You Asked, We Delivered: Updated GoodGuide Ratings

In response to feedback we have received from GoodGuide users, companies we rate and third-party reviews, we have substantially revised selected parts of our rating system.  As a result, many companies and products will have new scores. Major updates include the addition of a “transparency” score to the Environmental and Social ratings, a shift from relative to absolute scoring on company-level variables, improvements in the alignment of scores for companies, the addition of the most recent data available from corporate sustainability researchers and a more targeted approach to handle catch-all ingredients like “fragrance” and “surfactants.” These changes not only improve the quality of information we provide to you, but also give us the ability to integrate company or user submitted data into the rating process much more easily.

The “transparency” score. The most important change to the Environment and Social ratings involves the addition of “transparency” scores as a major component. These scores summarize the amount of ratings-relevant information that a company makes publicly available.  Companies with extensive disclosure about their policies, practices and performance score well; companies lacking critical data score poorly.  This new score is intended to incentivize companies to do a better job of disclosing the information consumers need to make knowledgeable decisions when shopping.

Improvements in alignment of company scores. The new ratings reflect changes in how we define “what matters” in Environment and Society. In the past, it was very difficult compare good and bad practices across companies that published different types of data across several different issues. Now, by modeling our approach against guidelines established by the Global Reporting Initiative, we are much better equipped to capture data on how all companies are handling the most critical social and environmental issues.

Absolute, instead of relative, scoring of company variables. We also changed how we score the indicators used to assess company-level environmental and social performance by switching from a relative scoring to an absolute scoring methodology.  Previously, the numerical score GoodGuide gave to a company for having a policy or practice varied depending on how other companies behaved. This made it difficult to interpret GoodGuide ratings, as the same type of good behavior could receive different numerical scores. Now, there is one fixed scale and all companies, regardless of size, are rated using the same standards.

Company data refresh. We also updated our ratings to be based on 2010-2011 data, provided by two of the leading commercial aggregators of corporate sustainability information.

Targeted approach to incomplete ingredient lists. To further encourage companies to become more transparent, GoodGuide has revised how it scores products with incomplete ingredient lists.  Some companies do not disclose the specific ingredients in their products, and instead use generic ingredient names like “fragrance,” “surfactants,” or “cleaning agents.” GoodGuide cannot complete its health assessment of products like this because the manufacturer has not provided enough ingredient detail for us to identify potential health hazards. As a result of additional research, we’ve determined that there are three tiers of health risk when it comes to generic ingredients (solvents are worse than fragrances which are worse than softeners). GoodGuide Health ratings now incorporate these tiers into the already existing framework for ingredient disclosure.

For more details on the ratings update, please visit our Frequently Asked Questions page. We welcome your thoughts and comments as we continue to take steps to bring the most important information about products to your fingertips.

About Dara O'Rourke

Associate Professor at UC Berkeley and Co-Founder of GoodGuide.
This entry was posted in GoodGuide Happenings and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s