Neal’s Yard Remedies scores high in Ethical Consumer's Best Buy ratings.

Why Neal’s Yard Remedies is an ethical Best Buy

26 May, 2017

Neal’s Yard Remedies is now one of the UK’s leading ethical brands with over 50 stores throughout the UK.

What’s more, it’s managed this phenomenal growth whilst keeping ethics at the very heart of its business model. It’s these embedded ethics that have earned the company a much sought after Best Buy Label from Ethical Consumer.

What is Ethical Consumer?

Ethical Consumer is a not-for-profit, co-operative based in Manchester with a mission to make global businesses more sustainable through consumer pressure.

Our Mission – Ethical Consumer from Ethical Consumer on Vimeo.

Over the last 25 years it has become the hub of the ethical consumer movement, helping consumers to shop ethically, campaigners to challenge corporate power and businesses to improve their supply chain.

Our small but dedicated research team works tirelessly to provide consumers with the tools and resources they need to make informed ethical choices every time they shop.

But we do a lot more than publish shopping guides.

We run and collaborate on campaigns on key ethical issues for example recently setting up the Fair Tax Mark and Save Our Bank campaigns.

In addition we work with a variety of organisation on a number of projects in order to help them improve their own ethics and communicate what they are doing to customers, employees and others.

And just last week we released a new academic journal to help debate and explore some of the more difficult issues surrounding ethical consumption.

Our rating system

However company ratings is still central to what we do.

It’s our rating system that helps us sort out who the ethical companies really are and help us to award the Best Buy label.

The label is unique in that it looks in detail at the ethical record of the company behind the product, as well as the environmental and ethical credentials of the product itself.

We like to think of the label as the gold standard in ethical shopping and only a handful of super-ethical companies are eligible to receive it.

Our research focuses on four main categories: animal rights, people; politics and environment – plus product sustainability.

In each of these categories we rate brands on both their ethical policies before giving them a score out 18 and ranking them against other brands in their market.

You can find out more about our scoring system on the Ethical Consumer website.

We believe that our approach, which ranks companies on this broad set of criteria, helps shoppers avoid falling for ethical and environmental claims that turn out to be little more than greenwash.

Based on the findings in our product guides, we identify and recommend a number of environmental and ethical Best Buy products in over 120 product categories.

Neal’s Yard Remedies scores well across Ethical Consumer ranking

We rated and ranked Neal’s Yard Remedies in our recent special report on the cosmetics industry.

This report includes seven product guides on everything from shower gel to make up and Neal’s Yard Remedies scores consistently well in each guide scoring an average of 16 out of 18.

This high score is because of the company’s approach to some key issues in the sector, including animal rights and the use of toxic chemicals.

In terms of animal rights, the company has been awarded the Leaping Bunny logo meaning that none of its products have been tested on animals. Plus many of their products are vegan and they are also Vegetarian Society approved.

Free from toxic chemicals

When compiling our cosmetics report we also looked at whether a company uses toxic chemicals, in particular a group of chemicals called parabens and phthalates.

Recent studies indicate that these chemicals may be linked to the development of cancer and are known as hormone disrupters as they mimic the body’s naturally occurring hormones with worrying consequences. Parabens are often used as preservatives whilst phthalates are often used in fragrances.

Neal’s Yard Remedies provide a long list of chemicals that they ban from their products, including phthalates and parabens (as well as things like mineral oils and silicones). Therefore the company received Ethical Consumer’s best rating for its toxic chemicals policy.

A best rating on palm oil

Another contentious ingredient often used in cosmetics is palm oil.

The growth in use of this cash crop is causing many environmental and social problems especially in Indonesia.

Here vast swathes of rainforest have been cut or burnt down to grow palm oil leading to habitat destruction for wildlife and increased levels of carbon dioxide. Plus all too often large companies illegally seize land from indigenous people who are then forced off their land.

The good news is that Neal’s Yard Remedies received Ethical Consumer’s best rating for palm oil policy and practice. The company have now started to phase out the use of palm oil in its products.

However where it’s still needed only organic palm oil is used, much of which has been independently verified as being sustainable.

Why didn’t the company score full marks?

 One area where Neal’s Yard Remedies could improve its score on our ranking system is in its environmental reporting.

As it stands their environmental report currently lacks any clear environmental targets and so consequently doesn’t score that well.

However the company clearly shows a good understanding of its main environmental impacts as evidenced, for example, by its use of organic accreditation. We’re sure that as the company continues to grow then this small improvement in reporting can easily be achieved.

In the future

We’re confident that as Neal’s Yard Remedies moves forward it will continue to maintain its core ethical values which have been such an essential ingredient to its success. We hope that this is the case and that it will continue to hold the Best Buy Label long into the future.




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  • Tim Hunt is co-editor and director of Ethical Consumer magazine