough to educate the public about the importance of Fair Trade.  I’m like, oh just relax, okay?  Also, it would take a true watchdog to get on the horn and really make sure they are reporting everything, on all sides of the issues, from all the companies they can. (For example–yes, we all know that WalMart sort of stands as the Giant Evil Corporate Face Of All That Has Gone Wrong, but you’d think that a site like this would at least mention the company’s efforts to create and implement their Sustainability Index in its profile of the company…I could find no such mention.)

But…for those of us trying to get a handle on how to shift the demand end of the giant supply and demand chain we’re all part of , this can be useful information.  Anyone else use this site? What do you think of it?

UPDATE: Erin, in the comments also mentioned Better World Shopper and the Good Guide as good places to look for this sort of thing–thanks! Anyone else have any good sites for this kind of info?

–J

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Posted on September 29, 2009, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. I find this website helpful in conjunction with other similar types of rating sites. Green America tends to put a greater emphasis on fair trade and good labor standards than on environmental criteria. Other rating systems give more points to the green side (such as goodguide.com and betterworldshopper.com). So I like to compare what they all say and then come to my one conclusions.

    As an example – Trader Joe’s carries a lot of fair trade products, but they overpackage everything. Whole Foods has a terrific bulk bin section and is moving more and more toward supporting local and regional food systems, but refuses to allow their workers to unionize. Trader Joe’s rates higher with Green America but Whole Foods rates higher with Better World Shopper.

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