Microsoft, General Electric on List of World’s Most Ethical Companies

Ethisphere just published its annual list of the most ethical companies in the world. I am surprised to see Microsoft and General Electric included among the 110 singled out. GE is the only member of the “diversified industries” group; the other companies in the “computer software” cohort are Adobe,, Symantec, and Teradata.

Some industries, such as arms merchants, Big Pharma, and US health insurers, are apparently so compromised as to have no representatives. There are five banks, but there of them (ANZ, National Australia Bank, and Westpac) are Australian. They are ethical banks apparently because they are very upfront in charging fees so that it is impossible to have a banking relationship that costs less that $25 a month. There is also a group of “financial services” firms that makes the grade: American Express, Housing Development Finance Corp, NYSE Euronext, The Hartford Financial Services Group.

You can read about the methodology here and can view the full list here.

The Ethisphere roster may simply serve to prove what an oxymoron “business ethics” has become.

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  1. paper mac

    Apparently the overwhelming majority of the World’s Most Ethical Companies are large American corporations. Either their “proprietary methodology” is balls or they don’t look at many small/non-American businesses.

  2. Parvaneh Ferhadi

    Corporations are not ethical at all. Period. Ethics and business is, as you rightly wrote and oxymoron.
    The methodology used is also open to ridicule, IMHO. They state:
    «An initial “unverified” EQ [Ethical Quotient] score is derived through a proprietary matrix of relationships between answers to given questions and a set of complex formulas based on demographic qualifiers.It is important to understand that while the EQ is the foundation for the WME selection process, the process does not end when the survey is complete. The EQ results simply help us to narrow the number of entrants to the top percentile of performers in each industry. Once a company’s EQ score warrants additional consideration for WME recognition, additional due diligence efforts begin. This process may include multiple means of verification as needed and warranted, including independent research, request for documentation supporting select answers and/or interviews with company leadership.»

    That sure sounds reassuring. What could possibly go wrong with that?

  3. Dan Duncan

    The Ethisphere Project: Looking at the pictures of the Ethisphere Executives…

    These are men burdened by adulthood. The instability, unfairness and the reality of competition are just too much for these chaps. They yearn for the days when they were tucked in at night…and all was safe and secure.

    In the hopes of recapturing that glorious feeling they felt in their cribs, they’ve taken to swaddling themselves in blankets of ethical self-righteousness. “Oooh, this feels so safe and secure. I’m in my own little cocoon of sanctimony. This is so ethical-licious!”

    Only…the insecurity of adulthood is insatiable. The cocoon is always under threat. Consequently, their Psycholgical Immune System kicks into over-drive…and they form bullshit concerns like “The Ethisphere Project” as a mechanism to shield themselves from the harshness of life and the attendant negative emotions.

    “Better to judge than to be judged.” This makes adulthood much more bearable. They manage to persist by devising ever-more elaborate methodologies for making their ethical judgments.

    But in doing so, they reveal not only a pervasive insecurity, but also the “L’enfant Terrible” that lurks inside. Over time, it becomes painfully obvious that the Ethisphere Project is more than a manifestation of insecurity. Instead, this Project is really a Reaction Formation, whereby “anxiety producing emotions and impulses are mastered by exaggeration of the opposing tendency.”

    These guys aren’t concerned with Ethics. Rather, they are consumed by the fact that they aren’t The Big Swinging Dick. “It’s just not fair! In fact, it’s so unfair…it’s…it’s unethical!”

    These Ethicist Guys remind me of the Moralists who rail against homosexuality. They are the repressed congressman who sets up an “Anti-Same-Sex Marriage Project”, only to be found in the closet of a Motel 6 with a crack pipe and an aspiring gay-porn actor tripling a congressional intern/massage therapist.

    [Postscript: In writing this, I feel so much better about myself. In fact, I feel empowered. I think I’m going to establish an Anti-Ethicist Project. Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Dan, just wants to be The Big Swinging Ethicist.” And you’re right. I do. I want to be The Big Swinging Ethicist!]

  4. Xelcho

    As a civil and environmental engineer, I find the whole concept laudable, but the execution is dismal. The attempt to conceal their methods, as the 2nd poster pointed out, is the hallmark of the deception. Having first hand experience with a few of their ethical companies I find the comments of JP Warchild particularly applicable. A WHOIS provided no information, I am curious what links this site has to the “real” *read* profit earning world.

    I think the work completed by Rain-forest Action Network – RAN, is more inline with the concept presented. Further, for those interested please look for “Confessions of an Economic Hitman” by John Perkins or “A Game as Old as Empire” by Steve Hiatt. These books provide the details as to why many of these corps are able to accomplish “jobless recoveries”, and pay no taxes after earning multi-billions in addition to various govnt handouts.

    It would be great to reel this in and do it correctly via open algorithms so that there would be no confusion about selection. if you are interested please contact me.

    braan_h at


  5. Greenguy

    Anyone who believes GE to be an ethical company should swing by Schenectady, NY to see the devastation left in the wake of GE exporting thousands of jobs overseas from its former home base. Oh, it’s also a major defense contractor designing weapons for the US military. I suppose that counts as “ethical” as well.

    1. Christopher Harlos

      GE, known to its hires as “Generally Evil” is one of the worst corporate polluters in U.S. history. Google “PCBs” and “Hudson River” for details. Since it’s the capitalist’s mission to peddle poison, and the corporation is the most potent vector of capitalism, only flacks or morons would adduce ethical conduct from publicly held corporations.

    1. Drew

      Since Micro$oft has been such a vocal advocate of expanding the immoral H-1B visa program, this might explain some of the difficulty of landing a position there.

      Unless of course you don’t come from the United States. :)

  6. Ed

    Why are you surprised about Microsoft? Microsoft is consistently rated one of the best places to work. As a software engineer, I dream the day I could get my foot in the door of their offices.

  7. Michael Fiorillo

    As per GE’s ethical standards, let’s not forget Jack Welch firing 10% of his staff every year.

  8. Krush

    GE ethical? I work for GE, these guys would sell their mother into slavery for a buck. Of course that is only after legal reviews.

  9. CaitlinO

    I’ll be willing to consider GE’s ethics when I see their execs on the ground manning water cannons alongside the Fukushima 50.

  10. Jason Boxman

    Having routinely removed Symantec software to fix people’s computers, I am uncertain how selling poor quality software elevates one to the status of ethical corporation. One could say the same of Microsoft.

  11. LJR

    3. Rate your organization’s internal culture of ethics: A. Very strong B. Strong C. Fair D. Weak E. Very Weak F. Not sure/Decline to answer

    Looks like the companies get to make up their own answers. Of course the candidates who score highest are then subjected to “rigorous due diligence.” Right.

    “Hi! I’m Binky Parks from Ethisphere and I’m here to ask you a few really tough questions.”

    Wonder if Billy Gates Bluff sponsors this charitable activity?

  12. Tom Shillock

    “We ask that this survey be completed by authorized individual(s) with a working knowledge of their organization’s programs and initiatives in the areas of ethics and compliance, corporate governance, and corporate citizenship and responsibility.”

    The methodology presupposes that the “authorized individual” completing their questionnaire is ethical. Would Allied Capital (cf. Fooling Some of the People All of the Time, by David Einhorn) come off as a highly ethical company using the Ethisphere methodology?

  13. Hugh

    George Orwell would love that we have such ethical kleptocrats. It is all rather like the Titanic winning design awards … in 1913 (It sank in 1912).

  14. Lord Koos

    Let’s just cut to the chase, where can I find a list of the world’s least ethical companies?

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I’ve actually been thinking seriously of a list like that, but it is a lot of work to do it in a way that has credibility (as in how do you compare destroying the global economy to practices that kill people or result in long-lived ecological damage?)

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