Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The league table of the good and the bad

Wouldn't you like to know if the company that you are keeping is ethical? That the business that makes the brands you buy is behaving in a fair and honest way, not just here in Australia but in other countries it operates? Most of us would say yes. Why wouldn't you?

Yet still we don't have a proper index, league table if you will, of ethical companies.

It's a shame. The Ethical Reputation Index (ERI) has just come out in the United Kingdom. Respondents are presented with a randomised list of these companies, and asked to rate their perceptions of each company’s business ethics. Business ethics are defined as the way the company treat its suppliers, staff, customers and the environment. Respondent ratings are used to derive a rating for the ERI.

The Co-operative Supermarket chain continues to be the most ethical supermarket, as does supermarket chain Waitrose. All the other supermarkets in the ERI record a decrease in rating since the last survey. That's in spite of all the talk by Tesco - the giant that takes one in every eight quid spent in the UK on the high street - about giving all of its products a carbon rating. Marks & Spencer, which a few years ago decided to shift its focus towards being more ethical, has been rewarded with a sharp increase, shooting up to number two. Boots, the BBC, Apple and Sony all registered the biggest improvement since the last survey.

Unsurprisingly finance and fuel are bringing up the rear. But what is interesting is that the company that conducts the survey, the Fraser Consultancy http://www.fraserconsultancy.com//, reports the increasing amount of chatter about ethics among Britons.

"The increased coverage of environmental and social issues over the past year has fuelled more conversations about business ethics. Some 60% of people now claim they are likely/very likely to discuss corporate ethics," it reports.

I know that these conversations are taking place in Australia. What I would love to know is if anyone in Corporate Australia is really listening.

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