"An ethical business can be profitable business ."
Stuart Rose
Ex-Executive Chairman of M&S

we can be a force to be reckoned with- support ethical companies

Companies are increasingly expected to be ethical and transparent in their operations by society. Enron’s case of irresponsible behaviour has made the world more aware of the ways top management of companies can hide their irresponsible behaviour, at least for some time. Even recently, Tesco’s account misappropriation for which it was fined £129m for avoiding prosecution, also turn many people sceptical of the business ethics of numerous companies.

While the above cases point to economic unsustainability, social sustainability of companies has been on the radar of society as well as media. This attention was initiated, mainly since sweat labour in the factories of Nike was brought to public attention. Many customers boycotted Nike products and Nike was forced to change its approach to social sustainability.

The third and final main area of sustainability is environmental sustainability. We have numerous examples of irresponsible behaviour from the part of companies in this regard. One that comes quickly to the mind of anybody would be the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill. The incident was mentioned as the worst environmental disaster in US history. From the perspective of BP, the incident was a near-death experience as the company had paid £46.2bn in fines, compensation and legal bills.

All the above-mentioned cases have been eye openers for the world. As Carroll (1991) observed, business ethics is an amorphous concept. The scandals play a pivotal role in educating us the pitfalls in business management and that all aspects of a business cannot be legally managed. Businesses should have higher levels of conscience to embrace social sustainability. However, if we do not promote, ethical companies and give a message that they stand a better chance of obtaining us as customers and thereby competitiveness, the message to only economically sustainable companies will not be powerful and threatening.   What can be inferred is that if a society which includes the customers, shareholders, general public become more vigilant of promoting ethical companies, there is high likely hood that companies become more responsible in the management of their resources, whether it be economic, social or environmental. We have the classic example of Nike in this regard.  Since the vociferous call for the blood of Nike, the company changed its approach to social sustainability and developed a transparent and fair way of managing its suppliers through regular audits and education.

Nike’s change in approach to sustainability delineates that society wields significant power to alter the unstainable course of action of companies.

Thus what is needed is making the society more informed of the triple bottom line sustainability credentials of companies. Besides this, reporting on the unsustainable behaviour of companies can also make society more circumspect and rational in their selection of products and services offered by such companies. Such kind of behaviour from society breeds a good buying culture in the society which eventually works in favour of ethical companies.


BBC (2016) BP says total Gulf spill bill $61.6bn. Available at:< http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/36798842 (Accessed on: 20th March 2018).

BBC (2017) Tesco fined £129m for overstating profits. Available at:< http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-39415681> (Accessed on: 20th March 2018).


Ethisphere has been picking the most ethical companies in the world since 2007. The list of the companies serve as a guide to identifying which companies are conducting their business in an ethical manner and whether being ethical makes business sense or not.

135 companies are in the 2018 list representing 23 countries and 57 industries.