What It Takes To Be The 'World's Most Ethical IT Firm'

by Sohini Bagchi    Mar 28, 2017


“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel” -Maya Angelou, American poet, memoirist, and civil rights activist.

At a time, when technology companies are criticized over issues such as failed corporate governance, lack of diversity, unethical practices and lawsuits, there are some who enjoy robust reputations and possess impressive bottom lines. While these are trends that are seen across sectors, in technology, we come across several companies and their leaders displaying typically strong work ethics. With integrity and strong moral characters, these leaders create a positive work environment, build trust and establish open dialogues with every stakeholder.

Recently Ethisphere published its annual list of the world’s most ethical companies. Now in its 11th edition, the list includes 124 companies deemed to be the most ethical. [Read the full report here

Through its ethics survey, Ethisphere evaluates firms on five criteria, which roll up into a single Ethics Quotient (EQ) score. These include ethics and compliance program, corporate citizenship and responsibility, culture of ethics, governance, and leadership, innovation and reputation.

Accenture, CA Technologies, Capgemini, Dell, GE, Intel, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Symantec, Rockwell Automation, T-Mobile, Wipro and Xerox are some of the names in the list of the world’s most ethical technology companies by the American think tank.

Read more: Tech Titans Collaborate On Artificial Intelligence Ethics

“These companies also consider the impact of their actions on their employees, investors, customers and other key stakeholders and leverage values and a culture of integrity as the underpinnings to the decisions they make each day,” according to the Ethisphere Institute.

A key factor in the ethical list scoring, gauges whether ethics are embedded into a company’s culture from top to bottom. While no company wants to be known as unethical, and employees are more apt to display higher morale and more productivity when they are working for a morally sound company, the onus lies with the top management [and subsequently trickle down to all] to create a conscientious workplace that is transparent, and do things ‘the right way.’

It is here that Ethisphere makes an interesting observation. In recent months, more companies disclosed information about misconduct to their own employees, telling them how many complaints were filed and what was done about it. Previously, firms tended to keep such matters confidential, says Michael Byrne, Ethisphere’s general counsel. “Essential to an effective compliance program is people feeling comfortable expressing a concern … One of the best ways to [do that] is to shine a light on it.”  

Another element is corporate citizenship and responsibility, includes questions about what methods companies use to measure their environmental impact. Printing and imaging company Xerox can be a good example here, as the company has committedly worked towards reducing carbon footprint, setting a goal to reduce its total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by lowering the energy intensity of our operations.

“At Xerox, we take great pride in our name being synonymous with innovation, quality and integrity,” says Jeff Jacobson, chief executive officer of Xerox. “We are committed to doing business the right way, with the highest degree of ethics and in compliance with laws worldwide.”

The report shows corporate governance as the fourth criterion. Ethisphere’s survey asks whether a company’s CEO and board-chair roles are held by separate people. This year, Ethisphere also placed an increased focus on diversity in board and leadership positions.

Read more: Rethinking Ethics In The Big Data Era

The final element is leadership, innovation and reputation. Strong leaders exhibit sound moral principles. As Mike Gregoire, chief executive officer at CA Technologies mentions, “Companies that want to succeed in the Application Economy – where the world becomes smaller and customers grow more savvy every day – must focus on operating their businesses with the highest ethical standards.”

“We know that to effectively build long-term partnerships with our customers, a foundation of trust is fundamental. That requires an unwavering commitment to conducting ourselves with integrity in every aspect of our business. Without a strong ethical base, companies simply cannot last,” he adds.

“When workers feel their leader is invested in them and has their best interest at heart they will give 1000 percent and will do whatever it takes to help in the quest to ‘reach the unreachable star,” Judith Bowman, speaker and business protocol coach, and Author of “Don’t Take the Last Donut mentions in her blog.

“True leaders have the ability to motivate employees to want to be a part of something greater than themselves and inspire them to rise to the occasion, especially in the face of adversity,” she says, adding that leading with character and integrity inspires company loyalty which breeds dedication, assures reputation and success. “Walk the talk” and don’t be afraid to stand alone when it is right. Take the right moral ground.

In that context, the Ethisphere EQ has seen a big shift in societal expectations, constant redefinition of laws and regulations and the geo-political climate over the last eleven years. “We have also seen how companies honored as the World’s Most Ethical respond to these challenges. They invest in their local communities around the world, embrace strategies of diversity and inclusion, and focus on long term-ism as a sustainable business advantage,” explains Ethisphere’s Chief Executive Officer, Timothy Erblich, emphasizing that while technical skills are negotiable for a job or working toward a promotion, character counts and integrity and work ethic is non-negotiable.