While corporate executives aren’t always known for their altruism, many CEOs who use their wealth and fame for the greater good. To celebrate the executives who are guided by strong principles and motivated to do right by the world, we made a list of 10 of the most ethical CEOs. These CEOs have found ways to combine profits and purpose by focusing on human rights, sustainable practices, employee satisfaction, social justice, and more. While this isn’t a definitive or exhaustive ranking, our list does highlight the power that business leaders can wield to make a positive difference in the world.
1. Dan Price, Gravity Payments
Dan Price has caused a whole lot of controversy in the business world — but he didn’t mean to. He garnered himself and his credit processing payment company tons of media coverage when he unveiled his plan to raise Gravity’s minimum salary to $70,000. He funded this new project in part by cutting his own seven-figure salary down to $70,000 as well.
While not his intent (he calls the wage raise a “moral imperative”), the move has paid off, business-wise. According to a Nov 2015 article in Inc Magazine, Gravity’s revenue is growing at double its previous rate, and the company boasts an astounding 91 percent employee retention rate. Gravity also provides especially competitive pricing and a free website donation page for nonprofits
2. Sally Osberg, Skoll Foundation
As CEO of the Skoll Foundation since 2001, Sally Osberg is a leading voice in social entrepreneurship. Working with Skoll’s founder Jeff Skoll (the first president of Ebay), she guides the organization toward investments that will foster large-scale social change. Osberg founded the Skoll World Forum, which brings together the world’s greatest innovators and social entrepreneurs to brainstorm solutions to the globe’s toughest challenges. She co-authored the a book: Getting Beyond Better: How Social Entrepreneurship Works.
3. Michael Preysman, Everlane
Operating under the code of “radical transparency,” Michael Preysman founded a clothing company that bucks the typical business plan of producing middling quality goods manufactured by impoverished workers toiling in poor conditions. Everlane is completely upfront about what factories it chooses to work with. Executives regularly visit each factory and work with factory owners who treat their employees well. That’s good for workers — and customers. By foregoing brick and mortar shops, Everlane passes on savings to customers, going so far as to display the true cost and markup of every item sold on its site. It’s a simple idea that empowers customers to always question where their goods come from and how prices are set.
4. Jostein Solheim, Ben & Jerry’s
This iconic ice cream brand has never shied away from supporting social causes. In that environment, CEO Jostein Solheim has made his own mark. Under his leadership, Ben & Jerry’s became more committed to sourcing ingredients from Fair Trade certified partners, which guarantees that farmers are receiving fair wages and working conditions.
Solheim is also concerned about fairness in politics: a whole page of the Ben and Jerry’s website is devoted to issues of democracy, including voter registration and getting “big money” out of politics.
5. Oprah Winfrey, The Oprah Winfrey Network
Oprah Winfrey needs no introduction, but we’ll give her one anyway: as a titan of both the media and philanthropic worlds, she’s changed the lives of millions through her content and her causes.
Since founding and helming The Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) in 2011, she’s delivered some of the most inspirational and diverse programming on T.V. But being a relatively hands-off CEO means Oprah has plenty of time to work on her philanthropic passions, like the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Foundation for Girls in South Africa. The foundation graduated its fifth class in 2015. Many graduates earned scholarships from top colleges around the globe, proving that poverty can be overcome through education.
6. Kenneth I. Chenault, American Express Company
Taking over as CEO of American Express in 2001, Kenneth I. Chenault became one of the first African Americans to lead a Fortune 500 company. Compassion and openness have been hallmarks of Chenault’s leadership style: he makes a concerted effort to personally respond to every employee that reaches out to him.
Outside the office, Chenault takes his civic duty seriously. Chenault serves on the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness and on the council for the soon-to-open Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.
7. Indra Nooyi, PepsiCo
As CEO of the world’s second largest food and beverage company (as measured by revenue), Indra Nooyi remains committed to doing business the ethical way. She spearheaded the company’s “Performance with Purpose” initiative, which ties PepsiCo’s sustained financial performance to human, environmental, and talent sustainability. Nooyi’s efforts to lead with passion and purpose have been noticed, as PepsiCo was named to Ethisphere’s list of the World’s Most Ethical Companies for the 10th year in a row in 2016.
8. Marc Benioff, Salesforce
Marc Benioff, CEO of cloud computing company Salesforce, has been vocal about criticizing perceived human rights violations — including the recent law passed in North Carolina that restricts LGBTQ rights. He also actively encourages other CEOs to follow his lead on matters of social justice.
Benioff is at the forefront of corporate leaders who flex their economic muscle to influence legislators on important social issues. Benioff also integrates philanthropy into Salesforce’s business model, and offers discounts to higher education organizations and nonprofits.
9. Dan Bane, Trader Joe’s
After being called out by Greenpeace in 2010 for selling seafood products on its “red list” — a list of marine species the group says shouldn’t be made commercially available due to overfishing, destabilization of the ecosystem, or other factors — Trader Joe’s made a change.
CEO Dan Bane vowed only to work with suppliers who operate under sustainable fishing practices by 2012, and has since then worked to make many of the other items on the stores’ shelves green-friendly as well. Combine Trader Joe’s environmental efforts with its long-standing commitment to affordability (the company forgoes the industry-standard shelving fees charged to suppliers), and Bane gets top marks.
10. Andrea Jung, Grameen America
As the former CEO of Avon Products, Andrea Jung has long championed women’s causes, and she received the Clinton Global Citizen Award in 2010 for her efforts. While Jung’s tenure was not without its missteps, she did lead the Avon Foundation to its status as the largest women’s-focused corporate philanthropy outfit in the world. Now, Jung continues to fight for women as the CEO of Grameen America, a nonprofit microfinance organization that helps women in poverty around the world build their own sustainable small businesses.