Corporate Ethics Awards

Corporate Ethics Awards recognize businesses outside the financial services industry, which represent a strong commitment to business excellence and to the highest standards of social responsibility, integrity and ethical conduct. Businesses have been honored for their efforts to create an ethical climate and improve ethical performance. Business Ethics Awards are sponsored by Business Ethics magazine and have been awarded to the businesses since 1989. In 2002, Business Ethics magazine created a new award category for the first time to celebrate smaller firms known as “Living Economy Award”. This award was based on the work of theorist David Korten, an author of When Corporations Rule the World and The Post-Corporate World, whose current focus is on building ‘living economy’. He emphasized on the need to build the living economy rather than building the firms whose sole purpose is ‘using money to make more money for people who have money – commonly referred to as maximizing profit to increase shareholder value.’

The first Living Economy Award was given to the White Dog Cafe in Philadelphia for being an exemplar of the living economy: locally rooted, human scale, stakeholder owned, and life serving. The recipient of the award was Judy Wicks and she exemplified Korten’s theory of the living economy so fully that he sometimes referred to it as the ‘Judy economy’. In running the restaurant with $5 million in annual revenues and 100 employees, Wicks’ caring hand reached to every corner of what a living economy would encompass such as; the organic meats raised by local farmers, the living wage she aimed to pay even to dishwashers, the 100% wind power that ran the place, the 10% of profits distributed to the charity, and the co-operation with would-be competitors.

A year later, the Living Economy Award was presented to Organic Valley for being an exemplar of the living economy: locally rooted, human scale, stakeholder owned, and life serving. Organic Valley was known to be a cooperative of 633 small family farms producing organic products, with $156 million in annual sales, where the farmer-owners set their own prices and put a ceiling on profits. With dairy, meat, and egg producers in 16 states and one Canadian province, Organic Valley was the third largest brand in the entire organic foods industry. Since, the Living Economy Award seeks to honor the companies that seek fair profits rather than maximum profits, Organic Valley was able to meet the standard for maintaining the ethical standards and hence was able to win the award in 2003, whose success story presented as an example for many small family farms (those who have given hope) in America.

In 2004, Chroma Technology Corporation was presented with the Living Economy Award for exemplifying the living economy with practices of employee ownership, fair wages, and environmental stewardship. The corporation is a global, high-tech manufacturing company for the 21st century. It was established in 1991 by six people with $180,000 in financing, and today, it is a premier manufacturer of optical filters for microscopes used by the top biologists in the world. It is the major supplier to three of the four major microscope manufacturers in the world. When it was established, Chroma had a policy of paying every employee with the same wage. By the time, the firm grew to 17 employees in the early 1990s, everyone was earning an identical $30,000 per year. However, in 1996, the company instituted the policy that tenure would determine pay. Therefore, the maximum salary of $75,000 is same for everyone, though new employees can start from the salary higher than the minimum of $37,500. No employee is paid more than $75,000 or less than $37,500 and there are no designated managers, and employees hold seats on the board of directors.

In 2005, Weaver Street Cooperative of Carrboro, North Carolina, won the Living Economy Award. In the small town, Weaver Street Market was more than just a food store; it’s a community hub, featuring outdoor space with sculpture, fountain, tables, and benches. The cooperative was honored with the award for its sustainable products, community focus, and democratic governance.

All these firms were honored with Business Ethics Award; specifically known as Living Economy Award. These firms depict as the examples as success stories for other firms. In addition, these award-winning firms provide the foundation for a collection of corporate ethics role models. Their commitment to the ethical values and efforts to establish effective ethics programs demonstrate that firms can be both financially successful and ethically focused.