Frequently Asked Questions

Here are answers to the most frequently asked questions we receive from consumers and companies. If you have general questions or suggestions about GoodGuide.com, our mobile or toolbar applications, or our ratings, please contact us using Get Satisfaction.

Questions From Consumers

Your product ratings have changed. Why?

GoodGuide released Version 2.0 of its rating system in November 2011. As a result, all companies that we rate have new and up-to-date environment and social scores. Since company-level scores typically constitute two-thirds of a product's GoodGuide summary score, all products also have new scores. In addition, we modified how we treat incomplete ingredient disclosure in personal care and household chemical products, so health scores have changed for many products.

How did GoodGuide change its company rating system?

GoodGuide's new company ratings include three major changes:

  • Up-to-date information for all public companies. GoodGuide ratings for public companies are now based on 2010-2011 data, provided by two of the leading commercial aggregators of corporate sustainability information, ThomsonReuters Asset4 and IW Financial. Previous company ratings utilized 2009-2010 data.
  • A new scoring system. GoodGuide changed how it scores the indicators it uses to assess company-level environmental and social performance. We switched from a relative scoring to an absolute scoring methodology. Previously, the numerical score GoodGuide gave to a company for having a policy or practice varied depending on how many other companies also exhibited similar behavior. Numerical scores reflected not only how good the policy or practice was, but also distributional characteristics of our data. This made it difficult to interpret GoodGuide scores, as the same type of good behavior could receive different numerical scores. In Version 2, indicators are scored consistently using a fixed 0 (worst) to 10 (best) scale. The new scoring system also ensures that public and private companies are evaluated according to one uniform scoring methodology to ensure comparability.
  • Changes to the issues we include in our Environment and Society ratings. The most important change involves the addition of “Transparency” scores as a major component of our Environment and Social ratings. These scores summarize the amount of information that is publicly available for assessing company performance on an issue. Companies with extensive disclosure about their policies, practices and performance score well; companies lacking critical data score poorly. This new score is intended to incentivize companies to do a better job of disclosing the information consumers need to evaluate their activities. GoodGuide also modified its previous definitions of “what matters” in Environment and Society to better align our rating system with the emerging international standard for corporate social responsibility reporting. More and more companies are following guidelines issued by the Global Reporting Initiative and it was critical to adjust how we define issues so that we can more easily and reliably acquire high quality information being published by companies on their environmental and social performance. These changes have resulted in more detailed coverage of some topics (such as supply chain issues, engagement in external initiatives, and various types of human rights violations) and reduced coverage of others (such as employee benefits packages, volunteer programs, and customer satisfaction).

Why did GoodGuide change its company rating system?

GoodGuide substantially revised how it rates companies in response to feedback we have received from GoodGuide users, companies we rate, and reviews by third-parties such as SustainAbility.

Version 1 of our rating system exhibited several limitations that we wanted to address, including:

  • Inconsistent use of our 0-10 numerical scale
  • Different scoring systems were used for private vs. public companies, biasing some ratings results
  • Complex and non-scalable procedures were required to implement data updates
  • Our ratings framework was not sufficiently aligned with emerging global reporting standards, limiting our ability to automatically acquire data from company publications.
  • Insufficient transparency into our methodology and scoring procedures

Version 2 of our rating system addresses all of these limitations and has advantages that enable GoodGuide to provide more current and reliable ratings to our users. Version 2:

  • Standardizes the scoring scale used to rate companies
  • Enables GoodGuide to identify the specific policies or performance associated with good or bad ratings
  • Allows GoodGuide to integrate company- or user-submitted data into its rating process & re-score using enhanced datasets
  • Establishes a robust informatics infrastructure that supports automated acquisition of evidence as well as the ability to publish more of the raw data underlying GoodGuide scores
  • Comes with comprehensive documentation of our methodology, scoring rules and data procedures.

How did GoodGuide change its Health ratings for personal care and household chemical products?

GoodGuide has revised how it scores products with incomplete ingredient lists. Some companies do not disclose the specific ingredients in their products, but just generic ingredient names like “fragrance,” “surfactants,” or “cleaning agents.” GoodGuide cannot complete its health assessment of products like this because the manufacturer has not provided enough ingredient detail for us to identify potential health hazards. GoodGuide Health ratings include an Ingredient Disclosure score to address this problem. Previously, any use of a generic ingredient term other than “fragrance” received a score of 4 on Ingredient Disclosure. If the only generic term used was “fragrance,” the product received a score of 8 on this issue.

We have revised our approach because we are have conducted research that allows us to categorize different generic ingredient terms into tiers based on their potential to pose a health risk:

  • Tier 1 includes generic ingredients whose functional class includes specific ingredients that are classified by GoodGuide as having medium or high health concern (e.g., anti-microbial agents, quaternary ammonium compounds, solvents). Any use of a Tier 1 generic ingredient term receives a score of 4 on Ingredient Disclosure.
  • Tier 2 includes generic ingredients whose functional class includes specific ingredients classified as having low or no health concern (e.g., paraffin, softeners, enzymes). Any use of a Tier 2 generic ingredient term receives a score of 8.
  • Tier 3 includes a variety of generic fragrance terms whose functional class includes specific ingredients classified as medium or high health concern, but which are typically present at de minimis concentrations due to low % formulations. Any use of a Tier 3 generic fragrance term receives a score of 6.

As a result of this change, the Health scores for products containing relatively low risk generic ingredients have generally increased, while the scores for products containing generic fragrances have generally decreased.

What is the relationship between GoodGuide ratings and personal filters?

Ratings and personal filters are two different approaches to using the underlying information GoodGuide has compiled about product and company performance:

  • Our ratings are designed to help consumers compare products using a broad definition of “goodness” that includes health, environmental and social issues. The ratings let you know where a product falls on our 0 - 10 scale and helps identify better performing alternatives. But the ratings do not draw “bright lines” that indicate a product is “good” or “bad” or whether you should buy or avoid that product.
  • Personalized filters are designed to support consumers who have strong preferences about the products they want to buy. In contrast with our ratings, these preferences may be focused only on specific issues (e.g., I only want to buy products from companies that are animal friendly, or I make my choices based on health concerns, not environmental or social issues). Filters enable consumers to define “bright lines” that determine whether a product passes or fails their personal criteria. Filters can be used to ensure you avoid purchasing any product that contains controversial ingredients, or that you only purchase products that are energy efficient or have been certified as environmentally friendly.

Can GoodGuide add ratings of product category Z to its service?

Most of GoodGuide's resources are currently focused on improving our ratings and coverage in our core product categories — personal care, household chemical and food products. We do accept nominations from users about new categories to cover, but extending our services into a new category requires considerably more work and time compared to adding a brand or product to an existing category. This is because we typically need to design custom ratings frameworks for each new product category and then acquire the data needed to support scoring products within that category.

Questions From Companies

My company or product scores poorly on GoodGuide. I think the rating is incorrect or your data are out-of-date. What can I do to better understand the basis for the score and to improve it?

If you believe a GoodGuide rating is incorrect or based on inaccurate data, we encourage you to report the issue to us for investigation. Please be sure to identify the relevant GoodGuide URL, product or company name so we can research your complaint. Please describe the apparent error and provide documentation (or URLs) that support use of different data or a revised rating. GoodGuide does not charge any fees for investigating or correcting errors. Upon written request, we can treat submissions as confidential information. To report an error, please send an email to our Chief Scientist (bill at goodguide.com). If you want to comment publicly about the quality of GoodGuide data, you may also submit your concerns to our online discussion forum.

My company makes products in categories covered by GoodGuide but they are not rated. How can I get products to be included in your site?

GoodGuide prioritizes requests to add products to its rating system using two main criteria: a product's market share in its category and consumer demand. Our goal is to ensure we cover the products that constitute 80% of current sales in a category. If sales of your product meets this criterion, please send an email to our business development team.

Please note that it is considerably easier and quicker for us to add products made by companies that currently have a GoodGuide rating or that are public companies compared with private companies that require de novo research to develop company ratings. We do not add products to our catalogue unless they have both product and company ratings.

Other Questions

You can view all questions as well as ask your own, on GoodGuide's Get Satisfaction page.