Kathryn Rem: Good work by ethical companies
Consumers are a demanding bunch. Not only do they want the food they buy to taste good and be priced fairly, they want the companies that get their nickel to be operated in an ethical way.
To that end, a New York-based group called the Ethisphere Council publishes an annual list of what it deems the most ethical companies in the world. A panel of professors, lawyers, government honchos and organization execs concerned with honest business practices selects the businesses.
After soliciting nominations, the panel studies conditions of supplier factories, the company’s stance on the environment and its record on product liability, going back up to five years. Lawsuits against the companies are looked at, as is whether problems are attacked with action, rather than simply a public relations campaign.
The mega-companies, all turning over at least $50 million a year and employing 100 people or more, are scored on corporate citizenship and responsibility, governance, leadership, integrity track record, internal systems and innovation that contributes to public well-being.
Of course, the problem with any kind of council that holds itself up as an arbiter of virtuous behavior is the council’s funding source. Who’s to say the biggest contributors aren’t rewarded with a spot on the list?
According to the Ethisphere Council’s Web site, PLI, LexisNexis and Corpedia created the group in partnership with Deutsche Telekom, Time Warner, Avaya and Kraft.
The 2008 World’s Most Ethical Companies list, released earlier this month, includes companies in a range of fields. U.S. food-related businesses on the list are General Mills, Kellogg’s, PepsiCo, Stonyfield Farm, Dole, McDonald’s and Starbucks Coffee.
Retailers include Gap, IKEA, Target and Trader Joe’s. Apparel makers are Nike, Patagonia and Timberland. Consumer products include Aveda, S.C. Johnson & Son, Unilever, Henkel and Whirlpool.
Some of the other well-known names on the list: Caterpillar, Deere and Co., Rockwell Automation, Aflac, Google, Marriott, Kiplinger, Alcoa, UPS, Honda, BMW, Time Warner, Manpower, Pitney Bowes, General Electric, Waste Management, Texas Instruments, American Express, Xerox, Cisco Systems, Oracle and Symantec.
The full list can be found online at http://ethisphere.com/wme2008.
Food editor Kathryn Rem can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.