World’s Most Ethical Companies Frequently Asked Questions

Our mission is to define and advance the standards of ethical business practices that fuel corporate character, marketplace trust and business success. We have a deep expertise in measuring and defining core ethics standards using data-driven insights that help companies enhance corporate character. We believe that this recognition program is important because corporate ethical standards must be set and measured and that those who excel should be honored.
Ethisphere receives revenue from conferences, event sponsorships, subscriptions to publications, advertising, membership groups, advisory services, and licensing. No company that is honored with the World’s Most Ethical Company designation is responsible for more than 2% of Ethisphere’s revenue. And no honoree may place advertising in the issue of Ethisphere magazine that announces and highlights new honorees.
Over the years thousands of companies have been evaluated. We don’t publicly disclose the total number of applicants. We established this policy at the very beginning of our program so that companies have the freedom to apply and be measured against others in total confidence and so that those who are honored recognize that their programs are being measured both competitively and on their own merits.
No. We evaluate every company independently and then in comparison to others in the same industry sector. Because we’re recognizing companies that are the ‘most ethical’ and not merely ‘ethical’, there is a natural limit to the number that we honor both in total and by sector. The number can vary based upon the ever-increasing expectations of stakeholders both internal and external and to the fact that the scoring process is not static but reflects changes in best practice and methodology.
There is no connection between the two. Organizations are honored for their programs, practices and policies as measured by the methodology set forth above.
131 companies from more than 50 industry sectors representing 21 countries.
We strive to honor companies based on their body of work and not just one particular policy or program that is groundbreaking or admirable. Likewise, we don’t believe that one particular controversy, fine, regulatory action or lawsuit necessarily disqualifies a company from being honored. We recognize that there are industry sectors that are attempting to move their businesses away from practices of the past and toward more ethical and current best practices. And, we also believe that the actions of one rogue employee do not necessarily dictate whether or not a company is ethical. We believe that how companies prepare employees, how they respond to those actions once uncovered, and their general culture and policies are far more critical to our evaluation.
We regularly review the questionnaire to ensure that it aligns with the ever changing expectations of employees, managers, shareholders, regulators and the public at large. In 2015, the questionnaire was substantially revised across each assessment category and in 2016 we made substantial additions in the areas of data privacy, cyber security and assessing an organization’s ethical culture. Our questionnaire is jointly developed by our internal team of legal and compliance professionals and our Methodology Advisory Panel. Members include leading experts from the fields of law, corporate reputation, corporate ethics, governance, anti-corruption, and government.
Yes, in fact we encourage wide participation regardless of whether a company thinks that it will be honored. Any organization, public or private, for-profit or not-for-profit, U.S. or foreign-based, is eligible to participate in the EQ process and to be considered for designation as a World’s Most Ethical Company. All organizations that submit a survey will receive an analysis that provides their overall Ethics Quotient and how their responses to each of the five categories and to key questions compares to those who are eventually named as honorees. The value in participating is in learning not only how your company compares to the honorees, but in better understanding what’s trending in leading companies and more about their best practices.
A company’s industry, size, geographic location, etc. are all taken into consideration during the review process.
We understand that practices can be different for public, private and non-profit organizations. Private organizations and non-profits are not penalized for not adhering to certain guidelines that are expected for public companies. However, all organizations must demonstrate that their policies, procedures and practices are best-in-class for their specific organization type.
Recognition is a three-step process. The first step is for a company to complete the EQ questionnaire. This results in a self-reported or unverified EQ score. Companies are then asked to submit documentation that supports their questionnaire responses. We independently verify materials on an as-needed basis. Lastly, Ethisphere’s team of analysts research each company’s history of litigation, reputation, and ethical track record. Self-reported scores are then adjusted during the review process and candidates receive proper credit for good performance.
We review documentation submitted by companies and may conduct additional research and request additional information and documentation requested from the company. We conduct reputational and legal reviews to determine any outstanding or historical issues as well. We generally consult external data sources, such as SEC filings, the RepRisk Index, Glassdoor, and global news outlets, among other sources. Compliance or ethics issues will be reflected in a company’s leadership, innovation and reputation scores. Seriously deficient scores in that category will prevent a company from being selected as a 2016 World’s Most Ethical Company. EQ scores are often adjusted based on documentation review and independent research. Each candidate then receives a “validated” score that may be higher or lower than the initial “self-reported” score. Note that if we are unable to verify certain aspects of self-reported performance, the resulting scores may be discounted.
Yes, we require all application materials to be submitted in English.
As explained in the Supplemental Documentation Guidelines provided to each applicant, applicants are expected to provide documents and evidence to support their responses to the Ethics Quotient questionnaire. Ethisphere will only contact an applicant company regarding its supporting documentation if 1) the assessment team is unable to locate any documentation associated with the applicant company (this is to ensure there was not a problem in delivering or transmitting the documentation), 2) there is a technical issue with particular files or documents, or 3) a specific file or document is referenced by name in the submission but not found among the materials provided.
Names of companies who are not honored are not disclosed. And no individual response is made public. Scores will only be used to calculate EQs and/or provide a report or analysis to a company. We may also use EQ scores in an aggregated or anonymized fashion for benchmarking and research purposes.
Past honorees are given no inherent advantage throughout the process over non-honorees or companies applying for the first time. Typically, companies that have participated in the questionnaire in previous years (both honorees and non-honorees) are more familiar with the process and are therefore more aptly prepared when it comes to completing the questionnaire.
Yes. The main evaluation categories are: Corporate Citizenship and Responsibility; Ethics and Compliance Program; Corporate Governance; Leadership, Innovation and Reputation; and Culture of Ethics.
A company’s verified EQ scores are evaluated relative to its peers within the context of its structure, size and operating environment. Those companies demonstrating the strongest application across our methodology receive the designation. As applicant companies come from a variety of industries with significant differences in regulatory and operating environments, the overall Ethics Quotient is used to compare similar companies and not to set a floor. However, reputation and litigation “outcomes” are carefully evaluated and companies receiving a materially deficient score in the category of Leadership, Innovation and Reputation will prevent a company from being selected as a 2016 World’s Most Ethical Company.
No, it varies based on importance and relevance.
A real benefit to participating in the EQ process is that all participants, whether or not they’re honored, receive a high-level analysis with their overall Ethics Quotient and how their five category scores and responses to key questions compare to those who are honored as that year’s World’s Most Ethical Companies. This is a really important and valued outcome of the process since many organizations are looking to move forward both in compliance activities as well as ethical corporate behavior, in general. This independent review allows for a company to compare itself not just to any group of companies that want to complete a survey but to those who excel and are named as the World’s Most Ethical.
Companies that submit the EQ and supporting documentation between September 1 and December 1 of every year are considered for inclusion in the World’s Most Ethical Company recognition program for that year. However, companies that would like to participate in the EQ – with the opportunity to be benchmarked against honored companies – may do so throughout the year, at any time.
A fee was initiated for the 2015 EQ in order to at least partially cover the administrative costs of gathering and analyzing the data and providing the Analytical Scorecard. There is a graduated fee structure based on corporate revenue (in USD): less than $500 million – $1,000; equal to or greater than $500 million – $1,500. And, of course, each participant receives the Analytical Scorecard that helps to inform their programs and future decisions.
There are no additional fees to be honored or to communicate either internally or externally that a company has achieved this designation. However, companies who wish to use the year-specific World’s Most Ethical Company logo must license the logo, and follow the branding guidelines developed with the Ethisphere community and looking at best practices from other organizations that review and recognize companies. Once licensed, the logo for that year may be used in perpetuity without additional fee. Fees are $7,500 for those with corporate revenue less than $1 billion USD and $10,000 for those with corporate revenue above $1 billion USD.