International thinktank the Ethisphere Institute has just revealed its annual rundown of the World’s Most Ethical Companies (WME), in which seven UK firms are included.
The 2013 WME list contains 138 companies (down from 145 last year) from around the world. Since its foundation in 2007, 23 firms have made it onto all seven lists, including American Express, General Electric, Patagonia, Rabobank and Starbucks.
But Starbucks’ aggressive tax avoidance in the UK and General Electric’s dubious criminal, civil, political and ethical history – as well as the inclusion of defence firms like Rockwell Collins and the Aerospace Corporation – threatens to bring the ranking into disrepute.
UK firms Premier Farnell and the Northumbria Water Group were included for the third year running, alongside the Ethical Fruit Company, which appears for the second time. And after winning Retailer of the Year at New Energy & Cleantech Awards 2013 in March, Marks & Spencer also makes it onto the list.
“Being recognised as a leader among the world’s most ethical companies shows that the programmes we have been implementing over the past few years are being noticed and appreciated”, read a statement from National Grid, another UK firm to be recognised.
The Co-operative Group made it onto the rundown, after launching its ethical plan for 2013-15 last month, while Thomson Reuters is the seventh and final UK firm to be picked out by the Ethisphere Institute.
Companies from the US, Japan, Switzerland, Sweden, France, Denmark, Portugal, Germany, Italy, India and Ireland were also celebrated.
Winners were announced based on Ethisphere’s patented rating system, Ethics Quotient, which analyses the performance and objectives of companies.
Evaluating each firm’s investment into innovation and sustainable business practices, reviewing their codes of ethics and litigation and studying their activities designed to improve corporate citizenship are just a few criteria the judges based their decisions on.
Any company involved in significant legal trouble over the past five years gets discarded, while Ethisphere says firms that invest in firearms, alcohol and tobacco is also crossed out.
The inclusion of the two defence companies, as well as oil firm Alyeska Pipeline Service Company and two of Australia’s largest mainstream banks, will no doubt lead many to question the validity of Ethisphere’s ‘ethical’ ranking, though.