Company Snapshot: Conscious Capitalism- Core to The Container Store’s Success

The third of three Company Snapshots, these research-based pieces by guest author Jessica Guo look at aspects of successful companies that can be examined for strategy and information of benefit to both active businesses and the academics that study them. See our first company snapshot examining culture and values at Costco and our second company snapshot looking at how values around sustainability and responsibility drive culture and integrity at Patagonia.


Company Snapshot: Conscious Capitalism- Core to The Container Store’s Success

According to a 2012 study by the global management consulting firm Hay Group, retail stores typically see turnover of 67% in part-time employees. Yet the Container Store, a leading storage and organizational products retailer, boasts an annual store employee turnover rate of only 10%.

The Container Store’s employee satisfaction translates directly into bottom-line success: the company has grown from a founding $35,000 investment in 1978—about $131,000 in today’s currency—to earn over $800 million in net sales in FY 2017. “A good capitalist will see the value of what we’re doing,” co-founder Kip Tindell says. “We would not be as profitable if we did less for our employees and vendors.”

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Company Snapshot: “Don’t Buy Our Products” – Ethics at Patagonia

The second of three Company Snapshots, these research-based pieces by guest author Jessica Guo look at aspects of successful companies that can be examined for strategy and information of benefit to both active businesses and the academics that study them. See our first company snapshot examining culture and values at Costco.


Company Snapshots: “Don’t Buy Our Products” – Ethics at Patagonia

When asked what he thought made a good company, Yvon Chouinard replied with one word: responsibility.

Despite being the founder of a retail consumer brand company Patagonia, Chouinard is also a conservationist who advocates for anti-consumerism. He believes that Patagonia has “made a contract with our customers to make clothing as responsibly as possible.” To that end, Chouinard actively encourages his consumers to “think twice before you buy a product from us. Do you really need it or are you just bored and want to buy something?”

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The Ethics & Compliance Initiative Partners with Ethical Systems

ARLINGTON, VA, February 7th, 2018 – The Ethics & Compliance Initiative (ECI), the nation’s oldest ethics research and best practice community, today announces a partnership with Ethical Systems, a research collaboration comprised of the nation’s leading scholars specializing in the study of ethical culture and behavior in organizations.  As two respected thought leaders who share a common interest in advancing the highest standards of ethical behavior in organizations, this partnership will provide a platform for both parties to conduct joint research, to develop new metrics, and to expand their reach with new insights that will shape best practice in organizational ethics. 

“This partnership has great promise to significantly enhance our understanding of the importance of ethics and culture in organizations,” said Patricia Harned, ECI’s CEO.  “ECI is delighted to be able to work closely with the most highly regarded scholars in our industry, and we look forward to the collaboration that we know will benefit organizational leaders and students in higher education.

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Company Snapshot: At Costco, Culture is King

The first of three Company Snapshots, these research-based pieces by guest author Jessica Guo look at aspects of successful companies that can be examined for strategy and information of benefit to both active businesses and the academics that study them. Additional Company Snapshots will be published on Mondays for the next two weeks.


Company Snapshots: At Costco, Culture is King

“Culture is not the most important thing in the world. It's the only thing.” 

According to Jim Sinegal, founder of retail giant Costco, the company’s culture drives its business strategy. Costco’s success turns on its ability to recognize and respect what Sinegal calls “what we stand for in the customer's eyes, and what we mean to all of the stakeholders in our business.” Those core tenets include putting the customer first, rewarding its employees, and valuing its suppliers.

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Featured Expert Pat Harned, CEO of the Ethics and Compliance Initiative

Featured Business Ethics and Leadership Expert Pat Harned, CEO of the Ethics and Compliance Initiative


For many years, ECI has been a leader in providing research, resources and communities of practice for business ethics leaders. What do you see on the horizon for the organization as it helps companies elevate their E&C programs?

It has been an honor for us to be able to work alongside some of the finest practitioners who are dedicated to establishing and maintaining a high standard of integrity in their organizations.  We intend to continue providing these practitioners new insights from research, and new benchmarks on the drivers of ethical cultures.  We will also be launching even more ways for professionals to exchange ideas and to advance best practice.  ECI is also working with a group of practitioners to develop a maturity model of E&C programs, based on our recent Blue Ribbon Panel report on High Quality Ethics & Compliance Programs. Our expectation is that this new resource will help companies to further assess and improve their programs.  

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Under Pressure: Wells Fargo, Misconduct, Leadership and Culture

Consistent with our mission to bring timely and relevant research to the business ethics community, Ethical Systems has just published a new electronic resource: Under Pressure: Wells Fargo, Misconduct, Leadership and Culture [updated May 2018 to include a new Executive Summary and further details about the case]

This case study, created by Bharathy Premachandra, our 2017 Bryan Turner Intern in Business Ethics, with Azish Filabi, Executive Director of Ethical Systems, spotlights the lessons learned from the recent scandal at Wells Fargo around false accounts, inflated sales targets and misguided directives from bank executives.

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New Behavioral Science One Sheet: Goals Gone Wild

Ethical Systems has released our newest Behavioral Science One Sheet, created in partnership with the Notre Dame Center for Ethical Leadership.

Our Winter 2017 one sheet on Goals Gone Wild encompasses the concept of goal setting and how doing so can inadvertently lead to unethical behavior in organizations. We credit Professor Lisa Ordóñez of the Eller School of Management for her work helping both introduce the topic to the academic field and her work crafting the text on this informative one sheet. 

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Prioritizing Social Responsibility in Companies: A coming firestorm?

In a development that Andrew Ross Sorkin of The New York Times believes will cause “a firestorm” in boardrooms across the country, Larry Fink, the CEO of BlackRock has sent a letter to the chief executives of the world’s largest public companies urging them to prioritize their company’s social responsibilities.

Sorkin writes that this is likely to be a watershed moment for American companies, given BlackRock’s position as one of the largest investors in the world with more than $6 trillion under management through 401(k) plans, exchange-traded funds and mutual funds.

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Whistleblower: Companies Need to Encourage Speak-Up Culture

Maria Lemos Stein recently interviewed noted consultant Wendy Addison, Founder and Chief Executive of SpeakUp SpeakOut, in The Wall Street Journal. Addison is also known for her personal role as a whistleblower on fraud and corruption in 2000 regarding LeisureNet Ltd., whose joint chief executives were convicted of fraud in one of the biggest corporate scandals in South Africa

Addison promotes a speak up culture as the method by which companies develop an environment where problems are acknowledged and solved transparently, and before a problem becomes widespread. That way, she asserts, companies avoid the fines, reputation loss, and other negatives associated with more public scandal. Further, the person or group reporting the issue does not face internal retribution because speaking up is encouraged at all levels of the organization.

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Featured Ethics Expert and Culture Architect: Caterina Bulgarella

Featured Interview: Caterina Bulgarella PhD, Culture Architect and Ethics Expert

What are your current areas of work and research?

Both my work and research focus on organizational culture. Over time, this work has become one and the same with building ethics in organizations, consistent with the evolution companies have been going through over the past 10-15 years. Ethical behavior underlines a powerful cocktail of ingredients (e.g., self-regulation, moral awareness, ability to ‘self-organize’ in the face of missing information, etc.). These human qualities and behaviors are also what organizations need to master the unprecedented level of complexity and change they face today. 

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