Serving Society Is Good Business

This week, the Ethisphere Institute announced its 2016 list of the World's Most Ethical Companies. Ford Motor Company is the only automaker to earn the recognition. It is an award that celebrates doing the right thing and making the right choices every day, something that runs deep in the history of Ford.

My great-grandfather Henry Ford believed that a company should exist not simply to make a profit. His vision was to grow his business by serving people, including customers, employees and communities.

This broader corporate vision, in which multiple stakeholders are taken into account, turned out to be highly successful and is reflected in our commitment to making people's lives better. It has guided my thinking over the years, as well as a commitment to environmental sustainability which I believe is the most important long-term challenge for businesses around the world.

When I began speaking out about environmental issues several decades ago, many in the business world thought I was eccentric or naive, while others were skeptical of my motivation and sincerity. But those views changed as our company engaged more fully with environmentalists to discuss shared concerns not only about the customers and stakeholders of today, but also those of the future. We were able to make significant progress in designing and building more sustainable vehicles, which in turn, led to sustained success in the marketplace.

With service to customers, employees and community at our core, our ethical approach to business has provided a meaningful impact on our business performance. It also has been a major factor in the transformation and turnaround we have undergone in recent years.

Given the relationship between ethical behavior and reputation, the resulting impact in the marketplace is growing. While price, quality and convenience are primary drivers of purchase consideration, consumers increasingly want to know what a product stands for and the values of the company behind it.

We see this trend shaping the buying preferences for customers of all ages, and especially young people. Last year, 53 percent of the U.S. public made an effort to learn more about a company before deciding to do business with them, according to the 2015 Harris Poll Reputation Quotient. More than a third decided not to do business with a company based on what they learned.

As the only automaker to be named as one of the World's Most Ethical Companies for the last seven years, we are gratified to be recognized for our reputation at a time when how a company conducts its business is becoming just as important as the products and services it provides.

In the connected world of the 21st century, ethical behavior and good corporate citizenship are not just the right things to do, they also make good business sense. The most successful corporations of the future will move beyond short-term thinking and narrow self-interest to make the world a better place for all of their stakeholders.