The World’s Most Ethical Company Program

How long has Ethisphere recognized companies as ‘world’s most ethical’?

How does this program align with other products and services of Ethisphere?

How does Ethisphere derive its revenue?

How many companies apply?

Is there a set number of honorees you aim for?

Does an organization’s business relationship with Ethisphere affect its selection as a World’s Most Ethical Company?

The 2015 Honorees

How many companies are on this year's list?

(Company X) is on the list. (Problem X) is in the news. Why are they being honored?

The Application and Selection Processes

Who develops the Ethics Quotient (EQ) questionnaire? Who determines what’s important to measure?

Can any company participate?

Are there different criteria for companies of different industries or sizes?

Are there different criteria for private organizations and non-profits?

Why does Ethisphere use a self-administered questionnaire?

How do you verify companies’ responses?

Will responses be confidential or EQ score made public? Why?

Does past performance affect future results (i.e., are past winners advantaged in any way)?

Are there specific criteria (e.g., compliance, governance, CSR) Ethisphere considers during the evaluation process?

How are companies selected? Is there a minimum score?

Does each question carry the same weighting?

The Value of and Cost to Participate

What kind of feedback do you provide to participants?

Is there a fee to participate and why?

Are there other fees associated with being a World’s Most Ethical Company?


How long has Ethisphere recognized companies as ‘world’s most ethical’?
2015 is our ninth year.

How does this program align with other products and services of Ethisphere?
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 award program is important because corporate ethical standards must be set and measured and that those who excel should be honored.

How does Ethisphere derive its revenue?
Ethisphere receives revenue from conferences, event sponsorships, subscriptions to publications, advertising, membership groups and licensing. No company that is honored with the World’s Most Ethical Company designation is responsible for more than 1.5% of Ethisphere’s revenue. And no honoree may place advertising in the issue of Ethisphere magazine that announces and highlights new honorees.

How many companies apply?
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.

Is there a set number of honorees you aim for?
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 of honorees this year is below the number honored last year, an indication of 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.

Does an organization’s business relationship with Ethisphere affect its selection as a World’s Most Ethical Company?
There is no connection between the two. Organizations are honored for their programs, practices and policies as measured by the methodology set forth above.

How many companies are on this year's list?
132 organizations from more than 50 industry sectors representing 21 countries and 5 continents; 32 of the 132 organizations are headquartered outside the US.

(Company X) is on the list. (Problem X) is in the news. Why are they being honored?
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.

Who develops the Ethics Quotient (EQ) questionnaire? Who determines what’s important to measure?
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. This year’s questionnaire was substantially revised and was 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.

Can any company participate?
Yes. Any organization, public or private, large or small, for-profit or not-for-profit, U.S. or foreign-based is eligible to participate. All organizations that submit a survey will receive an analysis that provides their overall Ethics Quotient and how their responses to each of the 5 categories and to key questions compares to those who are honored as 2015 World’s Most Ethical Companies.

Are there different criteria for companies of different industries or sizes?
A company’s industry, size, geographic location, etc. are all taken into consideration during the review process.

Are there different criteria for private organizations and non-profits?
We understand that practices can be different for public, private and non-profit organizations. The survey includes questions that are specifically addressed to public companies and they are noted as such. 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.

Why does Ethisphere use a self-administered questionnaire?
Recognition is really a two-step process. The first step is for a company to complete the EQ questionnaire. We call the score that results an unverified EQ score. This unverified score serves a valuable purpose in that some companies merely want to benchmark their programs and policies against others, especially leading companies. We use this unverified EQ score as a starting point for the World’s Most Ethical Company selection process. Those who choose to be considered for the honor also supply supporting documentation and we review that to ensure that candidates receive proper credit for good performance. We then proceed to independently verify materials on an as-needed basis.

How do you verify companies’ responses?
We may conduct additional research and often request additional documentation and/or interviews with company leadership. We generally consult sources like Westlaw, SEC filings, Thomson Reuter’s Asset4 database, Glassdoor, and global news outlets, among other sources. We conduct reputational and legal reviews to determine any outstanding or historical issues as well. 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.

Will responses be confidential or EQ score made public? Why?
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.

Does past performance affect future results (i.e., are past honorees advantaged in any way)?
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.

Are there specific criteria (e.g., compliance, governance, CSR) Ethisphere considers during the evaluation process?
Yes. The main evaluation categories are: Corporate Citizenship and Responsibility; Ethics and Compliance Program; Corporate Governance; Leadership, Innovation and Reputation; and Culture of Ethics. Read more about the categories and how they're weighted in the evaluation process.

How are companies selected? Is there a minimum score?
A company’s verified EQ scores are evaluated relative to their peers within the context of their structure, size and operating environment. Reputation and litigation “outcomes” are evaluated, and 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.

Does each question carry the same weighting?
No, it varies based on importance and relevance.

What kind of feedback do you provide to participants?
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 2015 World’s Most Ethical Companies. This is a really important and valued outcome of the process since many organizations are looking to move their organizations forward both in compliance activities as well as corporate behavior, in general.

Is there a fee to participate and why?
Up until this year there was no fee to participate. But we found that we needed to at least partially cover the administrative costs of gathering and analyzing the data and providing the Analytical Scorecard. We’ve established a graduated fee structure that includes (in USD): non-profits (of all sizes) – $500; for-profit organizations with corporate revenue less than $500 million – $1,000; for-profit organizations with corporate revenue 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.

Are there other fees associated with being a World’s Most Ethical Company?
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 2015 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. The fee ranges between $5,000 and $10,000 depending on company structure and size.