sigwatch NGO praise and criticism
  • sigwatch NGO praise and criticismNestlé, Danone and Yum! Brands praised on animal welfare
  • Nestlé and Coca-Cola criticised on plastics

Food companies win NGOs’ admiration, as well as their disapproval, for their response to key sustainability issues such as animal welfare and plastics in the past year. That is according to a new ranking of the brands most praised and most criticised by activist groups (NGOs) in 2019, compiled by research and strategy consultancy SIGWATCH. Nestlé is the most criticised brand by far, but also the second most praised, receiving negative attention for its lack of action on plastics waste, while earning praise for its heightened commitment to animal welfare.

SIGWATCH’s annual ranking is an independent rating of how brands are performing on sustainability, based on the comments and campaign actions of more than 10,000 activist groups (NGOs) around the world over the past 12 months.

According to SIGWATCH analysis, Nestlé comes under fire for failing to reduce its use of plastic packaging. Greenpeace and its allies accuse the food giant of being a “top plastic polluter” and a “top contributor to marine plastic pollution”. They are disappointed that Nestlé and other brands are focusing too much on recycling and bioplastic or paper alternatives, which they claim exacerbates environmental problems.
Coca-Cola is also accused of procrastinating on plastics. This is in addition to criticism over high sugar, high calorie products and their impact on public health and childhood obesity. Named the “most polluting brand” in a global audit of plastic waste, it is the ninth most criticised brand in the 2019 rankings.

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While food companies attract criticism, they also win praise for their actions on animal welfare. Nestlé, the number two most praised brand, is applauded for its commitment to using cage free eggs and to improving poultry welfare standards under the ‘Better Chicken Commitment’. Danone makes seventh place for similar reasons, while American fast food corporation Yum Brands!, owner of Taco Bell, KFC, Pizza Hut, and WingStreet, is a new entrant at number five. Its introduction of vegan options at Pizza Hut and KFC and vegetarian burgers at Burger King and McDonald’s is a hit with NGOs who have been pushing hard for businesses to sell and serve less meat for environmental reasons.

Commenting on the 2019 rankings, SIGWATCH founder and managing director Robert Blood said, “Climate change, plastics and animal welfare are the biggest drivers of campaigning activity, so brands that are strongly exposed in any of these areas will get a lot of positive attention if they act decisively, and a lot of negative attention if they can’t or won’t. Meanwhile, so-called changemakers such as Nestlé, which NGOs expect to lead their industries, are praised to reward them for change and criticised to spur them to further action.

“In 2020, we expect activist groups to ramp up their campaigning activity on the issue of “green vegetarianism”– giving up meat for the sake of the environment rather than just health or ethics reasons. Some companies have already anticipated this trend by adding vegetarian and vegan options to their menus. Food firms still wedded to meat will come under growing pressure to follow their example.”

 About the Annual Rankings
SIGWATCH has been compiling annual rankings of brands most praised and most criticised by NGOs for the last ten years.   The rankings are based on its monitoring of nearly 10,000 NGOs and their campaign actions over the previous 12 months.


  1. Unilever
  2. Nestlé
  3. AXA
  4. Allianz
  5. Yum! Brands
  6. Swiss Re
  7. Danone
  8. VF Corporation
  9. Aldi
  10. SCOR SE


  1. Nestlé
  2. Royal Dutch Shell
  3. World Bank Group
  4. Adani Group
  5. ExxonMobil
  6. Total S.A.
  7. Unilever
  8. Carnival Corporation
  9. Coca-Cola Company
  10. Sinar Mas Group


SIGWATCH is a global research and strategy consultancy specializing in understanding NGOs (activist groups) and the impact of their campaigns on corporate reputation and social responsibility.  It is headquartered in London, United Kingdom with a support office in Germany and a global network of researchers and analysts. It also has partners in the US and Canada.

SIGWATCH provides real-time monitoring and measurement of emerging stakeholder risk from more than 9,000 NGO campaigners across all industry sectors.  Its clients are mostly global businesses that have direct or sector exposure to issues campaigns, and companies that advise or invest in such businesses or need to carry out due diligence prior to partnering or investment.

For a copy of our 2019 ‘most praised’ ranking graphic or to speak to a SIGWATCH expert, please contact:
Janine Maxwell
PR Consultant
[email protected]
Tel: +44 (0) 208 9792974
Mobile: +44 (0) 7825 167766