Samsung vs. Whirlpool – Which one is green…washing?

Which is better, Samsung or Whirlpool?

Smart technology is the latest innovation in the realm of appliances, and two of the largest and most popular brands—Samsung and Whirlpool—each have their own line of smart appliances on the market.

What are smart appliances, exactly? They are appliances that you can connect to, control, and monitor via your smartphone or other device. Some smart appliances go so far as to respond to voice commands, adding a whole new meaning to the word “convenience.” And while Samsung and Whirlpool have both earned long-standing reputations for high-quality products spanning the marketplace, the question is which company has the best sustainability practices and corporate policies? 

Deciding which company to support can be stressful at any point, so we’ve tried to break down two of the more known chains and what your purchase will support.

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Why you should trust us

At Ethically, we compile scores from over 700 verified sources to create a granular profile of more than 10,000 companies and brands, evaluating their impact on the environment, society at large, and good business. You can learn more about Ethically’s process in our Methodology and you can see the scores yourself by downloading the Ethically browser extension.

The companies

Samsung

Samsung Electronics Co is a South Korean multinational electronics company headquartered in the Yeongtong District of Suwon. It is the pinnacle of the Samsung chaebol, accounting for 70% of the group’s revenue in 2012. Samsung Electronics has played a key role in the group’s corporate governance due to circular ownership. Samsung Electronics has assembly plants and sales networks in 74 countries and employs around 290,000 people. It is majority-owned by foreign investors. It is the world’s largest manufacturer of consumer electronics by revenue. As of 2019, Samsung Electronics is the world’s second largest technology company by revenue, and its market capitalization stood at US$520.65 billion, the 12th largest in the world

Whirlpool

The Whirlpool Corporation is a multinational manufacturer and marketer of home appliances, headquartered in Benton Charter Township, Michigan, United States. The Fortune 500 company has annual revenue of approximately $21 billion, 92,000 employees, and more than 70 manufacturing and technology research centers around the world. Fewer than 10% of its employees are based in the United States.

Scores Overview

These two companies, while often compared side by side, are very close when it comes to ESG measurements but there are some key differences that put one above the other.

Overall, Samsung scored a 58/100 and Whirlpool scored a 59/100. This difference is highlighted in their social responsibility and governance scores but Whirlpool gets beaten by Samsung  when it comes to their track record on environmental policies.

Let’s dive in (Reminder, check out our Methodology for definitions on each of these subtopic scores)

Impact on the environment

Impact on the environment relates to how a company or brand impacts the natural world around us. This could be related to the products they create, their manufacturing policies, or even their corporate response to climate change. Samsung and Whirlpool both impact the environment in a number of ways, from their manufacturing policies to the products they produce. Below are more details comparing these two companies. 

Samsung

Score: 77

Whirlpool

Score: 63

Comparison

Samsung has a significant point advantage over Whirlpool in this category, with the scores being 77 to 63. This category has to do with the companies’ compliance with environmental regulations, energy efficient operations and development of renewable energy and alternative environmental technologies. 

Double clicking on that score difference, Samsung scored a 79/100 in Energy & Climate Change, a 78/100 in Environment Policy & Reporting and a 73/100 in Resource Management. On the other hand, Whirlpool scored a 70/100 in Energy & Climate Change, a 55/100 in Environment Policy & Reporting and a 63/100 in Resource Management.

  • Technology giant Samsung is no stranger to innovation, and its efforts to tackle plastic waste is no exception. The South Korean company has been committed to reducing its plastic footprint since publishing the Samsung Environmental Declaration in 1992. This has seen the firm implement a range of policies designed to raise awareness of plastic and its impact on the environment. In 2019, Samsung — which produces about a fifth of South Korea’s total exports — revealed plans to first limit, and, ultimately, remove plastic packaging from all of its products. A key part of Samsung’s sustainability philosophy is based around maximising resource efficiency from assembly to end-of-life disposal. The firm does this by employing a circular economy — where products are designed to be reused — and using environmentally-friendly materials. As part of this, the company collected 3.8 million tonnes of its own waste between 2009 and 2020 — with Samsung locations having a 95% recycling rate globally. At the start of 2019, Samsung Electronics unveiled its new product packaging policy, which is designed to reduce its plastic consumption and the amount of waste it generates. Source 
  • Whirlpool Corporation Achieved zero waste to landfill in 25 of their 35 sites, or 71 percent earning Gold or Platinum status in 2020.Their greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets (Scopes 1, 2 & 3) were approved by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi)—the leading independent assessor of emissions targets—and are consistent with reductions required to keep global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius, as set by the Paris Agreement. Over the last four years, they have delivered a 20 percent reduction in those emissions. Achieved record low levels of energy and water intensity in their plants. Whirlpool has entered into a virtual power purchasing agreement (VPPA) that is expected to cover 15 percent of our global Scope 2 emissions through investments in wind energy in the U.S. Source 

Impact on social responsibility

Social responsibility includes all the things that make a company “good”. Whether that’s giving back to the community, standing up for equal rights, treating workers fairly. Samsung and Whirlpool both have a number of policies around LGBTQ+ rights, community outreach, and equal pay and rights for all.

Samsung

Score: 56

Whirlpool

Score: 63

Comparison

Another score distinction can be noted within the Social Responsibility category, where Samsung scores a 56/100 and Whirlpool scores a 63/100. This category includes all programs, policies and performance in diversity, labor relations and labor rights. It also focuses on compensation and benefits as well as employee safety.

The major differences were the respective companies’ Diversity and Labor rights rankings Samsung: 57 vs. Whirlpool: 59, Training, Health & Safety rankings Samsung: 59 vs. Whirlpool: 68 and Compensation with Samsung: 51 vs. Whirlpool: 61 score.

  • Samsung is aiming to achieve a positive impact on society while strengthening its education-focused corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs. Samsung’s de-facto leader and vice chairman Lee Jae-yong has emphasized the corporation’s CSR strategy as an important competitive asset, and one that should be taken seriously by the firm. According to Samsung officials, this translates as having the policies and procedures in place to integrate social and consumer concerns with the company’s operations and core strategies ― formed in close collaboration with both stakeholders and society. Samsung Electronics, the group’s core business unit in all aspects, recently announced “Go Together for the Future! Enabling People!” as its revamped CSR vision. Under the new initiative, Samsung Electronics is expanding programs seeking shared growth with its local suppliers, as well as the provision of improved education for young adults. Source
  • Whirlpool formalized their commitment to the U.N. Global Compact. As a participant of this globally-recognized initiative, Whirlpool Corporation continues to expand its efforts to uphold sustainable and responsible business practices in day-to-day global operations. They announced OUR PLEDGE to Equality and Fairness for their Black Colleagues, a multi-year action plan that includes committing to increase by 50 percent the number of Black employees across all levels and increase by 50 percent the number of Black director-level employees and above. Whirlpool also eceived a perfect score on the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s annual Corporate Equality Index for the 18th year in a row. This distinction recognizes Whirlpool Corporation’s ongoing commitment to Inclusion and Diversity and designates the company as a “Best Place to Work for LGBTQ Equality.” Whirlpool was named to the 2020 Diversity Best Practices Inclusion Index, highlighting Whirlpool Corporation’s ongoing commitment to engaging in effective practices of diversity and inclusion. Whirlpool Corporation was one of 98 organizations to achieve a 60 percent or higher rating, marking our inclusion on the index for the third year in a row. Source 

Quality of corporate governance

Corporate governance is much like social responsibility, but for how the company operates internally. Do they have a diverse board? Is there transparency in accounting? Are they doing what they need to do to survive and operate in an ethical and correct manner? Samsung and Whirlpool both are large public companies with shareholders and boards they answer to.

Samsung

Score: 47

Whirlpool

Score: 56

Comparison

The last significant score distinction is observed within the Governance category, where Samsung scores a 47/100 and Whirlpool scores a 56/100. The Governance score refers to leadership structure and the values that determine corporate direction, ethics and performance.

The major differences were the respective companies’ Board rankings Samsung: 42 vs. Whirlpool: 58, Leadership Ethics Samsung: 48 vs. Whirlpool: 54 and Transparency & Reporting with Samsung: 51 vs. Whirlpool: 55 score.

  • Samsung is facing a central challenge. A series of emerging fraud and bribery scandals have called Samsung’s family-based corporate governance into question.Since 2018, investigators have interrogated and arrested high-ranking employees of Samsung over an accounting fraud involving Samsung’s biopharmaceutical affiliate, Samsung BioLogics. The fraud revolved around the artificial inflation of BioLogics’ subunit, Samsung Bioepis, by a value of 3.9 billion USD in 2015. This also inflated the value of Bioepis’ parent company Cheil Industries. In the course of investigations, it was uncovered that senior executives had ordered the concealment and destruction of incriminating records of the fraud. Among the interrogated personnel is Chung Hyun-ho, president of Samsung Electronics. The chaebol system, which fosters the ownership of a corporation by a family, heavily influences Samsung’s corporate governance dynamics. For years, Lee Jae-yong has been primed to be Samsung’s leader and finding a replacement would be difficult. When Lee Jae-yong received his prison sentence in 2017, strategic implementation was adopted by the newly instated Business Support Task Force. The task force continued to back the Lee family, thereby sustaining the chaebol system. Source
  • Whirlpool began disclosing impacts on climate-related risks and opportunities using the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures framework. Whirlpool was named to the 2020 Dow Jones Sustainability Indices (DJSI) North America Index for the 14th time in the last 15 years, in recognition of our longstanding commitment to sustainable business practices. The company added two female directors in the past two years, resulting in 33 percent (four of 12) of Whirlpool Corporation’s non-employee directors being women. Seven out of 12 of our non-employee directors are gender or racial/ethnically diverse. They expanded integration of ESG principles throughout the business with the formation of ESG Councils led by members of our Executive Committee and an expanded ESG Task Force. Source

Summary

Ethically partners with CSRHub as a primary data source, which in turn, aggregates over 700 data sources, compiling them into simple, easy to digest grades. 

Samsung and Whirlpool come into the world market with a plethora of different appliances. Understanding the practices and policies of each company gives consumers the power to determine what they will and will not support. 

Whirlpool’s score is one point higher than Samsung’s. As observed throughout the comparisons, Samsung lacks behind in certain areas like Social Responsibility and Governance; however, Whirlpool scores lower than Samsung in the Environment category. If you’re a Samsung advocate and want to see more evidence that they’re committed to these areas, email our CEO at jada@ethically.life and let us know. We’d love to hear from you.

If you want to stay up to date on how these companies are progressing with their scores, make sure you download Ethically. We pull data regularly to make sure our scores reflect how companies are doing today, not years ago.

As always, please check out our Methodology page for more details on how we get our ratings data.

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