Eight of the 10 brands most praised by activist groups so far this year have been insurance and investment companies, a quarterly ranking by consultancy firm SIGWATCH has revealed.
The findings are based on the tracking of more than 1,500 campaigns by non-profit organisations (NGOs) using various online tools over the last three months, with German multinational Allianz topping the ranking.
The firm was recognised for its decision to end insurance coverage for coal projects, and for its efforts combating pirate fishing and protecting world heritage sites.
Meanwhile, investment managers Aegon, Trillium Asset Management and Boston Common entered the top ten for the first time after winning praise for their fossil fuel divestment and efforts to tackle deforestation.
"Activists are operating a 'follow the money' strategy, leaning on influential financial institutions to toughen up acceptable investment screens and divest," SIGWATCH managing director, Robert Blood, said.
"They rightly believe that losing key investors, or the threat of this happening, sends a far stronger signal to industry than any amount of road blockades and abseiling down their headquarters."
SIGWATCH has been compiling quarterly rankings of the companies most praised by activist groups by monitoring more than 9,000 NGOs and their campaign actions over the last three years.
The top 10 most praised brands in the first quarter of 2019 are shown below:
Although Unilever and Nestlé feature in the top 10, the researchers said fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) brands, which normally dominate the ranking, were "conspicuous by their absence" in the latest quarter.
Unilever scored highly due to its policies on issues around plastic and animal welfare, while Nestlé was applauded for policies on deforestation and efforts towards full supply chain transparency.
This comes after SIGWATCH found that re/insurers Allianz, AXA and Swiss Re had received more praise from NGOs than global brands like McDonald's, Aldi and H&M last year.
"It is unsurprising that consumer-facing companies are responsive to activists' concerns, however, it is new to see financial institutions joining them," Blood said.
"Undoubtedly this is because they are facing up to the reality of climate change and believe they cannot avoid their responsibility to use their market power to make a difference."