Our Standards

We look for brands that are fundamentally challenging the status quo of “good business” — companies whose business models and products are designed to help people and the planet.

All Good Companies are for-profit ventures, where doing good is integral to doing well. We don’t include any not-for-profits seeking to raise funds by selling items, and we limit our search to products (no services); our goal is to shine a light on the important work happening in the world of consumer goods.

Any company that makes it on to our list must fall within one or more of the following categories:

  • Donate: Companies that donate funds or products to benefit important causes and people in need.
  • Innovate: Companies whose products or production processes make a positive environmental and/or social impact.
  • Inform: Companies who provide customers with all of the context and knowledge they need to make informed purchases.

A business must be permanently dedicated to one or more of these standards, and they must extend across the entire company — while we value charitable capsule collections, one-time donations, and other more singular examples of “doing good,” they aren’t enough to make a brand a Good Company.

How do we determine if a company falls within a certain category?

 


DONATE

Companies that donate funds or products to benefit important causes and people in need. Businesses that make an in-kind donation for each purchase made (like the one-for-one model TOMS made famous) fit under this category, too.

When we look for companies in this category, we ask:

  • Do they donate a minimum amount (dollar, percentage, or product) per specified period of time (annually) or action (per purchase) to a good cause?
  • Is that information readily available on their website, or upon request?
  • Are they open about how they deliver donations to target beneficiaries? (A list of not-for-profit partners is often a good clue here.)
Read More

We think of this category as our “give back” group, which covers anything as literal as a specific amount of money donated each year to companies who give away a product (or products) for every item purchased. Why do we group them together? Many companies with “buy one give one” models calculate their numbers based on sales, which get converted to monetary donations to related not-for-profit partners and can make the net result difficult to distinguish.

For example, Warby Parker is well known for their 1:1 program for eyeglasses, but in practice the way it works out is that they donate eyeglasses or eye exams or relevant training for each sale made. Companies do this because donating nothing but product can, occasionally, be seen to flood the markets and create cycles of dependency, prohibiting the development of local commerce. So what sorts of details do we look for? A few of them are:

Amount — A minimum percent or dollar figure per period (e.g. quarter, annum) must be noted on the company’s website or confirmed by the company in writing. Transparency — The company must be willing to have that minimum figure published on our website.
Clarification — Phrases such as “up to x% donated” or similar requires contact with the company to confirm there is a minimum donated.
No Minimum — Good Companies does not require that companies donate a specific minimum amount, only that they have an internal goal which they strive to meet.

See all Donate companies.

 


INNOVATE

Good Companies whose product or production process innovatively improves on more standard models, in pursuit of benefitting people and/or planet.

When we look for companies in this category, we ask:

  • Has the company created something unique that benefits people and/or the planet?
  • Is this innovation the company’s main competitive differentiator?
  • Was the company a pioneer in a major, market-leading innovation early on?
Read More

The first question above is central to the Innovate category: is a company doing something truly innovative in a way that benefits the world? Plenty of businesses do new and interesting things all the time.

Good Companies that Innovate are committed to solving problems that fundamentally need to be solved, whether that’s the growing amount of plastic waste in the world or the billions of people in developing countries who need eyeglasses. To some extent this is our most subjective and yet one of our most important categories; other ways we think about it include:

Core Values — Does the innovation, whether a part of the product, production, or business model, extend across everything the company does and provide mission focus?
Solutions — This bears repeating: exactly what problem is this company solving for and who or what benefits? Improving a business’ internal logistics don’t count.
Labor — Exceptions are made for companies that go beyond certifications like Fair Trade to invest in their people and communities in creative and important ways.
Pioneers — Organic food or reusable bags are no longer groundbreaking; but they were once. Companies like Pacific Foods and Eco-Bags paved the way for today’s trends.

See all Innovate companies.

 


INFORM

Good Companies who go above and beyond to provide their customers with the knowledge they need to make an informed decision about their purchase and its impact on people and planet.

When we look for companies in this category, we ask:

  • Does the company clearly demonstrate on their website that helping people and/or the planet is central to their mission — without a hunt through FAQs or outside resources?
  • Do they present consistent information across a particular category (e.g. products, donations, or suppliers)?
  • Have they provided enough concrete data, perspective, and/or context to inform their customers on their decisions?
Read More

The Inform category centers on a critical philosophy: the minute a company arms its customers with information it is proactively giving them a choice, and the customer may decide to walk away because of it. At its heart, companies that Inform demonstrate a commitment to operating as honest brokers of information, regardless of the associated risks to their bottom line.

It’s important to note that not all industries are created equal when it comes to regulations and consumer expectations on the type and amount of information a company must publicly provide. Naturally, then, this kind of transparency isn’t one-size-fits-all. The possible qualifying topics run the gamut, and a company need only be informative on one subject to qualify:

Supply Chain — Who is doing what work, for which products, and under what conditions? We look for names, addresses, and identifying information for all suppliers.
Materials — What exactly is in the product? We look for information on materials used, reasons why they are and are not chosen, and definitions for tricky or vague terms.
Environmental Impact — What kind of environmental footprint is a company creating? We look for data on things like water usage, emissions, and waste production.
Charitable Donations — Where do donations go and what impact do they make? We look for project tracking tools to pin down the path from purchase to donation.
Issues in Process — What environmental or social goals does a company have? We look for self-imposed accountability on work to be done to improve on a given issue.
Price — How much did it cost to make this item, and why? The most nascent (in consumer discussions) of our topics, we look for data on where money is being spent.

See all Inform companies.