By Jill Jaracz


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While big business may get a bad rap, with people joking about the fat cats on Wall Street, many companies strive to do good with their business. Several players in the global financial services industry that deal with credit cards have recently been recognized by the Ethisphere Institute for being among the world's most ethical (WME) companies.

The Ethisphere Institute is a New York-based international think-tank that works to create and promote sound ethical practices in the corporate world, including social responsibility, anti-corruption and sustainability. Since 2007, it's produced its WME ranking, which this year includes 145 companies across more than three dozen industries.

This year, credit card networks American Express and Visa made the list, as did payments processor TSYS. Three banks that also issue credit cards, Old National Bank, National Australia Bank and Westpac Banking Corporation, also based in Australia, were also included in this year's rankings.

American Express has the distinction of being on the list for all seven years of its existence, one of only 23 companies to have that honor.

TSYS is also returning to this year's ranking. "It is a tremendous honor for TSYS to be named, once again, to such a distinguished list," said Philip W. Tomlinson, chairman and chief executive officer, TSYS, in a statement. "We take great strides to promote and expect ethical business behavior in every aspect of our business. Our team members, partners and clients take pride in doing business the right way and leading by example in the payments industry."

Visa is a newcomer to the rankings. "Visa Inc. continues to set the bar within its industry for a number of its ethics programs," said Alex Brigham, executive director of the Ethisphere Institute in a statement. "As more companies each year strive for recognition, Visa Inc. was added to the World's Most Ethical 2013 by demonstrating its strong commitment to ethical practices."

Visa incorporates a Code of Business Conduct and Ethics into its corporate culture that all employees and directors must abide by in order to ensure honesty and integrity into its everyday business doings. Visa also has a Corporate Responsibility program to promote measures where Visa can use its expertise and resources to help communities and financial inclusiveness.

Old National Bank is making a return trip to this year's rankings, having debuted on the list in 2012. It's also received Ethisphere Ethics Inside Certification for the fourth consecutive year. "'Doing the right thing' is at the heart of our mission, vision and values. We believe it's the way we must conduct our day-to-day business if we're to deliver on our promise of consistently exceeding the expectations of our communities, clients, associates and shareholders," the company said in a statement.

National Australia Bank and Westpac Banking Corporation make up two of the 43 ranked companies that are based outside of the U.S. National Australia Bank has a specialized approach to corporate responsibility designed to give its customers value and good advice that comes from well-trained employees. Westpac incorporates a lot of community involvement into its corporate culture, which includes its own department that looks for ways to give back. One of its initiatives is a Matching Gifts program that generated over A$4.5 million in donations across Australia in 2013.

Ethisphere uses its proprietary Ethics Quotient framework to determine its annual list. The framework consists of five core categories that are given different weights in determining a company's overall score: Ethics and Compliance Program; Reputation, Leadership and Innovation; Governance; Corporate Citizenship and Responsibility; and Culture of Ethics.

Companies that are nominated or that have been previously ranked in the WME list are eligible for the current survey. These companies submit an Ethics Quotient Survey, which consists of multiple-choice questions that are designed to capture a company's performance in an objective way. Ethisphere then analyzes the results, conducts additional research and verifies its final list before notifying and announcing the winners.

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