Are there any resources or databases that catalog how companies perform along ethical or sustainable lines? I'm particularly interested in things like workers rights and pay, affect on the environment, etc.
There are several databases like this online. Just google on 'sustainability OR csr database companies' and you’ll find a lot of hits. However, I have found that very few are easy to use.
For example, the Sustainability Disclosure Database lists data on thousands of companies on sustainability and environmental and social and governance transparency. I did try to use it once, but I quickly gave up because I didn't really understand how it works and what everything means. The site is too complicated for me (a non-professional) to use.
Another example that seems easier to use is CSRHUB but it requires a subscription to access in-depth information.
A site I am familiar with and often use is rankabrand.org. It ranks brands (so not companies) according to information found on a company website and in their annual reports. Rankabrand assesses brands on
their environmental performances, climate change efforts and labour conditions.
If no information is present on a particular topic, the brand gets 0 points so it is indirectly ranking transparency as well.
The Better World Shopper is a good source. I got the book from my mother for Christmas one year and found it amazingly enlightening (and at the same time shocking). It's small enough to keep with you as well.
BETTER WORLD SHOPPER is a site dedicated to providing people with a comprehensive, up-to-date, reliable account of the social and environmental responsibility of every company on the planet AND making it available in practical forms that individuals can use in their everyday lives. Coming out of more than 5 years of intensive research, this work is based on a comprehensive database of over 1000 companies and utilizes 25+ reliable sources of data to cover everything from the environment to human rights, community development to animal protection.
5 key issues
HUMAN RIGHTS: sweatshops, 3rd world community exploitation, international health issues, divestment, child labor, code of conduct.
THE ENVIRONMENT: global warming, rainforest destruction, pollution, recycling, renewable energy, greenwashing, toxic waste, eco-innovations, illegal dumping, sustainable farming.
ANIMAL PROTECTION: factory farming, animal testing, humane treatment, wild animal habitat.
COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT: family farms, local business support, volunteer efforts, sustainable growth, philanthropic donations, nonprofit alliances, establishing foundations.
SOCIAL JUSTICE : fair wages, fatalities, union busting efforts, health & safety records, discrimination based on: race, gender, age, ability, religion, sexuality, ethnicity.
A second resource would be Green America's Responsible Shopper "Your Guide To Promoting a Responsible Economy"
Best of Luck. In our consumer based society every dollar is a vote!