Indian housing finance major Housing Development Finance Corporation (HDFC) is the sole Indian company to figure in the 2011 list of the 'World's most ethical companies,' brought out by US-based Ethisphere Institute.
The list includes 110 companies, the largest figuring in the list since the awards were instituted in 2007. The award cover 38 sectors and does not have a ranking. HDFC features in the financial services segment, along with American Express, NYSE Euronext and the Hartford Financial Services group.
Nearly 3,000 companies in over 100 countries were nominated – or nominated themselves – to be considered for the awards. Some of the top international companies featuring in the list include Adidas and Gap (apparels), eBay (auctions), Cummins and Ford Motor Company (automotive), ANZ Banking Group and Standard Chartered Bank (banking), Accenture and Dun & Bradstreet (business services), Adobe Systems, Microsoft and Symantec Corporation (computer software), Electrolux, Ricoh and Xerox (consumer electronics), Colgate-Palmolive and Henkel AG (consumer products), General Electric (diversified), PepsiCo (food and beverage), Thomson Reuters (media, publishing and entertainment), Jones Lang LaSalle (real estate), Starbucks Coffee Company (restaurants and cafes), Avaya, Cisco and Juniper (telecom hardware), Singapore Telecom and Swisscom (telecom services) and UPS (transportation and logistics).
Forty-two of the winners are from outside the US. Adidas, eBay, Microsoft and Colgate-Palmolive were among the newcomers. More than 30 other companies that figured in the 2010 list were dropped from this year's award. Twenty-six companies have been recognised as WMEs for all five years.
The winners are organisations ''that lead the way in promoting ethical business standards,'' says a release from the institute. ''These companies go beyond legal minimums, introduce innovative ideas benefiting the public and force their competitors to follow suit.''
They also prove a clear correlation between ethical business practices and improved financial performance. ''The WME companies, if indexed, would have significantly outperformed the S&P 500 by delivering a nearly 27 per cent return to shareholders since 2007, compared to the S&P's negative 8.5 per cent shareholder return during the same period, proving there is a strong correlation between a company's ethics programme and its performance,'' said Alex Brigham, executive director of the Ethisphere Institute.
''The recession has taken its toll on the economy, but we're on the road to recovery. These companies deserve recognition for setting the tone from the top and making high standards a priority,'' he adds.
Besides increased financial performance, ethical companies benefit from better brand reputation, consumer loyalty and higher employee retention rates.