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Saturday, 19 March 2011 13:36

Surprise! Microsoft, big Oz banks among most ethical


It isn't April 1 yet but already we have a candidate for the tale of that day - Microsoft's presence among the 110 companies picked by a think-tank, Ethisphere Institute, as being among the most ethical on planet Earth.

If that wasn't enough to tickle one's nerve of risibility, the good folk at Ethisphere have selected three of the four big Australian banks - Westpac, ANZ and NAB - as  being among the most ethical as well.

These are the same banks that have, year after year, earned condemnation from both the public and politicians in Australia for the way in which they gouge customers for fees and report multi-billion dollar profits.

But such practices seem to be no impediment to being judged as ethical. Companies can either nominate themselves or can be nominated by someone else.

About Microsoft, one does not need to say much apart from observing that if it is among the most ethical, then the word ethics has certainly been redefined.

The Institute has its own acronym for this group of companies - WME honorees.

According to its website, "The World's Most Ethical Companies designation recognizes (sic) companies that truly go beyond making statements about doing business 'ethically' and translate those words into action.

"WME honorees demonstrate real and sustained ethical leadership within their industries, putting into real business practice the Institute's credo of 'Good. Smart. Business. Profit.'

The Institute's operating funds come from various companies and, to its credit, last year it acknowledged who among the honorees had donated money for its work - 10 were said to have a "material economic relationship" with Ethisphere. That has its own acronym too - MER.

The MER is defined in somewhat obtuse language: "In determining what constitutes a Material Economic Relationship (MER) Ethisphere has used the most common MINIMAL threshold used by corporations to define a Conflict of Interest, which is a one percent (1%) interest. Thereby, a Material Economic Relationship in the context of this report is defined as any customers that have represented one percent (1%) or more of the prior year's (2009) sales bookings of any product or service."

The people who run the institute haven't responded to a query as to how many companies among the 110 selected this year have donated money to its noble cause.

From its website one gauges that the criteria used for judging this year were corporate citizenship and responsibility; corporate governance; innovation that contributes to the public well being; industry leadership; executive leadership and tone from the top; legal, regulatory and reputation track record; and internal systems and ethics/compliance programme.

Companies were marked against four categories - ethics and compliance (30 per cent), reputation, leadership and innovation (30 per cent), governance (15 per cent) and corporate citizenship and responsibility (25 per cent).

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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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