WHETHER YOU WANT to purchase a green product or invest in an environmentally responsible company, deciding where to place your dollars is a multistep process. It includes visiting a variety of sources, appraising the available information, and then synthesizing it to make a balanced and thoughtful choice. The following guide can help.

1. Start with company information

Search companies’ websites for their sustainability, accountability, corporate social responsibility or environmental reports. Then look for clues that point to their environmental commitment by asking:
• Does the company have sustainability goals and targets? Is it measuring its current footprint?
• Is the report endorsed by reputable organizations, such as environmental groups?
• Has the report been verified by a third party?
• Is the company sharing comprehensive information in a meaningful way – warts and all?

2. Check screened market indexes

Screened market indexes list companies that have met certain social and environmental standards, thereby suggesting which companies are the best in their class. For North America and the world, try the Dow Jones Sustainability Indexes. For Canada, try the Jantzi Social Index.

3. Look at company rankings

A growing number of firms rank corporate performance. For Canadian rankings, two sources that are gaining respect include Corporate Knights’ “Best 50 Corporate Citizens” and Macleans/Jantzi Research Corporate “Social Responsibility Report”.

4. Carbon Disclosure Project

This non-profit organization compiles climate change data from the world’s largest companies. Although disclosure doesn’t necessarily translate into superior performance, the Carbon Disclosure Project posts both requests and responses on its website.

5. Patronize local and sustainable enterprises

Consider patronizing enterprises that have social as well as business goals. Look for certified products such as Forest Stewardship Council of Canada certified paper, Marine Stewardship Council certified fish, or certified organic produce. Other responsible consumer labelling schemes include Energy Star and EcoLogo.

6. Bring issues to light

• Do a Google search to see if reputable activist sites flag concerns.
• Learn about a company’s shareholder resolutions by scanning sites such as those of The Ethical Funds Company and the Shareholder Association for Research and Education (SHARE).

 

Robyn Hall is the communications manager for Canadian Business for Social Responsibility, a non-profit consultancy that helps Canadian companies improve their social, environmental and economic performance.

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