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Microsoft Named One of World's Most Ethical Companies

Microsoft is among a small number of software firms that have been named some of the World's Most Ethical Companies of 2011 by the Ethisphere Institute.

The other software companies that made it to this year's lineup, announced by Ethisphere on Tuesday, are Symantec Corp., Adobe Systems, Teradata Corp. and Salesforce.com. For the computer hardware category, Ethisphere only picked one company: Hitachi Data Systems.

Ethisphere, a think tank devoted to advancing business ethics, does not necessarily enter companies into the contest. Companies can apply to nominate themselves for consideration.

As part of the consideration process, companies complete a survey regarding their "ethics and compliance program, governance and corporate responsibility," according to Ethisphere's description. Companies get an "EQ" score based on seven categories. Those companies with the highest scores get on the final awards list.

A total of 110 companies made the World's Most Ethical Companies list in various categories, with 36 companies joining as new entrants. Twenty-six companies fell off the list due to ethics or litigation problems, according to Ethisphere.

The companies that fell off the 2011 World's Most Ethical Companies list aren't named, nor are those companies that applied but that didn't make the list.

The Ethisphere awards might be considered mostly symbolic, at least for public U.S. companies. They are chartered by the U.S. government and technically have no ethical purpose in that charter except to make money for their shareholders as public institutions, although they are supposed to follow laws. However, most people have ethical expectations for them regardless.

In a legal blurring of the lines between human beings and business entities, U.S. companies are increasingly being granted rights that were once only conceived of for people.

For instance, U.S. companies now have the legal right to contribute money directly to political candidates in electoral campaigns as if they were voting U.S. citizens, according to the recent Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court. One of the organizations favoring the Citizens United court ruling was the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. At this year's Most Ethical Companies dinner awards, held on Tuesday, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Chief Operating Officer David Chavern was the keynote speaker.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.