Ethisphere, an independent research organization known for promoting best practices in business has released its list of 144 World’s Most Ethical companies. In a time when huge profits and million dollar CEO parachutes grab headlines, many see hope in the fact that Ethisphere’s World’s Most Ethical list shows that many companies still play by the rules.
Ethisphere says its World’s Most Ethical (WME) title goes to companies who go beyond mere words to actually operate in an ethical manner. To create the list, Ethisphere reviews nominations from companies in more than 100 countries. The organization’s rating system (Ethisphere calls it their Ethics Quotient) is based on qualities such as a firm’s investments in innovative and sustainable business practices, and its activities to improve its corporate citizenship. A company with any legal problems in the past five years is off the list, as are any corporations focusing on firearms, liquor or tobacco. Before making the final cut, companies are cross-checked against governance lists from organizations including GMI Ratings and FTSE4Good.
This year’s list cites 144 companies in 41 industries. Most are U.S. corporations, but the list includes 38 foreign companies from 21 countries on five continents. Some of the foreign nominees with names Americans would recognize are L’OREAL of France and ENMAX Corporation of Canada. Others include Shiseido Company of Japan and ABB Asea Brown Boveri of Switzerland. Among the U.S. award winners are familiar names like Levi Strauss, Microsoft, Adobe, Hasbro, Ford Motor Company and global automotive supplier Johnson Controls.
Reports of companies such as Johnson Controls, Ford and Microsoft fly in the face of critics who blame industry for many of the world’s woes. Many others take heart in the light that ethics are still important to a large number of organizations and that the Ethisphere list of the most ethical shows that many companies still play by the rules.
Officials at Johnson Controls, an eight-time recipient, called this year’s award “a tribute to our 170,000 employees around the world” who adhere to ethical standards. This year’s award marks the fifth in a row for Ford Motor Company, the only automaker recognized in 2014. In a statement issued in acknowledgment of last year’s award, Ford Motor Company said the company recognized its accountability for its impact on the world and its responsibilities toward “a diverse set of stakeholders.” Microsoft initiated a push for “corporate citizenship” early in the 2000s, after fallout from antitrust litigation had damaged its reputation. The software giant has since donated millions to nonprofit organizations and helped spur programs promoting economic development.
There are 21 first-time nominees on the list, but a notable absence from this year’s registry of ethical corporations is Google. Violations of litigation and ethics keep companies from being named to the list. Google has been recognized by Ethisphere in past years, but it is thought that antitrust investigation of the company in the European Union had kept it from making the list in 2014.
When it comes to its list of ethical companies, Ethisphere says it sets the bar high. Employees of companies on the list can take pride in their firms. Fans of industry everywhere can be proud to see that Ethisphere’s most ethical list shows that many companies still play by the rules.
Commentary by B. David Warner
Ford Motor Company