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Which is the most ethical IT company?

Laurels for HP, raspberries for IBM, MS, Xerox

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An annual index of 'corporate social responsibility' has placed HP second, Motorola fourth and IBM fifth in a ranking of a hundred corporate citizens.

In Business Ethics survey HP is credited with "generous support of community development and education, amounting to $58 million in 1999, and an extremely employee-friendly work environment," according to the survey. Cubicle-crushed HP employees may beg to differ. The company is also credited with sharing a high proportion of its profits amongst employees.

Last year's winner IBM drops to fifth place because of its pensions swindle. Other high-ranking IT companies listed include Sun Microsystems (6th), Intel (18th), Cisco (19th), Honeywell (30th), Apple (32nd), AT&T (34th), CA 39th, Texas Instruments 41st and Dell 42nd.

Microsoft and Xerox are omitted entirely, the former because of its anti trust conviction, and the latter for mis-stating their financial results.

So far so good, but the report does have its limitations. Incredibly, Business Ethics only added environmental impact to its metrics this year.

And a forelock-tugging tone is noticeable: best summarized by concern over fatcat pay. For example, CEO Carly Fiorina's "eye popping compensation package of $93.8 million in 1999 ... is a concern" note the authors; "But the fact that she returned part of her bonus in 2000 after the company missed earnings goals provides some reassurance." That's alright then.

In fact Dell's position (No.42) is largely attributable to "the highest score in the area of financial returns for stockholders."

Obviously, any list of ethical companies that includes Starbucks (No.24) invites you to question its criteria. Starbucks is notorious for opening new outlets directly opposite neighborhood mom and pop coffee shops - and its relentless expansion in San Francisco is fought with some passion.

So how about a better ethical index? Perhaps one that takes serious account environmental damage caused by pollutants for example? (See here or here) for example. And what about the psychological damage inflicted by small cubicles?

Suggestions welcome. ®

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Business Ethics Top 100

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