How we rate shampoo brands on their ethics


CHOICE teams with Good On You to score performance on labour rights and environment and animal impact.


Shampoo is a regular item on most people's household shopping list. What makes us pick one shampoo over another at the supermarket? For some people, aside from performance or even marketing, it might be the brand's track record on ethical issues such as the environment and labour and animal impacts.  

CHOICE has partnered with Good On You, an organisation that assesses the ethical and sustainability performance for a range of consumer goods, to rate 63 brands of shampoo, including Pantene, Dove, Garnier and Tresemme.

What's in this article?

How we chose the brands for ratings:

Due to the wide range of shampoo brands on the Australian market we simply could not rate them all. Instead, brands were chosen because they met one of the following criteria:

  • They were readily available in a range of stores including pharmacies, department stores and specialist retailers.
  • They marketed themselves as more sustainable and ethical.

The issues

Our testers used publicly available information to assess how each shampoo brand performs on the following issues:

  • Labour rights These include policies and practices on child labour, forced labour, worker safety, freedom of association (the right to join a union) and payment of a living wage. The brand's supplier relationships and auditing practices are also considered.
  • Environmental impact These include the brand's resource use and disposal, energy use and greenhouse gas emissions, impacts on water, chemical use and disposal.
  • Animal impact These include whether the brand uses any animal products in its products and if so, whether the brand is transparent about where it sources it from. It also addresses whether the brand conducts tests on animals.

Methodology development

Good On You conducted extensive research to determine which issues we should consider under the three headline issues of environment, labour and animals. This research included identifying, reviewing and evaluating:

  • existing rating methodologies
  • 31 relevant standards systems and certification schemes that apply to one or more of the headline issues for either shampoo products or cosmetics.

From this research, we identified these key issues to measure:

  • environment
    • ingredient transparency
    • microplastics
    • nanotechnology
    • palm oil and its sources
    • packaging and end of use treatment of products
    • waste minimisation
    • greenhouse gas measurement, targets, and emissions reduction activities
    • chemical elimination
  • labour
    • policies and worker empowerment
    • low risk production
    • multi-stakeholder engagement
    • living wage
    • knowing suppliers
    • supply chain and auditing
  • animals
    • vegan products
    • animal testing

We developed questions to address each issue.

Scoring

For each question, our researchers assessed the potential magnitude of the issue against the likelihood of it occurring. For example, if it is highly likely that a shampoo brand has a specific impact on the environment/labour/animals, and it has a high magnitude of impact, then it would be weighted more heavily. An example of this would be the use of hazardous chemicals which have a high magnitude of impact and a high likelihood of occurring.

Small brands were excluded from scoring for some of the climate change and and water criteria, for example measuring their GHG emissions; and their environment score was based only on the weighted average of their scores for resource and chemical use and the remaining climate change and water questions. A brand was determined to be small based on its domestic or international market exposure, whether it has a parent company, and overall popularity based on a social media presence.

Gathering the information

Each brand was then researched individually to provide answers to the questions. All information was gathered through publicly available information, including from:

  • the brand's website
  • the brand's corporate sustainability report or that of its parent company
  • the identified standards systems and certification schemes.

Each brand was scored for each issue (based on the answers to the questions relevant to that issue). Each brand was then given a score for each headline area (labour, environment, animals) and overall.

See how the big brands like Tresemme, L'Oreal and Dove, and smaller brands such as O&M and Ecostore, compare for ethical performance in our ethical shampoo reviews.


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