Your Cart

Not all our products are on this website yet. Contact us if you don’t see what you want!

New Products Not Yet on Our Website

An Ethical Company

Who Are The World’s Most Ethical Companies in 2024?

Ethics are tricky. A company can be extremely ethical in their local area, going through all of the motions, but if you dig back into their supply lines, you can find shocking things. Other companies might not be as deeply ethical on the surface, but they go through great pains to source everything they sell from ethical producers. Some are recognized for their efforts, while others go unnoticed, and it’s often as much a matter of politics and visibility as it is anything else. The world’s most ethical company might be run by a single man in Perth, for all we know.

There are three major questions to answer when determining what companies are ethical.

The first is: by what criteria are ethics measured?

The second is: what companies are eligible in the first place?

The third is: who is doing the judging in the first place?

Let’s talk about each of these, and then see what sort of companies come up on the list.

Who is Doing the Ethical Judgments?

We’re answering the third question first here because it’s important for both of the others.

There are a handful of organizations that help evaluate and enforce the ethics of businesses. We’ve mentioned some before, like the B Lab, the organization that certified B Corporations, and, of course, the global Fairtrade organization.

A Team Evaluating Business Ethics

The thing is, groups like these are a yes or no binary. They don’t rank companies by their ethics. All they do is ensure that companies within their purview meet the minimum standards necessary to be considered ethical in their spheres. You can even find ways to judge a company on your own, like the Green Stars Project.

All of this helps ensure a baseline level of ethics across business, but it’s not a ranking. The ranking comes from a think tank called the Ethisphere Institute. Ethisphere produces lists of ethical companies, and despite being a list of “the most ethical companies,” it, too, isn’t a ranking. It is, however, a higher level of standard than some other ethical ratings, with a fairly exclusive final list each year. They’ve been producing these lists since at least 2013, so they have a fairly good perspective on business ethics.

How are Ethics Measured in Business?

There are many different ways in which ethics can be present in business. So many, in fact, that simply coming up with objective criteria is a lengthy and intensive process.

Business Leaders Reviewing Data

The most prominent way ethics are measured in business is by evaluating certain qualities of that business, including:

  • The ethics and compliance program the company runs internally
  • The company’s culture of ethics throughout its operations
  • Corporate citizenship and responsibility to the world
  • The company’s governance and operations
  • Third-party management

One of the hardest aspects of ethics is that everything in business is so interconnected that it can be difficult to isolate any particular elements of business operations without delineations like these. You might notice that these criteria don’t really concern themselves with direct evaluation of supply lines and product sourcing. It begs the question: can a company be considered ethical even if, buried three layers deep, some supplier is running on unethical exploitation?

Evaluations like these argue two points. The first is that the ethics of a given company are not necessarily responsible for the ethics of all other companies they work with. Your company can still be ethical even if an unethical company buys your products to use. The second point is that a culture of ethics will encourage you to look deeper into your supply lines and pick more ethical options. So, while it’s less of a direct requirement, it’s somewhat implicit in the assumptions.

Still, it’s a lot of evaluation based on internal company documentation and practices, with little in the way of external audits.

What Companies are Eligible for Ethical Consideration?

There are hundreds of millions of companies, ranging from the Fortune 100 to small sole proprietorships, all around the world. It’s impossible for any one organization to evaluate even a fraction of these companies, let alone on an annual basis.

Eligible for Consideration

What does Ethisphere do? It’s simple; they let companies apply. To apply, a company just has to submit an application alongside a document package that contains things like their corporate governance and ethical statements. Ethisphere evaluates these applications, puts further scrutiny on the most likely candidates, and eventually issues a scorecard. Then, the ones with the highest scores each year are announced in an annual list.

We’ll give them one bit of credit; they don’t charge for their applications, they disclose any financial relationships they have with the honorees and those honorees aren’t financially significant to the think tank, and there are no biased incentives in play. They get some credit, even if they fall a little flat in our eyes.

What Are the Most Ethical Companies in 2024?

The 2024 list of the most ethical companies spans 44 different industries across 20 countries and includes 136 different organizations. Of them, 15 are new to the list, and six of them have been on the list every single year since its inception.

First, let’s mention the six all-timers.

  1. Aflac Incorporated
  2. Ecolab
  3. International Paper
  4. Kao Corporation
  5. Milliken & Company
  6. PepsiCo, Inc.

You might wonder about some of these. Can Ecolab, a chemical manufacturer, be considered ethical? Can PepsiCo, a company responsible for widespread plastic use, be considered ethical? Well, the answer is yes to both. PepsiCo is actually somewhat renowned for its commitment to ethics, even if things like its plastic use aren’t all that great.

This is another example of the criteria in use. Ethics means different things to different people, and Ethisphere is more interested in social justice, corporate governance, and employee treatment than they are in environmental sustainability, logistics and shipping, or unionized labor. That’s why other evaluations, like that of The Good Shopping Guide, rank both Pepsi and Coca-Cola much lower.

Tall Company Buildings

What about the fifteen newcomers to the list?

  1. A. O. Smith Corporation
  2. Assurant
  3. Autodesk
  4. Cosmote E-Value Contact Center Services S.A.
  5. HCLTech
  6. IndusInd Bank Limited
  7. J.M. Smucker Co.
  8. nVent
  9. SeAH Holdings
  10. ServiceNow Inc.
  11. Sodexo
  12. Southwire Company, LLC
  13. The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company
  14. Trane Technologies
  15. Verizon

This, again, makes you wonder. Verizon, a telecom known for being one of a few vast monopolies in the United States, makes the ethics list? It is, again, an indication of the limited scope of what Ethisphere looks at. It’s very difficult to create a robust and objective evaluation of ethics, and even more so as something that can be updated on an annual basis when there are thousands of applicants across millions of possible businesses.

The full list can be found here. There are certainly some entries on the list you might consider questionable, but again, it’s all about the standards used by Ethisphere and how limited they are in scope. These companies are certainly higher according to the criteria Ethisphere uses compared to the other companies that have applied. At the same time, though, the list is clearly prestige for major corporations. No one on the list could be considered a small business, and many of them can barely be considered ethical when you look outside their internal structure.

Are There Benefits to Being on the Ethical Corporations List?

Yes and no.

To an extent, it’s marketing. If a company is named one of the most ethical companies in the world, they can use that to promote themselves. Maybe they’re ethical to their core, or maybe they’re using it more as greenwashing than as a real ethical stance, but either way, it’s a good piece of marketing they can use.

An Ethical Corporation

Companies that join the roster are also given detailed scorecards and benchmarking data they can use to “keep up with the joneses” and attempt to mimic the success of other ethical companies or try to outdo them. The idea is that transparency and competition encourage many of these brands to try to better themselves when other pressures might not.

Does it work? It’s hard to say. The list grows every year, both in terms of the number of companies on it and the popularity of the list, but it’s still just a handful of companies compared to the vast number of them on the planet.

Lists Aren’t Everything

The biggest point we want to make with this is that things like ethical top lists aren’t really all that useful in the grand scheme of things.

Any time you measure a metric, that metric will be optimized to the point of uselessness. Ethisphere measures corporate governance, but it names companies like John Deere – notorious for exploitative DRM on their machines and violating the right to repair – on their list of ethical companies. It’s not about business practices. It’s not about relationships, environmentalism, unionized labor, or ethical treatment of customers and employees.

An Environmental Sustainability Effort

In our view, there’s a lot more to being an ethical business than trying to make a top list because your executives signed a paper saying they would care about corporate governance or because they hit a Corporate Mandated Minority Density in Hiring. If you’re not even looking at the effect you have on the environment, can you really be considered ethical?

How to Improve Company Ethics

If you’re a business owner and you want to push to be one of the most ethical companies in the world, well, there are many different things you can do to try to reach that status. The first thing we would recommend is to ignore the top lists. They’re just prestige for global corporations and don’t really reflect ground-level ethics as small businesses see it.

Business Leaders Making Ethics Decisions

Just focus on improving ethics anywhere you can throughout your organization.

  • Look at your suppliers and see if they’re ethical, and if not, switch to more ethical suppliers.
  • Look at the environmental impact your company has, both directly in terms of production and indirectly in logistics and other impacts. Take steps to improve wherever possible.
  • Look into specific certifications like B Corp and Fairtrade, if they’re applicable to your business.
  • Look at ethics and corporate governance. While we’ve downplayed these above, they are important; they’re just one small part of overall business ethics.

The key isn’t to follow any template to try to compete or reach any specific list or status. There’s no switch that flips you from unethical to ethical. Ethics is a process.

Our Views on Ethics

Here at Ethix, we recognize that there’s no such thing as a truly ethical company. There are only degrees of ethics. Even the very topic of ethics is variable depending on who you talk to, their lived experience, and the things that concern them. Ethics also changes; some things we used to view as ethical are now considered exploitative.

For our part, we prize transparency and honesty first and foremost. You can’t really be truly ethical if you have something to hide, right? That’s why we’re ready and willing – more than willing – to share anything and everything about our suppliers, our products, our processes, and our company. We publish much of it directly on our product pages and more on our company pages.

Reading the Ethix Standards Page

We work in a fraught industry. Clothing, in particular, has many different avenues of exploitation, from farms growing products in a way that devastates their environment to the exploitation of underpaid labor in developing nations to make the products to international shipping polluting our waters and skies. That’s why our commitment is to only offer products that are produced in the USA and Canada, with the only exception being certified Fairtrade products, which undergo rigorous scrutiny to earn and maintain that certification.

If you have any questions about the products we offer and the ethics behind their production, manufacture, or shipping, we’re more than happy to answer them. Just drop us a line! You can reach out to us over here on our contact page! Our goal is to allow you to shop with confidence, whether you’re getting a batch of branded t-shirts for your team or a bag full of swag.