Frequently Asked Questions

The announcement of 2020 honorees will mark the fourteenth year we have honored companies with the designation of World’s Most Ethical Companies®

Yes. We evaluate a company’s (i) Ethics and Compliance Program, (ii) Culture of Ethics, (iii) Corporate Citizenship and Responsibility, (iii) Governance, and (iv) Leadership and Reputation. Each category is evaluated through a combination of answers to our Ethics Quotient® (EQ) questionnaire, submitted supplemental documentation, and where necessary, independent research and follow up with each candidate. Evaluation of the Leadership and Reputation category also includes a review of publicly available information with a bearing on a company’s reputation for acting ethically (e.g., public filings, media review)

The World’s Most Ethical Companies® evaluation is an annual exercise. Each year’s evaluation process considers information available up to December 31st of the prior year. For example, the 2020 evaluation considers information available up to December 31, 2019.

The EQ questionnaire is jointly developed by our internal team of legal and compliance professionals and our Methodology Advisory Panel. Advisory Panel members include leading experts from the fields of law, corporate reputation, corporate ethics, governance, and anti-corruption.

We review the questionnaire annually to ensure that it aligns with the ever-changing expectations of employees, managers, shareholders, regulators and the public at large. In 2015, the questionnaire was significantly revised across each assessment category, and in 2016 we made substantial additions in the areas of data privacy, cyber security and assessing an organization’s ethical culture. For 2017, we placed an increased focus on diversity at the board and executive levels, ethics and compliance program structure (based on recent guidance from regulators), and how companies are evaluating their compliance and ethics programs. The updates for 2019 were extensive throughout all areas of the questionnaire. For 2020, updates focus on clarifying and improving upon existing questions.

We believe strongly that measurement matters, and utilizing the questionnaire allows us to include substantial quantitative and objective analysis in our process. The questionnaire is one step of our three-step review process. The first step is for a company to complete the Ethics Quotient (EQ) questionnaire. This results in a self-reported EQ score. Companies are then asked to submit documentation that supports certain elements of their questionnaire responses and allows Ethisphere to evaluate the quality of key aspects of the company’s programs and processes. Lastly, Ethisphere’s team of analysts researches each company’s history of litigation, reputation, and ethical track record. The self-reported scores are combined with a qualitative assessment of an applicant company’s supplemental documentation and independent research to produce a final EQ score.

A company’s final Ethics Quotient (EQ) score is evaluated relative to those of its peers within the context of its structure, size and operating environment. Those companies demonstrating the strongest application across our methodology receive the designation of being one of the World’s Most Ethical Companies. As applicant companies come from a variety of industries with significant differences in regulatory and operating environments, the overall EQ score is used to understand a company’s performance in context of similar companies, not to set a floor. However, reputation and legal issues are carefully evaluated. Receiving a materially deficient score in the category of Leadership and Innovation will prevent a company from being selected as one of the 2020 World’s Most Ethical Companies.

No. Each section, question, and answer choice is individually weighted. Certain sections carry more importance than others, as do certain questions.

Any company, public or private, for-profit or not-for-profit, U.S. or foreign-based, is eligible to participate in the process and be considered for designation as one of the World’s Most Ethical Companies. However, non-profit colleges and universities, governments, governmental agencies, government majority owned companies, and NGOs are not eligible. If you have a question regarding eligibility please contact Ethisphere at wmeapplications (at)

We encourage wide participation, regardless of whether a company thinks that it will be honored. All companies that submit a survey will receive an Analytical Scorecard that provides their overall Ethics Quotient and evaluates how their score in each of the five categories compares to those of honorees. The value in participating is not only in learning how one’s company compares to the honorees, but also in better understanding what’s trending in leading companies and more about their best practices.

A company’s industry, size, geographic location, etc. are all taken into consideration during the review process.  That said, we have minimum expectations for all companies, regardless of size. As a result, our database tends to be mostly for-profit companies with revenue above $250 million (USD) and non-profit companies with revenue of more than $1 billion (USD). Accordingly, regardless of size, for-profit companies will be compared to companies with at least $250 million (USD) in revenue and non-profit companies to those with at least $1 billion (USD) in revenue.

We understand that practices can be different for public, private, and non-profit organizations. Private organizations and non-profits are not penalized for failing to follow certain guidelines that are expected for public companies. However, all organizations must demonstrate that their policies, procedures, and practices are best in class for their specific organization type.

We review documentation submitted by companies and may conduct additional research or request additional information and documentation from the company. We conduct reputational and legal reviews to determine any outstanding or historical issues as well. We generally consult external data sources, such as SEC filings and global news outlets, among other sources. Compliance or ethics issues will be reflected in a company’s Leadership and Reputation score. Seriously deficient scores in that category will prevent a company from being selected as one of the 2020 World’s Most Ethical Companies. Ethics Quotient scores are often adjusted based on documentation review and independent research. Each candidate then receives a final score that may be higher or lower than the initial “self-reported” score. Note that if we are unable to verify and evaluate certain aspects of performance, the resulting scores may be discounted.

Yes, we require all application materials to be submitted in English.

We supply a list of recommended documents in the Supplemental Documentation Guidelines provided to each applicant. As explained therein, applicants are expected to provide documents and evidence to support their responses to the Ethics Quotient questionnaire. Ethisphere will only contact an applicant regarding its supporting documentation if no documentation associated with the applicant company is received (this is to ensure there was not a problem in delivering or transmitting the documentation) or there is a technical issue with particular files or documents. If an applicant is missing a specific document or documents, Ethisphere will not contact the applicant nor will the applicant receive any points associated with review of such documents.

Applicants trust us to keep all analysis and results of each company confidential. We take that responsibility seriously.

We do not disclose the names of companies who are not honored, and no individual response is made public. Scores will only be used to calculate EQ scores and/or provide a report or analysis to a company. We also use EQ scores and responses in an aggregated or anonymized fashion for benchmarking and research purposes.

Additionally, honorees may not publicly share or reference their company’s scores or performance compared to the World’s Most Ethical Companies’ averages. Our purpose is to celebrate all of the companies equally; accordingly, we very intentionally do not rank the companies that make the list each year. Sharing information or referring to the scores necessarily leads to a comparison among the honoree companies. Also, the selection process compares companies to their peers. Without context, publicizing how a company fares against the average scores misrepresents our process and could cause confusion.

We don’t publicly disclose the total number of applicants each year. We established this policy so that companies have the freedom to apply and be measured against others in total confidence and so that those who are honored recognize that their programs are being measured both competitively and on their own merits.

No. We evaluate every company independently and then in comparison to peers within the context of structure, size and operating environment. Because we’re recognizing companies that are the “most ethical” and not merely “ethical,” there is a natural limit to the number that we honor both in total and by sector. The number can vary based upon the ever-increasing expectations of stakeholders (both internal and external) and the fact that the scoring process is updated to reflect changes in best practice and methodology.

There are 131 companies spanning 21 countries and 50 industry sectors on the 2020 list.

Past honorees are given no inherent advantage over non-honorees or companies applying for the first time. Typically, companies that have participated in the evaluation process in previous years (both honorees and non-honorees) are more familiar with the expectations and therefore better prepared when it comes to completing the questionnaire and submitting supporting documentation.

A real benefit to participating in the Ethics Quotient (EQ) process is that all participants, whether or not they’re honored, receive a high-level analysis with their overall EQ score and how their five category scores compare to those who are honored as that year’s World’s Most Ethical Companies. This is an important and valued outcome of the process, since many organizations are looking to move forward both in compliance activities and ethical corporate behavior. This independent review allows a company to compare itself not just to any group of companies that want to complete a survey, but to those who excel and are named as the World’s Most Ethical Companies.

Companies that submit the Ethics Quotient (EQ) survey and supporting documentation between August 6, 2019 and November 8, 2019 are considered for inclusion in the World’s Most Ethical Companies recognition program for 2020. However, companies that would like to participate in the EQ—with the opportunity to be benchmarked against honored companies—may do so throughout the year, at any time.

Beginning in 2015, Ethisphere instituted a processing fee in order to, at least partially, cover the administrative costs of gathering and analyzing the data. The fee is $3,000 USD and also allows us to provide each participant with an Analytical Scorecard that helps to inform their programs and future decisions.

There are no additional fees to be honored or communicate either internally or externally that a company has achieved this designation. However, companies that wish to use the year-specific World’s Most Ethical Companies logo must license the logo and follow the branding guidelines. Ethisphere developed these guidelines in coordination with the Ethisphere community and by examining best practices from other organizations that review and recognize companies. Once licensed, the logo for that year may be used in perpetuity without additional fee.

Ethisphere receives revenue from conferences, event sponsorships, subscriptions to publications, advertising, membership groups, advisory services and licensing. No company that is honored with the World’s Most Ethical Companies designation is responsible for more than 3% of Ethisphere’s revenue. And no honoree may place advertising in the issue of Ethisphere Magazine that announces and highlights new honorees.

There is no connection between the two. Organizations are honored for their programs, practices, policies, and reputations as measured by the Ethics Quotient methodology.

Our mission is to define and advance the standards of ethical business practices that fuel corporate character, marketplace trust, and business success. We have a deep expertise in measuring and defining core ethical standards using data-driven insights that help companies enhance corporate character. We believe that this recognition program is important because corporate ethical standards must be set and measured and those who excel should be honored.

We strive to honor companies based on their body of work and not just one particular policy or program that is groundbreaking or admirable. Likewise, we don’t believe that one particular controversy, settlement, fine, regulatory action, or lawsuit necessarily disqualifies a company from being honored. That being said, these outcomes are taken into consideration during the evaluation time frame. How companies prepare employees for ethical dilemmas, how they respond to unethical or illegal actions once uncovered, and their general culture and policies are also considered in our evaluation.