Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Top 145 Most Ethical Companies ?


Today I came across a mysterious event organised in the UK for "all those working to encourage Dutch levels of cycling in Britain". I came across by chance of course because the sort of people who would organise this type of event probably don't want someone like me coming along and spoiling their three days packed full with seminars, lunches and dinners by pointing out that they don't seem to bother to actually ride any bikes.

Anyway, the conference is to have contributions from pretty much the usual "rent-a-quote" types that usually turn up to such events, quite a few council people, and various contributors from corporate sponsors.

I looked at just one of the sponsors' websites and found a proud claim that they have "once again been named one of the World’s Most Ethical Companies for 2013 by the Ethisphere Institute". That sounds good, right ? Well, perhaps not. I looked up this Ethisphere institute and found their list of 145 "ethical" companies. Very interesting...

Banks, financial services, military contractors, an oil pipeline company, mining companies, several US health insurers (more information here), drug companies who practice vivisection, cosmetic companies who do the same,
I've no particular reason to pick on Cummins, but the
juxtaposition of truck taking logs from a forest with
"sustainability" written underneath and the boast about
being "one of the world's most ethical companies" was
hard to ignore, especially from a company who's product
exists to consume fossil fuels

The 21 below are all picked out simply because they're names that I recognized and thought were relatively well known. Some are amongst those that I personally avoid over ethical issues:
  1. Alcoa (mining and metals)
  2. American Express
  3. Cisco
  4. Colgate-Palmolive
  5. Cummins (big engines, see right)
  6. Ford
  7. Gap
  8. General Electric (oil, gas, jet engines, shale gas, nuclear power)
  9. Intel
  10. Johnson Controls
  11. Kellogg
  12. Kimberly-Clark
  13. L'OREAL (cosmetics)
  14. PepsiCo
  15. Rockwell Collins (defence)
  16. Safeway
  17. Starbucks 
  18. Tata Steel (mining and metals)
  19. The Co-operative Group (UK supermarkets)
  20. Time-Warner
  21. Visa
So it makes me wonder what this list actually means. I find it hard to believe that anyone who takes any particular ethical stance would find that all 145 of the listed companies would pass. So whose ethics does the list reflect ? Does it have any real meaning at all ? Do such lists ever really have any meaning ?

If they're getting it right, we're getting it wrong. We don't do any of that nasty stuff !

Are these awards anything more than marketing ?
Is this anything more than a group of not particularly ethical companies getting together to greenwash themselves by awarding themselves prizes ?

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