Insurers among brands most praised by activist groups

Three insurers make the top five of the annual ranking of most praised corporates, according to research compiled by consultancy SIGWATCH. Based on its monitoring of comments of more than 9,000 NGOs over the past year, it says insurers have overtaken such leading global consumer brands in retail, food and fashion as McDonald’s, Aldi and H&M, which habitually respond constructively to NGOs. Unilever is the exception to the rule, winning the title of most praised brand for the second year in a row, on account of its initiatives on issues such as palm oil, animal welfare, fragrance disclosure and sustainability.

According to the data, Allianz, AXA and Swiss Re rank highly as a result of their commitment to divesting from coal and disengaging from the coal industry. Campaigners have been pressing financial institutions to move away from extreme fossil fuels including coal, and these firms have been among the first and most serious in responding to their demands.

While insurers and their climate commitments win NGO praise, energy firms with fossil fuel links earn their disapproval, accounting for half of the most criticised brands in 2018. Kinder Morgan is the NGOs’ most criticised firm due to its oil sands pipelines in North America. Enbridge, Energy Transfer and TransCanada find themselves on the same list for similar reasons.

Other notable ‘most criticised’ brands include Coca-Cola and Walmart. Both have moved down the ranking since last year, the issue of plastics pollution cited as part of the reason why.

Nestlé is in a unique position, as one of the most praised and most criticised brands. The report's authors say this is not unusual, since Nestlé is praised by NGOs to reward it for change, and criticised to spur it into further action. In this case, Nestlé is commended for its stance on issues such as GMOs and animal welfare but reproached for not going far enough, in the eyes of NGOs, on issues like single use plastics.

Commenting on the annual ranking, Robert Blood, founder and managing director of SIGWATCH said: “It is unsurprising that consumer-facing companies are responsive to activists’ concerns, as we know they feel their customers care about such issues and they want to protect their brands. However, it is new to see financial institutions joining them. Undoubtedly this is because they are facing up to the reality of climate change and believe they cannot avoid their responsibility to use their market power to make a difference. Climate change concerns also explain why companies strongly associated with fossil fuels such as the big oil and gas pipeline builders in North America are getting hammered by activists. This is unlikely to change until American industry and politicians take climate change seriously.”


Cheers and jeers (Source: SIGWATCH)

Brands most praised by activist groups in 2018...

1. Unilever
2. Allianz
3. AXA
4. Swiss Re
5. Signet Jewelers
6. McDonald’s
7. Aldi
8. Lidl
9. Nestlé
10. H&M

...and least praised:

1. Kinder Morgan
2. Monsanto
3. Royal Dutch Shell
4. Nestlé
5. Enbridge
6. Energy Transfer
7. Coca-Cola
8. TransCanada
9. Google/Alphabet
10. Walmart

SIGWATCH has been compiling annual rankings of brands most praised and most criticised by NGOs for three years. The rankings are based on its monitoring of more than 9,000 NGOs and their campaign actions over the previous 12 months.

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