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How these 10 Black Friday destinations are making a positive impact

As you wade through holiday deals, the financial firm Aspiration, in its inaugural “Nice List,” wants to guide you to companies that do well by their employees and the environment.

How these 10 Black Friday destinations are making a positive impact
[Photo: Ethan Hoover/Unsplash]

This time of year, stretching from Black Friday all the way up through last-minute Christmas shopping, herds people toward spending money. Brands dangle deals in teaser emails before the season, and the rush to collect them leads to notorious stampedes and long lines.

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Aspiration, an online financial firm that only invests in companies committed to sustainability and strong ethical practices, wants consumers to think about Black Friday a little differently this year. Instead of just chasing deals, Aspiration aims to direct people to spend in accordance with their values. Released for the first time this year, the firm’s “Nice List” identifies the top 10 companies across a range of sectors—fashion, tech, travel, beauty–based on how they treat the environment and their employees.

[Image: Aspiration]

For any of the around 1 million people who bank with Aspiration, the companies on the Nice List might not come as a surprise. For its checking account customers, Aspiration rolled out a new in-app metric last year that essentially rates companies on their environmental and ethical impacts. Called the Aspiration Impact Measurement (or AIM), the feature analyzes around 75,000 data points about a company to arrive at two scores, “People” and “Planet.” The Planet score aggregates metrics like greenhouse gas emissions and the amount of waste sent to landfill; the People score looks at the share of women employees or people of color, as well as the gap between CEO and employee earnings. Combined, the two scores feed into the AIM, which appears as a number out of 100. The Aspiration app tracks individuals’ spending habits, and gives them a personal AIM score based on where they’ve made purchases.

The Nice List makes data on companies that Aspiration consumers see when they shop available to everyone. “We wanted to share a representative sample of some of the highest AIM-scored businesses out there,” says Aspiration CEO Andrei Cherny.

Here are the companies that made the cut, along with the score and what’s most impressed Aspiration about their practices:

  • Athleta (apparel): AIM score of 85.5 for use of recycled fabrics; by 2020, 80% of its products will be made from sustainable fibers.
  • Sephora (cosmetics): AIM score of 79.5 for selling over 2,000 chemical-free products, and launching the Sephora Stands social equality program.
  • Apple (technology): AIM score of 90.5 for shifting to 100% clean energy across retail stores, data centers, and corporate offices, and cutting greenhouse gases from facilities by 54% since 2011.
  • Whole Foods (grocery): AIM score of 83 for selling cleaning supplies free of environmentally damaging ingredients, and for pioneering its own Eco-Scale rating system.
  • Costco (grocery): AIM score of 82 for setting a company-wide minimum wage of $14, and for creating a strong opportunity pipeline for employees–over 70% of current warehouse managers began as hourly workers.
  • eBay (retail): AIM score of 93.5 for its Retail Revival program, which helps small business owners and entrepreneurs reach a wider audience through the platform.
  • Target (retail): AIM score of 92 for strong gender and racial diversity among employees and leadership.
  • Best Buy (retail): AIM score of 88 for its Teen Tech Centers at which young people can learn technology skills.
  • Marriott Hotels (travel and hospitality): AIM score of 84.5 for promoting LGBTQ inclusion.
  • Delta (travel and hospitality); AIM score of 80 for being the first U.S. airline to introduce a carbon offsetting program, and for pledging to replace 20% of its fleet with more fuel-efficient planes by 2020.

None of the companies on the list are niche or obscure. To Cherny, that’s intentional. “We wanted to look at some of the places that people are already going to be shopping this season, but empower people with information around how these companies are treating their employees and the environment,” he says.

“We thought we’d try to be a little bit of an antidote to all of the wackiness going on around Black Friday, but also remind people that as they make shopping decisions, they can fold in their conscience and ethics, not leave it at the door,” Cherny says.

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About the author

Eillie Anzilotti is an assistant editor for Fast Company's Ideas section, covering sustainability, social good, and alternative economies. Previously, she wrote for CityLab.

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