Shopping guide hits out at top brands

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The Independent Online

Britain's shoppers have been told to choose groceries and household goods with the same care they use to cast a vote, in a new guide for ethical buyers. Yet some of its findings are bound to confuse consumers.

Britain's shoppers have been told to choose groceries and household goods with the same care they use to cast a vote, in a new guide for ethical buyers. Yet some of its findings are bound to confuse consumers.

The Good Shopping Guide, which condemns – and praises – the performance of 700 High Street brands, claims that "your till receipt is as important as your vote". It criticises major names such as Bosch, NatWest, Tetley, Del Monte, Heinz and Knorr because their parent companies are involved in animal testing or do business with allegedly oppressive regimes.

But other firms once criticised for their investment or health policies, such as the fruit growers Geest and Fyffes, are given the guide's seal of approval. And Barclays Bank, once boycotted for its involvement in South Africa under apartheid, is given a neutral rating.

The book, which is endorsed by charities such as Christian Aid and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, is the latest attempt to pressurise leading firms to improve their performance on human rights, animal welfare and the environment.

Tony Juniper of Friends of the Earth said: "Information about a company's support for oppressive regimes or policies which undermine action on climate change, is very important. If we can mobilise people, through their purchasing behaviour, it will have a big impact."

But the book could confuse many shoppers. While M&S now boasts of using only free-range eggs and selling cruelty-free chicken, it is given a neutral rating for its cooking oil, in part because it donates money to the Tory Party.

Two fridge and washing machine brands that are given poor marks, Bosch and AEG, are known for their quality and energy efficiency. AEG is owned by the Swedish Wallenberg family group, which is criticised for its political donations in the United States.

Richard Sandbrook, a co-founder of FoE and environment consultant who advises Prince Charles, warned that allegations of misbehaviour had to be accurate. "This has to be done on real evidence, and not just hearsay. These issues are much more complex than just saying 'so and so operates in Nigeria, therefore they must be attacked'," he said. "A lot of these reputations aren't as up to date as they should be."

'The Good Shopping Guide', published by The Ethical Marketing Group, £10. www. thegoodshoppingguide.co.uk

Top Ethical Brands

Bank: Co-op Bank

Washing machine: Miele

Soft drink: Irn Bru

Shampoo: Weleda

Toy: Lego

Breakfast cereal: Jordan's

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