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Good Business: 10 Companies With Ethical Corporate Policies

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It's not often that companies are celebrated for good behavior. Here are corporations with policies we can support.

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Between the cutthroat competition and questionable actions taken in order to extend profit margins, it's pretty easy to paint the corporate world in a negative light. However, there are plenty of companies out there that hold themselves to a higher standard and show respect for the world around them. From having the best employee benefits to the championing of education and the environment, this list honors the companies with stellar moral practices.
10. Salesforce.com
For years, Salesforce.com (NYSE:CRM) has been honored for its philanthropy and good practices. Through its Salesforce.com Foundation, the company has donated millions of dollars toward education grants and technology, and even discounts its services to non-profit organizations. The company also encourages its employees to get into the action by giving them six days off per year to do any type of charitable work they choose. Saleforce.com frequently ranks highly on lists of companies offering the best salaries and hourly rates for employees.
9. Starbucks
While some may argue that Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX) has no place on this list due to its competition-crushing business practices, the company's bad press shouldn't outshine what it does for society. While it isn't perfect, the company is often quick to fix its environmental problems, from greatly reducing the water it uses for its dipper well to using recycled paper in its cups. The company also encourages consumers to be environmentally conscious by offering a 10-cent discount to those who bring their own reusuable cups and giving free coffee grounds to consumers who want to use them for compost. Starbucks is also dedicated to its baristas, offering them full health insurance benefits and stock awards. In addition, like another controversial company on this list, the company is also a vocal advocate of same-sex marriage.
8. Goldman Sachs
Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS) could easily be seen as the most controversial pick for this list because of its business ethics. But its vocal support of marriage equality has earned it some merit in terms of social ethics. In February 2012, Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein appeared in a human rights campaign ad advocating marriage equality, much to the surprise of Wall Street. The move was not without consequence: It was reported that a high-profile client dropped its account with Goldman Sachs after the announcement, but the company has maintained its position. To those of you thinking that Goldman Sach's support of same-sex marriage is a way of buying goodwill, keep in mind that since at least 2008, the company has offered to completely fund its employee's gender reassignment surgery pro bono.
7. Ultimate Software
Another company that enjoys hero status for its treatment of its employees is Ultimate Software (NASDAQ:ULTI). Every year the company rises in the ranks as one of the best companies to work for because of perks like the 100% free health care it offers its employees, including complete coverage for all their dependents. The company also gives its employees an all-expenses paid vacation every two years. Ultimate Software is enjoys a great deal of diversity in its hiring practices -- at least 46% of its staff are women, and 33% are minorities.
6. NuStar Energy
It's not often that oil companies are thought of as ethical, but NuStar's Energy (NYSE:NS) treatment of its employees regularly lands it on lists of the best companies to work for. The company pays 100% of its workers' health insurance premium, and even matches 401(k) contributions up to 6%. In addition, the company has a strict no-layoffs policy, and lends its employees the corporate jet in times of crisis. Although it would have placed higher if it was a little greener, NuStar's commitment to its people is truly an example of its ethical policies.
5. SAS Institute
SAS Institute is another software company that is renowned for its employee benefits. Employees at SAS receive subsidized Montessori child care, unlimited sick time, and access to a free health center. The company also fosters a strong sense of community; its staff has intramural sports leagues, and the company has never had a layoff. SAS also supports education philanthropy, particularly programs that are dedicated to promoting science, technology, engineering, and mathematics programs for children. The company also encourages its employees to volunteer at various charities and even makes cash contributions to non-profit programs where the employees volunteer.
4. Patagonia
While most winter and outdoor clothing companies advocate environmentalism to some degree, Patagonia is dedicated enough to the cause to let it seriously affect its bottom line. In 1985, the company started the 1% for the Planet pledge and has consistently asked other companies to join it in donating 1% of its sales to help save the environment. Even more impressive is the fact that Patagonia, aware of the impact its business has on the environment, has frequently asked its consumers to refrain from buying its products if they don't really need them
3. Intel
Since 1988, the computer chip manufacturer Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) has been trying to bolster its reputation through its efforts to strengthen technological education. Through the Intel Foundation, the company hosts the Intel Science Talent Search and the international Science and Engineering Fair to help encourage STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education for young people. Intel is also interested in making these areas more diverse; the company has many donation funds and programs to encourage girls and underprivileged minorities to study in these fields. Employees of Intel also experience the company's dedication to education through a very strange corporate perk -- the company promotes or reassigns them to different fields and areas every 16 to 24 months, in the interest of making sure that workers never become bored with their roles, and encouraging them to explore new fields. Accepted employees are often told, "Welcome to your next five jobs."
2. Microsoft
Given the fact that it was started by Bill Gates, one of America's most generous philanthropists, it follows that Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) would do well in following his example. The tech company and its employees donate over $1 billion yearly to charities and non-profit organizations. If that wasn't enough, Microsoft's management and employee's have also decided to tackle America's IT professionals shortage through its TEALS program. Through the TEALS program, Microsoft employees are encouraged to volunteer at local schools to instruct students in computer science, in the hopes that it will inspire them to enter the technology industry. It's only natural that Microsoft employees would be generous people; in addition to being among the highest paid employees in America, they also enjoy a plethora of perks, including 100% coverage on their health care premiums.
1. Google
Although some may criticize the company, Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) regularly makes good on its motto: "Don't be evil." Through its Google Green Program, the company has donated over $1 billion to renewable energy projects, and has decreased its own footprint by using energy efficient buildings and public transportation. The company is also a staunch advocate of free speech, which can be observed from its frequent conflicts with the Chinese government. Google is also an open supporter of gay rights. Yet all this pales in comparison to Google's status as a paragon for employee benefits. Just to name a few, Google employees have access to free health care and treatment from on-site doctors, free legal advice with discounted legal services, a fully stock snack pantry and onsite cafeteria (staffed by world-class chefs, no less), and a free on-site nursery. With such a stellar record of social awareness and positive employee relations, Google is easily the best example of ethics in the corporate world today.
See also: Pride at Work: Best Companies for Gay Rights in Canada and the US.
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