Many familiar tech brands are included on the 10th annual World’s Most Ethical Companies list, released by Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Ethisphere Institute.

It only takes watching the nightly news to understand why the organization started the annual initiative, says Tia Smallwood, chief marketing and strategy officer at Ethisphere: there are just too many stories about companies behaving badly.

“There should be a way of defning what the ethical standards for companies should be and measuring against those standards,” she says. “Our job is to help companies intereste in improving their programs benchmark against each other.”

The list isn’t a ranking of most ethical to least ethical company; rather, all honourees are recognized equally. There are 131 companies on the list this year, spanning 21 countries and 45 industries. That’s one fewer company than last year, when 132 companies made the list.

  • Four companies from the technology industry made the list: Cisco, Dell Inc., LinkedIn Corp., and Microsoft.
  • There are also three companies from the software & services industry: CA Technologies, Symantec Corp. and Teradata Corp.
  • Under the electronic components & semiconductors industry, six more companies are listed: TE Connectivity, Applied Materials, Avnet, Intel Corp.,, ON Semiconductor, and Texas Instruments.
  • Categorized as consulting services and on the list are Accenture and Avanade Inc.

Many of the tech brands seen on this 10th annual list are regulars. This is the sixth time Intel has been listed, for example. Microsoft and Dell have also been on the list multiple times in the past.

Ethisphere uses its own proprietary rating system to determine the companies selected to appear on the World’s Most Ethical list. Dubbed the “Ethics Quotient,” the scores are determined by multiple-choice questions that are completed by each company, and then submitted along with supporting documentation for review. The ethical assessment is broken down into five different categories: ethics compliance program (35 per cent), corporate responsibility and citizenship (20 per cent), culture of ethics (20 per cent), governance (15 per cent), and leadership, innovation and reputation (10 per cent).

ethics quotient - breakdown
Ethisphere has companies conduct a self-review based on five different areas, and then reviews them for consideration on the honouree list.

Many companies participate in the process not expecting to win a spot on the list, but for the opportunity to benchmark themselves against others in their industry. While the list doesn’t rank companies in their scores, companies that participate can compare how they rate in one category against the competition.

“Companies often say that participating in this process provides more value than actually being listed as an honouree,” Smallwood says. “Some companies are really on the cutting edge in terms of policies that attract talent… others show progress with their board members, where’s there’s more independent board members or a more diverse set of board members.”

Practicing good ethics isn’t just an altruistic thing for a company to do, according to Tim Erblich, the CEO of Ethisphere. In a video released as part of the 10th anniversary of the list, he explains how good ethics can help a company build better relationships with employees, investors, customers, and reuglators.

“Investors these days care about how a company does business,” he says. “Regulators are looking at what sort of standards and what sort of investment leading companies make in governance and compliance excellence.”

Many of the companies listed publish materials about their corproate ethics strategies, such as a corporate sustainability report, a code of conduct, and corporate governance guidelines. The ability for an employee or customer to file an ethics complaint anonymously is also often made available. But there’s one main feature that a majority of the companies listed here have in common.

“Seventy-five per cent of these companies have a person with the title chief ethics officer or chief compliance officer, or a blend of the two,” Smallwood says.

Notably absent from Ethisphere’s lists over its 10 years of operation are two tech brands that many people interact with on a daily basis: Apple, which is battling the FBI over providing backend access to its iPhones, and Google, which used to operate under the corporate motto of “don’t be evil.”

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