Think of the companies you work with that have your trust. Their employees typically have a longer tenure. They get back to you with efficiency and competence, and they are pleasant to work with because they feel valued. They are incentivized to give excellent service, even when going that extra mile means more work. Your representative stands by the company’s products and services, and you both know you’re supported by a corporate philosophy that tells workers to do the right thing.
When you place your trust in a company that will provide products and services to your clients, that means your own reputation is at risk. A company’s ethics will reveal much when you’re deciding where to place that trust.
Ethical company, successful company
It would be easy to think that companies with a strong ethical focus do worse financially. After all, it costs money to properly train employees, to accommodate clients’ needs and to put clients first. But actually, the opposite is true: Ethisphere, an organization supporting companies in building sustainable and ethical businesses, found that the stock prices of publicly traded companies on its list of most ethical companies outperformed the large cap sector by 13.6 percentage points over a five-year period.1
Encouraging inclusion and diversity is one way that ethical companies succeed, and a crucial one: Companies in the top quartile of ethnic diversity on executive teams are 36% more likely to experience a higher ROI than peer companies in the bottom quartile.2 But there are other characteristics ethical companies have in common, too, according to Ethisphere Chief Executive Officer Erica Salmon Byrne. They invest in their people, their culture and communities. “We see in this data that, over time, these practices lead to stronger financial performances by businesses.”1
Establishing an ethical company
Designing an ethical company is a conscious and deliberate move. According to MasterClass, the following are elements of an organization’s ethical practices: activism, customer prioritization, integrity, respect and risk-taking.3
Changing the focus from legal compliance to ethical compliance is a subtle but powerful shift in a company’s dynamics and messaging. It encourages employees to consider whether an action is “right,” not merely whether it is legal. It also paves the way for employee incentives to align with the company’s ethical mission, such as allowing high performers to choose rewards for their colleagues or to select a nonprofit to receive a company donation.
To truly be upheld by all, a company’s values need to be clearly communicated to everyone within the organization, and they need to be more than a statement. They must be the foundation of any company strategy or program, which always keeps those values top of mind — and top of practice.
Aflac — which has a 17-year streak4 on Ethisphere’s annual list of the World’s Most Ethical Companies — was built on just that. It’s called “The Aflac Way”: a set of tenets centered on doing the right thing. It was written by its founders more than half a century ago, and it is as relevant today as it was at its inception; new employees even receive a bound copy of “The Aflac Way” upon joining the team.
It shows up in the culture, and it’s visible to customers and brokers, too. It drives the claims philosophy, for example, compelling Aflac to receive, process, approve and disburse payment for eligible claims in as short a time as possible. According to Dan Amos, Aflac Chairman and CEO, “As a company, we do not sell a tangible product; we sell a promise to be there when our policyholders need us most.”4
Aflac is the only insurance company in the world recognized for 17 years straight on the list of World’s Most Ethical Companies since the list’s inception in 2007.4
“Ethics matter. Organizations that commit to business integrity through robust programs and practices not only elevate standards and expectations for all, but also have better long-term performance,” said Ethisphere CEO Erica Salmon Byrne. “Congratulations to Aflac for earning a place in the World’s Most Ethical Companies community.”4
But you don’t need to see the accolades to understand the principles and work that got Aflac there: a devotion to helping people and their communities, all by just doing their jobs with care, expertise and integrity. Consider it The Aflac way.
1 Ethisphere Institute. “Ethisphere announces the 2023 World’s Most Ethical Companies.” March 13, 2023. Accessed 3.20.23.
2 World Economic Forum. “Companies say diversity matters. So why aren’t they becoming more diverse?” March 4, 2022. Accessed 3.20.23.
3 MasterClass. “Organizational ethics: Examples of ethical business practices.” Updated Sept. 23, 2022. Accessed 3.20.23.
4 Aflac. “For 17th time, Aflac named a World’s Most Ethical Company by Ethisphere. March 13, 2023. Accessed 3.20.23.
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