Just in advance of its seventh annual global ethics summit (held March 10-11 in New York City this year), the Ethisphere Institute announced its list of the 2015 world’s most ethical companies—132 companies from more than 50 industries spanning 21 countries.
Nominees for a world’s most ethical company designation are evaluated against five core categories: ethics and compliance program (35% of the score), corporate citizenship and responsibility (20% of the score), culture of ethics (20% of the score), governance (15% of the score), and leadership, innovation, and reputation (10% of the score). More specifically, Ethisphere considers the following criteria in each category:
Ethics and Compliance Program
Alignment with corporate best practices and the hallmarks of an effective compliance and ethics program as outlined by the federal sentencing guidelines.
Corporate Citizenship and Responsibility
Performance in such areas as environmental stewardship, community involvement, corporate philanthropy, workplace impact and well-being, and supply chain engagement and oversight.
Culture of Ethics
The organization’s efforts and success at establishing an ethical tone throughout every level of the organization.
Evidence of strong corporate governance, to include oversight, governance principles, and risk management.
Leadership, Innovation, and Reputation
Corporate leadership in local, national, industry, and/or global initiatives that promote business ethics, responsible and sustainable business practices, environmental stewardship, good governance, transparency, and social responsibility.
Other businesses can benefit by using the preceding criteria to evaluate their own ethics programs and processes and by reaching out honorees in their own or aligned industries, for benchmarking.
Further, each year Ethisphere publishes a whitepaper that identifies actionable insights from the honorees. Here is a high-level summary from last year’s Actionable Insights from the 2014 World’s Most Ethical Companies®.
As compared to other companies, WMECs (world’s most ethical companies) have given compliance offices far more authority: over half have a chief compliance or ethics officer; compliance is far more integrated; compliance offices report to the Board on a broader and deeper range of issues.
Within WMECs, as compared to other companies, risk management is far more evident at the Board level and executives more regularly and consistently communicate the expected standards of conduct throughout the organization—and use a wider variety of communication methods.
At WMECs, corporate compliance departments interact more across the organization: compliance department staff are more often invited to attend and speak at functions held by other departments, WMECs more often have internal cross-functional compliance committees, and managers at WMECs receive more frequent and more specific training on their special responsibilities including training on important ethics and compliance issues and tools to use in communication with their teams.
As compared to other companies, WMECs handle suspected or actual misconduct in a far more effective way, providing a wider range of channels for reporting, more complete procedures for addressing those reports and a more integrated approach to non-retaliation; they place more attention on codes of conduct and policies, and they train to those policies; they use positive incentives to drive desired behavior; and they far wider range of communication tactics to engage employees and others.
There’s more to learn from these and other leaders in ethics and compliance. If it has been a while since your organization has benchmarked its efforts against others, the list of “most ethical companies” may be a good place to start.
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Actionable Insights from the 2014 World’s Most Ethical Companies. Ethisphere Institute, 2014.
For a complete list of the 132 honorees and access to other resources, visit http://ethisphere.com/worlds-most-ethical/wme-honorees/