Marks & Spencer is among four UK firms named on the annual World’s Most Ethical (WME) companies list, published by the Ethisphere Institute thinktank. Companies must have robust compliance and corporate social responsibility (CSR) policies in order to be included.
The WME list recognises companies that go beyond making statements about doing business ethically and translate those words into action. Ethisphere added that the companies selected embed the theory of “conscious capitalism” across all of their operations. This year, 144 companies made it on to the list, up from the 138 businesses honoured in 2013, representing 41 industries across 21 countries.
UK firms Premier Farnell and the Northumbria Water Group made the list for the fourth consecutive time. The Ethical Fruit Company and Marks & Spencer were also included for the third and second time respectively.
Overall, the number of UK companies included on the list has fallen since 2013, when seven firms were selected.
The Co-operative Group, which made the list last year, failed to make the list in 2014, following a difficult 12 months or so for the organisation. The group faced criticism after it revealed a £1.5 billion shortfall in the Co-op Bank’s balance sheet. Meanwhile, former chief executive Euan Sutherland labelled the group as “ungovernable” before resigning.
Some of the companies listed also raise questions about the list’s methodology. Starbucks has continued to be included, despite making headlines about its aggressive tax avoidance. Four oil companies also made it on to the list.
“In today’s complex economy, it can be increasingly challenging for companies to meet performance expectations, while addressing the varying regulatory, compliance and sustainability needs across geographies and cultures”, said Tim Erblich, CEO of the Ethisphere Institute.
“Global economic and social challenges from anti-corruption to security and privacy are accelerating the need for companies and organisations to embrace ethics and governance as critical business imperatives.”
He added that failure to establish the highest ethical businesses standards and practices could result in “unacceptable consequences” in terms of environmental and human impact as well as operational risks.