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Report: 12 'least ethical' companies in the world

A Swiss research firm called Covalence has released its list of the 12 least ethical companies in the world, which is a fine starting point for a number of debates.

According to the Huffington Post, which brought this list to my attention, "The data encompass 45 criteria that include labor standards, waste management and human rights records. And because it is a reputation index, the Covalence survey also incorporates media, industry and NGO documents into its evaluation."

Some starting points for our debate:

1. Can ethics be ascribed to a corporation, an organization or any multi-cellular organism or are they solely an individual trait?

2. Is there any value in a company being considered ethical?

3. One man's lack of ethics is another man's budget-consciousness. For instance, Euro budget airline Ryanair makes the least ethical list because: "Employees of his company are reportedly forbidden from using the company's pens or charging their cellphones with its electricity." Penurious, perhaps. But unethical?

4. Covalence is Swiss? Aren't the Swiss famous for protecting tax cheats with secret bank accounts and now, trying to back out of agreements to turn over said tax cheats? Just sayin'.

Okay, what are the most ethical companies? According to the survey, IBM, Intel and HSBC top the list.

To see the slide show of the 12 least ethical companies, click here.

Follow me on Twitter at @theticker

By Frank Ahrens  |  January 28, 2010; 1:29 PM ET
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