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Ethisphere magazine has published a list of ethical companies that includes industry companies Costco, Wegmans, Starbucks, Whole Foods, Aldi, Target, Aeon (of Japan), Marks & Spencer, McDonald’s, L’Oreal, SC Johnson, Unilever, Kellogg, PepsiCo, Stonyfield and Dole.

But what really was interesting was not the companies that made the list, but the way in which Ethisphere defined the parameters of ethical behavior. According to the story, it isn’t just doing the right thing – it is being influential. “Ethics are absolute,” Ethisphere writes. “Business ethics are relational. And ethical leadership requires a position of influence.”

The story goes on, “The absolutes are the necessary grounding for a company to have strong core values to build upon. The context is the environment in which a company operates, both geographically as well as industrially.

“The best lens through which to view a company’s ethical leadership behavior is to examine a company compared to other companies in the same industry. Are they leading, are they following, or are they ignoring? And to be a leader, the company needs to have or build a competitive edge, such as size or technology, which allows it to be influential…We looked for absolutes. We examined companies in relational context of their industries. And we looked for influential leadership that moved others to change or follow.”
KC's View:
Two relevant sayings here:

• “It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.”

• “One should not hide one’s light under a bushel.”

We forget who said it, but there is a description of business suggesting that its real purpose is to “enable human flourishing.”

(Actually, that’s a pretty good description of parenting, too. But we digress.)

But we like the notion that truly ethical behavior isn’t just doing the right thing, but encouraging and enabling other people to do the right thing as well.