23 January 2012
Last week the Ethisphere Institute – a US think tank promoting business ethics, anti corruption systems and sustainability – published its 2011 list of the 100 most influential people in business ethics.
Understandably the top slot has been awarded to Anna Hazare who has motivated substantial revisiting of corrupt practices in India. The attention he has focused on anti corruption through his hunger strikes, and championing the Lokpal Bill seeking the appointment of an Ombusdman to investigate corruption, has captured world wide attention.
But intriguingly the list includes very few  nationals from the countries rated best in 2011 for corruption control in the World Bank’s governance indicators – and then only because of roles they hold in international organisations. Perhaps unsurprisingly there are many Americans in the list. What is interesting is that two British opinion setters feature in the top ten names – the retiring Director of the Serious Fraud Office (5th) and the Guardian reporter who has led the charge against News of the World (10th).
A similar US centric perception seems to apply to Ethosphere’s recently published list of the World’s Most Ethical Companies. There is no reference to companies from the jurisdictions rated least corrupt – Sweden, Denmark, Finland, New Zealand, Singapore etc. The majority of businesses, selected because they have leading ethics and compliance programmes, particularly compared with their peers, are US based transnationals. However, notable is that of the five banks on the list of 110 most ethical companies, three are Australian – ANZ Banking Group, National Australia Bank and Westpac. This year there are 36 companies new to the ethical list, and 26 have fallen off – a consequence of integrity breaches and litigation.