From fair trade fashion to eco-friendly packaging and game-changing renewables, these companies champion ethical business practices and meaningful change for a more sustainable future.
Below, we showcase the Australian ethical organisations making waves worldwide and explore how you can step up your game when it comes to doing better business.
Here is our list of top performers who walk the talk through mission-driven policies, procedures and company culture to have a real-world impact in their spaces.
These companies are B Corp certified and we’ve chosen them due to their proven ability to meet high standards of social and environmental performance, transparency and accountability.
Let’s dive in.
Home to Australia’s first community-owned wind farm, Hepburn Energy has been driving change in the energy and renewables sector for over a decade. Its iconic wind turbines in regional Victoria provide electricity to over 2,000 local homes that once relied heavily on coal-fired power.
A powerhouse by name and nature, Hepburn Energy has been consistently recognised in B Corp’s Best for the World list every year since certification in 2016. It can hang its hat on:
Now a member-owned co-operative, the company continues to advance its solar energy and battery storage efforts.
Etiko, derived from the Greek word for ‘ethical’, leads the way in feel-good fashion and footwear that is fair trade, organic and vegan.
The first brand of its kind in Australia, the company is respected for its unwavering commitment to minimising waste and reducing its environmental impact while flying the flag for fair trade fashion.
The company’s mantle is overflowing with accolades, including the highest-ranking brand from 2013–2021 in the Australian Ethical Fashion Report, along with:
Etiko runs a used fashion Take Back Program and continues to support worthwhile charities, like Save The Children, Sea Shepherd and The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre.
Aptly named, Australian Ethical Investment (AE) puts its money where its mouth is to pursue a ‘world where money is a force for good’. Driven by purpose and not just profit, the company says no to investing in animal testing, human rights abuses, uranium mines, gambling and big tobacco.
According to their 2022 annual report, AE’s portfolio boasts 77 per cent lower CO2 intensity for listed companies and 5.6 times more investment in renewables and energy solutions than the industry benchmark.
The company won SuperRatings Infinity Award for Best Sustainable Super Fund three years in a row and was crowned Best for the World Honourees for customer and governance by B Corp in 2022.
Catering to environmentally conscious consumers, BioPak is a market leader in eco-friendly food packaging that ‘puts the planet first’.
Chances are, you’ve nibbled salad from one of their innovative BioBowls or sipped freshly roasted coffee from a takeaway cup designed to be commercially composted as part of the circular economy.
While BioPak has met its fair share of composting and recycling challenges, they remain a trailblazer for sustainable packaging made from mostly renewable materials.
In 2022, BioPak’s efforts:
The company has won a raft of packaging and stewardship awards and donated over $3.5 million to community partners via its Give Back Fund since 2012.
Outland Denim is an Australian fashion brand focused on creating premium-quality denim products to support survivors of human trafficking and help break the cycle of modern slavery.
The brand, which has established a cult following and is worn by celebrities, employs a small team in Australia and more than 126 team members in Cambodia who produce denim products that:
As one of only 10 businesses honoured in the 2019 CO Leadership Awards, they continue investing in research, waste management and education programs for the greater good.
Ethics are the driving force for impactful change that guides behaviour and decision-making for individuals and organisations. So, what makes a company ethical?
Ethical companies consider the impact of their actions and decisions to ensure they can generate profit while doing good for stakeholders and society.
“A lot of people think about ethics as a philosophy, but the word ‘ethics’ is actually a verb — it’s what we do that matters,” says David Penglase, author and corporate ethics educator.
“Everything we say and do sends a clear message about who we are and what we represent. And for that reason, understanding ethical or moral behaviour has become important for leaders and everyone within the organisation.”
A 2022 report by the Governance Institute of Australia showed that Australians hold high ethical expectations for action, particularly around climate change, and that trust in business is trending downwards. Paired with research revealing that 9 in 10 Aussie consumers are more inclined to buy ethical and sustainable products, it’s easy to see why companies need to prioritise ethics to win back trust.
“If organisations want to raise profitability and overall success by whatever measure,” says Penglase, “they need to build trust across all realms of an organisation. Trust impacts almost every measure of success in our professional and personal lives.”
When moral standards are skewed or not well considered, several ethical issues can emerge in business.
According to Penglase, the biggest issue facing many companies is that often, ethics only come into question when a problem arises.
The list of ways a business can become more ethical is endless, but this list serves as a good starting point.
Taking ethical action isn’t just the right thing to do — it’s also good for business. As an owner, manager or aspiring leader, it’s important to understand the principles of ethical behaviour and how to apply them in the workplace.
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