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Where ethics rule

February 19, 2009

At a time when firms across the world are battling the downturn and are being questioned on their business ethics, the Genevabased knowledge resource firm, Covalence, has come out with its annual “Ethical Quote and Ethical Rankings” covering 541 multinationals in 18 sectors across the world. The survey rates firms on several parameters like waste management, information to consumers, eco-innovative products, international presence, downsizing methods and anti-corruption policies to come up with a list of the best-run companies across the world. In 2008, the top three performers were HSBC Holdings, Intel Corp and Unilever’s F&B division. Others in the top 10 include big names such as Xerox, GE and DuPont. The ratings were based on data from 2002 to November 2008. It also lists the best firms in each sector—across 18 categories.

A caveate: the rankings are more projection-based than performancebased. A spokesperson for Covalence said the “renovated calculation methodology” that was used for the rankings is a novel method. “The challenges in assessing the ethical performance of multinational enterprises are many: limited means of direct observation, restricted access to internal data and other issues like social complexity, cultural diversity etc. To overcome these difficulties, Covalence uses an information system for quoting the reputation of companies on ethical issues instead of a questionnaire-based rating scheme. “Using media monitoring and the Internet, we capture numerous, diverse information pieces to get a detailed, evolutionary picture of how companies are perceived,” she said.

The ratings mostly have the US and European firms in the top 20. It’s interesting to note that except HSBC none of the banks makes it to the list. Nor are biggies like Microsoft or auto giants like Toyota or Honda in the race. Asian firms, in fact, are conspicuous by their negligible presence.

Dhiman Chattopadhyay

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