For a certain segment of the market, consumers have a lot of faith in Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

The mass retailer joins brands such as Hobby Lobby and Tyson Foods for scoring high on the “Faith Equality Index,” a just-launched index from the Faith Driven Consumer, which represents 41 million Christian shoppers who collectively spend $2 trillion annually. FDC’s Web site includes product and business reviews aimed at “rating the faith compatibility of major brands both in the consumer and entertainment spheres, as well as serving as a voice for this community.”

The company describes the Faith Equality Index “as the only industry benchmark to measure compatibility with faith-driven consumers.” The companies that led the 2016 rankings are: Chick-fil-A with a score of 63; Hobby Lobby at 62; Interstate Batteries with a score of 61; Tyson Foods at 60; Cracker Barrel with 53; Wal-Mart with a score of 51, and Thrivent Financial at 50. The index ranges from zero to 100.

Wal-Mart’s score in the index was bolstered by perfect points in two areas, according to the review of the retailer: use of the word “Christmas” in the company’s holiday advertising and “philanthropic support of biblically orthodox faith-driven organization(s) or event(s).”

Other retailers included in the index are Dillard’s Inc. with a score of 42, Kohl’s Corp. with a score of 37 and J.C. Penney Co. Inc. with 28. Macy’s Inc. had a score of 23.

Macy’s received zero points for “ongoing engagement of and outreach to the faith-driven consumer market segment including faith-compatible, wholesome advertising and marketing campaigns” as well as not initiating and maintaining “a specific welcoming campaign communicating respect for, genuine welcome and celebration of faith-driven consumers and employees.”

Chris Stone, chief executive officer and founder of Faith Driven Consumer, said the company looks “forward to working with [the inaugural companies in the index], and the other rated brands, in the coming months — helping them all progressively improve their scores.”

“We recognize that many brands still have a long way to go in welcoming, embracing and celebrating faith-driven consumers at parity with their other diversity communities, and are diligently working with all brands as they seek to understand and embrace this key constituency,” he added.

Stone went on to cite data from American Insights that showed 93 percent of so-called faith-driven consumers “see value in a resource that allows them to easily identify the faith compatibility of brands.” The notion of a “faith-driven consumer” is relatively new to the market and joins a host of other “values-driven” social and environmental indexes, investment funds and product/business review Web sites.

It’s unclear how retailers and fashion apparel companies will react to this index, or if they will feel pressure to increase their ratings.

The “faith-driven” movement gained steamed when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Burwell versus Hobby Lobby (2014) that for-profit companies can essentially hold a religious view under federal law. The case involved employee insurance payments for contraception.

In the 5-4 decision, Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg offered a 35-page dissent that succinctly suggested that the ruling forced the court to venture into an explosive “mine field.” In the aftermath of the ruling, numerous social justice leaders spoke out against the decision by calling it a severe setback for women’s rights.

 

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