How to get on 'most ethical companies' list: Fire lots of employees

Groups that create lists of the "best" and "worst " companies get to use their own criteria, which is obviously reasonable since they compile the lists. There are "the best companies to work for," "the most innovative companies," the "best run companies," and "the most green companies."

The newest list is "the most ethical companies" from The Ethisphere Institute. It seems like a good idea. The Institute came up with some nifty benchmarks like "corporate citizenship," "corporate governance" and "legal, regulatory, and reputation" track record. The yardsticks appear reasonable enough. But some companies that made the list probably should have been left off.

At the front of the line of firms that the Institute might have wanted to pass on are corporations that make money but fire a lot of their own workers. While it may be "ethical" by the criteria of the list, it is borderline in terms of the public's perception of which companies are most moral.

If the "doesn't take care of employees" measurement is used, companies including Dell (DELL) and Starbucks (SBUX), where founder/CEO types make a lot of money but cut thousand of people, would not make the grade. But the list does belong to The Ethisphere Institute, and they can ignore anything they want, even if it should be pertinent.

Douglas A. McIntyre is an editor at 24/7 Wall St.

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