Tesco, Sainsbury's and M&S are among most praised companies by NGOs but VW and Royal Dutch Shell make "naughty" list of most criticised

Lynsey Barber
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It's not all bad news for retailers (Source: Getty)

Tesco, Sainsbury's and M&S are certainly not having the best of times on the high street these days, but there's one place their winning at least.

The three are among several of the biggest global companies to make a "nice" list of companies which pressure groups and campaigners across the world, from the likes of Which? to Greenpeace, have praised.

M&S climbed 10 places in the annual rankings and Tesco three places to sit in second and 13th place respectively.

Most praised companies

Some banks also faired well, mainly French ones, while the emissions scandal sent Volkwagen into the naughty list, which was once again topped by Royal Dutch Shell, the research from consultancy Sigwatch found.

Most criticised companies

Providing insight on how these type of organisations target companies, the report notes that it's the ten biggest businesses which attract the majority of attention - as much as 70 per cent.

"The rest was aimed at smaller companies when they were accused of behaving badly or niche players setting a good example (when they got a lot of praise). Medium-sized companies however were virtually ignored by NGOs unless they did something conspicuously bad. This rule seems to apply at national, regional and global levels except in the financial sector where most players except the smallest were targeted."

On the financial sector, it notes that it's "being treated more like a consumer sector than an industrial one, and many financial institutions are changing policies to suit NGOs. This could have interesting ramifications for its commercial relationships with industry, especially those in the fossil fuel sector

In the top 20 UK specific list, it included seven retailers, including Primark owner ABF and John Lewis, while three of Britain's banks - Barclays, HSBC and Standard Chartered - made the UK's most criticised list and Oil, coal and mining companies made up nine of the top 20.

What can companies do to gain praise? The report found it was moe likely to come from changes to "non-core" work, for example tackling labour, supply chain or animal abuses issues, rather than a major change in direction.

"Almost certainly this is because firms rarely do change core activities in response to NGO pressure, and it is not because the NGOs do not welcome such changes when they happen," the report said.

"In the case of financial institutions, it was usually for stricter policies on environmental and social issues," it added.

The research indicates that corporate social responsibility efforts by companies may actually pay off in terms of reputation.

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