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Our Favorites From the World’s Most Ethical Companies: See Our Top 17

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For a generation of Americans that accounts for more than $1 trillion in consumer spending, buying is more than just a transaction. For Millennials and Generation Z, every purchase is a chance to make a difference.

These young people often choose to support ethical companies that promote transparent and ethical business practices, use sustainable materials, and are aware of their social impact.

While for some brands, ethics equals reducing risks by “doing no harm,” other companies have realized a huge potential of business ethics.

Let’s look at some of the world’s most ethical companies. 

17 Of The World’s Most Ethical Companies

3M

Based In: Minnesota, United States
Ethics: Sustainable development, environmental protection, social responsibility
Known For: Personal protection equipment

The Ethisphere Institute recognized 3M as one of the world’s most ethical companies in 2020 for the 7th year in a row. [1]

3M provides safe and healthy workplaces and seeks to minimize the impact of its operations on the environment. In protecting the company’s business integrity, 3M’s Code of Conduct defines global expectations for all employees and third parties who act on 3M’s behalf.

These include preventing pollution at the source, reducing waste whenever possible, and conserving natural resources through the use of reclamation.

Patagonia

Based In: California, United States
Ethics: Organic cotton, environmental sustainability, Fair Trade certificate
Known For: Outdoor apparel, swimwear

Patagonia easily makes it to the top of any environmental or ethical business list. It’s one of the first outfitters to use recycled materials and organic cotton. [2]

Also, Patagonia is expanding its ethical commitments to fair labor ethics and it works with US factories as often as it can, supporting local economies.

The positive impact that Patagonia’s fair trade factories have around the world is often taken as an example of business ethics.

Kellogg’s

Based In: Michigan, United States
Ethics: Supports farmers, reduces food loss & waste, low-impact packaging
Known For: Cereal, crackers, pastries

The convenience foods giant from Battle Creek, Michigan continues to set ethics standards for other companies to follow.

Kellogg has one of the smallest plastic packaging footprints among paper food companies, with 76% of its packaging being recycled globally. The goal is to use 100% sustainable packaging by 2025.

All along its value chain, Kellogg is reducing food loss and organic waste to ensure that as much food as possible goes to feeding people.

There was no accountability. Businesses were immune because no one was being held accountable. Now it’s essential to show students the rewards of doing business ethically while still achieving a financial reward.


Cal Boardman, Professor Emeritus, Finance Department, The University of Utah

Boden

Based In: London, UK
Ethics: Sustainable cotton, ethical supply chain, fair-trade apparel, gives back
Known For: Women’s, men’s, and children’s apparel and accessories

In almost 30 years, Boden has conquered the British Isles, but more importantly, the hearts and minds of its customers, who value its commitment to responsible sourcing, fair trade, and ethical practices in all factories Boden has around the world.

Although this ethical company makes everything from men’s chinos to children’s clothing, it’s best known for its women’s dresses for all occasions. 

John Deere

Based In: Illinois, United States
Ethics: Responsible water use, sustainable products, volunteerism, 1% For the Planet
Known For: Agricultural & forestry machinery, diesel engines

A leader in heavy machinery, John Deere is also a leader among ethical companies. John Deere’s sustainability goals revolve around responsible resource management.

John Deere implements water best management practices (BMP) in 100% of water-scarce manufacturing sites.

By increasing remanufactured and rebuilt sales, John Deere managed to increase the use of sustainable materials and to recycle 85% of total waste.

Since 2017, Deere has committed to investing at least 1% of its net income towards social and environmental causes. 

Pact

Based In: Colorado, United States
Ethics: Organic cotton, Fair Trade Certification, B Corp
Known For: Women’s, men’s, and children’s basics, activewear

Pact is determined to make clothing that makes the world a better place. The company holds the B Corp certificate, which means that its entire supply chain, from the growing and harvesting of the organic cotton to the final sewing, and everything in between is as clean as possible.

Whether you’re looking for 100% cotton thees, dresses, or underwear, rest assured that the non-GMO cotton that Pact uses is great for you and the families growing it. 

IBM

Based In: New York, United States
Ethics: Renewable energy, gender equality, responsible production
Known For: Hardware, software, consulting

This year, IBM is celebrating 30 years of strong corporate policy on environmental affairs — a career rich in engagement with the communities where they operate.

IBM is a charter member of the EPA’s Energy Star program and one of the first companies to publish corporate environmental reports. [3]

The company requires its first-tier suppliers to create their own systems for establishing quantifiable goals for waste, energy, and greenhouse gas emissions and making their results available to the public. 

Eileen Fisher

Based In: New York, United States
Ethics: Sustainable materials & technologies, inclusive sizes, Fair Trade Certification
Known For: Women’s apparel, accessories, shoes

As an industry leader in ethical and sustainable fashion, Eileen Fisher is devoted to a range of social and environmental practices. For starters, the company oversees its supply chain to make sure working wages are fair.

Eileen Fisher set the goal to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions during the production and shipping by 25% by 2025. 

Allianz Group

Based In: Munich, Germany
Ethics: Clean energy, low-carbon economy, human rights
Known For: Insurance, asset management

Maintaining high standards of ethical business practices, Allianz is supporting low-income customers in Asia, Africa, and South America, closing the gap for people who need low-cost financial services.

As an insurer and investor, protecting the environment is Allianz’s core business. Its commitment to a low-carbon economy and climate change strategy enabled the Group to become carbon neutral in 2012.

Nearly 49% of the electricity the company uses comes from renewable sources, with a goal to reach 100% by 2023. [4]

Sézane

Based In: Paris, France
Ethics: Natural & sustainable materials, fair labor standards, gives back
Known For: Women’s apparel, denim

Another fashion industry leader that is known for its ethical business practices, Sézane is committed to a sustainable value chain that benefits people and the planet.

As an online startup, the brand cut out the middleman and focused on production that is sustainable and as zero waste as possible. In 2017, Sézane launched a philanthropic initiative DEMAIN to help disadvantaged children have equal opportunities and access to education.

This generation has the luxury of being able to look around for a job which isn’t solely based on salary. They are purpose-driven employees, who have grown up surrounded by the narrative of climate change and who are looking to create a positive impact on the wider world.


Professor Debbie Haski-Leventhal, Department of Management, Macquarie University, Sydney, AU

PepsiCo

Based In: New York, United States
Ethics: Racial equality, sustainable agriculture, pay equity, sustainable plastics
Known For: Grain-based snack foods, beverages

PepsiCo is one of those ethical companies that achieve best practices in different fields, such as human rights, sustainable farming, and equal employment opportunities.

Earlier this year, the soft drinks giant announced a more than $400 million initiative over 5 years to empower Black communities and Black representation.

PepsiCo works with over 40,000 farmers through its Sustainable Farming Program. Nearly 80% of its potatoes, whole corn, oats, and oranges are sustainably sourced. 

ABLE

Based In: Tennessee, United States
Ethics: Female artisan-made in Peru, fair labor practices, B Corp
Known For: Women’s apparel, accessories, shoes

A company that makes a huge impact in the ethical business community, ABLE has decided to fight generational poverty by creating economic opportunities for all, especially women who struggle to provide for themselves in some parts of the world.

The beautiful bags and denim in ABLE collections are made worldwide by fairly paid women, while the company itself is B Corp certified, which means it’s legally required to consider the impact of its decisions on the employees, customers, community, and the environment. 

Tradlands

Based In: California, United States
Ethics: Natural & sustainable materials, ethical practices, recycles leftovers
Known For: Women’s apparel

Among the apparel companies with outstanding ethics standards, Tradlands has a unique approach to designing their collection. The idea is simple: to offer high-quality essentials for women, that are inspired by classic menswear.

Although it focuses mainly on staples, Tradlands pays attention to details, fit, and quality of its shirts and overalls. Each piece in their lineup is sustainably made from responsibly grown cotton. 

Kao

Based In: Tokyo, Japan
Ethics: Compostable products, low-carbon, circular economy
Known For: Personal care, cosmetics

Kao’s Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) strategy is shaped to help people live sustainable lifestyles that contribute to a sustainable world.

By 2030, 100% of Kao’s products will leave a full lifecycle environmental footprint that our natural world can safely absorb.

Kao also commits to global decarbonization by reducing the full lifecycle CO2 emission of its products to align with a 2°C global warming scenario.

Distinguished by its high standards among ethical companies, Kao helps the transition to a circular economy by optimizing material selection and minimizing their use. 

Outerknown

Based In: California, United States
Ethics: Sustainable practices, Fair Labor Association & Bluesign certified manufacturing
Known For: Women’s & men’s denim

The fashion industry is responsible for more carbon emissions globally than all international flights and maritime shipping combined. It shouldn't surprise then, that this list is dominated by companies like Outerknown, that are resolved to clear the bad rep.

This sustainability-centered brand of denim works with global partners who offer fair wages and practice sustainable production. Outerknown transparently details every partner on its site.

tentree

Based In: Vancouver, Canada
Ethics: Sustainable & eco-friendly materials, ethical manufacturing, B Corp
Known For: Casual essentials, outerwear, kids apparel

This Canadian outfitter is an example of some of the best practices among ethical companies. Choosing only sustainable and comfortable materials, tentree creates Earth-first essential for the whole family.

A part of its give-back commitment, the company plants 10 trees for every item purchased. So far, over 50 million trees have been planted, with an ambitious goal to plant 1 billion by 2030.

Kotn

Based In: Toronto, Canada
Ethics: Organic materials, safe & fair labor standards, B Corp
Known For: Egyptian cotton women’s & men’s basics

A champion of ethical business practices, Kotn is known for luxurious ultra-soft basic apparel made from the finest organically-grown Egyptian cotton. From farms to factories, Kotn ensures that all its pieces are made in a safe and fair environment.

Kotn has even developed initiatives to help its partner companies go organic within the next five years.

Quality manufacturing means a Kotn shirt will last 30 years and more. More money in your pocket and less waste for the planet. 

FAQ

What is an ethical company?

An ethical company is a company that has clearly defined Environment, Social, and Governance principles. Ethical companies causing little to no damage to the environment, offer equal employment opportunities for all people, don't discriminate against their employees on any basis, pay fair wages, and produce environmentally safe products.

Is Tesla an ethical company?

No, Tesla is not an ethical company. MSCI gave Tesla a high score for the environment due to the clean technology its products use, while FTSE gave it “zero” on the environment, as it only rates the emissions from Tesla factories. However, Tesla does not disclose information on the environmental impact of its manufacturing. 

Is H&M ethical in 2020?

No, H&M is not ethical in 2020. The company aims to reduce its emissions and use 100% recycled or sustainable materials by 2030, but it still fails to deliver on labor conditions and living wages. The fast-fashion business model that H&M currently uses still remains questionable from an ethical standpoint.

Is Nike ethical?

No, Nike is not ethical. It’s clearly making positive changes to its environmental practices, but it still has a way to go before we can truly call it an “ethical” brand. Nike uses some eco-friendly materials, but there’s no evidence it guarantees living wages in most of its supply chain.

How ethical is Starbucks?

Starbucks is not very ethical. The company made green commitments to switch to reusable cups, build green stores, preserve water, and reduce its environmental footprint. However, it loses ethical points due to cases of forced labor on some of its C.A.F.E. Practices-certified plantations in Brazil.

What is the most ethical clothing brand?

The most ethical clothing brand is Lucy & Yak, an independent, ethically- and sustainably-grown brand. All of its garments are made from organic fabrics and produced in factories in Northern India, where workers are paid four times the state minimum wage.

What food companies are ethical?

Among the most ethical food companies in the world are Kellogg’s, PepsiCo, Grupo Bimbo, Illycaffe Spa, Ingredion, and Mars. 

What are ethical products?

Ethical products are those that do not cause any harm to the consumers or the planet. Ethical products do not encourage addictive behavior or promote harmful information. Ethical products do not contribute to climate change and pollution in any of their stages.

Is Coca Cola good for the environment?

No, Coca Cola is not good for the environment. The company strives to treat and return 100% of its manufacturing water back to the environment and use minimal packing but environmental organizations still list it among the worst companies for plastic pollution in the world.

How sustainable is Starbucks?

Starbucks is improving its sustainability record in the past few years. In the past, the coffeeshop giant has failed to meet a few of its sustainable goals, and now it has to keep its promise and phase out plastic straws and move to recyclable and reusable cups.

Is H&M Conscious sustainable?

No, H&M Conscious is not sustainable. Those products are marketed as using up to 50% recycled material (20% for cotton products), but their explanation is lacking in detail about the types of items they’re recycling, how they’re recycled, and what the carbon footprint is compared to their other ranges.

Final Thoughts

Ethical companies are different from green or eco-friendly companies in the sense that their sustainability statement also includes social responsibility, such as fair wages, a transparent supply chain, and good working conditions. 

If you’d like to work at  company that’s similar to the ones on this list, you can visit our Green Jobs board for available ethical jobs in your area. 

Find more jobs in ethical companies by category, by city, or by state by checking out more sustainability jobs.


References

  1. https://ethisphere.com/ethisphere-announces-the-2020-worlds-most-ethical-companies/
  2. https://www.patagonia.com/materials/
  3. https://www.ibm.com/ibm/environment/products/energystar.shtml
  4. https://www.allianz.com/en/sustainability/low-carbon-economy/environmental-management.html


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