Climate Counts: Rating companies by their environmental impact

Consumers of the world, unite! You know you’re going to buy stuff, so why not use your buying power to send a message to the corporate world? Climate Counts, an organization launched in 2007 with the support of organic dairy producer Stonyfield Farm, Inc., and the University of New Hampshire, provides some handy tools to help you make your shopping politically meaningful.

The goals of Climate Counts are simple and straightforward: to “bring consumers and companies together to address climate-change solutions” and “help consumers use their choices and voices to motivate the world’s largest companies to operate more sustainably.”

Climate Counts’ website provides a handy overview of a wide range of companies and how seriously those companies’ are taking action to limit their environmental impact. Environmentally concerned shoppers can easily sample the various categories to find out where the company that produces your next purchase stands on climate issues. (Kudos to the organization’s designers and webmasters for figuring out how to condense a ton of data into an easy-to-navigate, user-friendly design.)

Divided by company, sector, brand, or product type, companies in each category are rated on how well they’re doing overall on four climate-impact actions. These include climate footprint; impact on global warming; support or not for progressive climate legislation; and clarity and comprehensiveness of public disclosure of climate policies. The overall scorecard is determined by a company’s score on a 0-to-100-point scale that examines 22 different criteria. How far along companies are in taking measurable actions to make their companies more environmentally responsible is signaled by four color-coded dots embedded with running stick figures. These icons symbolize “stuck,” “starting,” “striving,” and “soaring”—imagery chosen because, as Climate Counts hopes you understand, “the race is on to address climate change.”

I found perusing the sector section especially revealing. Among the seventeen participating sectors are airlines, beverages-beer, food service, hotels, home and office furniture, industry innovators, appliances, pharmaceuticals, food products, toys and children’s equipment, technology, apparel/accessories, and Internet/social media.  There were some surprises. The technology, household products, food-service, and beverages-beer sectors earned the highest overall ratings. The two lowest-performing sectors were home and office furniture and, most disturbingly, toys and children’s equipment.

Another surprise was the Internet/social media sector. By Climate Counts’ standards, Google and eBay are “soaring.”  Yahoo and Facebook are “starting.” To their shame, Amazon and LinkedIn are “stuck.”


The industry-innovators sector, which includes twelve well-known companies, including Levi Strauss, Timberland, Ben & Jerry’s, Shaklee, Clif Bar, Kohl’s, LG Electronics, Amtrak, and Annie’s Homegrown, was the top-rated group. These companies consented to put themselves through the most rigorous 12-point evaluation. Inclusion in this group earns companies the highest score on the commitment to fight global warming. In recognition, these are companies that deserve the support of consumers.

Remember.  Knowledge is power.  So how about taking some time to check out Climate Counts before your next shopping trip and get to know how responsible the companies you’re about to support are on climate change? After all, you have nothing to lose but a few minutes of your time.