Six insurance and financial services companies were recently cited as “The World’s Most Ethical Companies” by Ethisphere, a think-tank dedicated to the research and promotion of profitable best practices in global governance, business ethics, compliance, and corporate responsibility.

The companies—Aflac, Allianz, American Express, NYSE Euronext, Principal Financial Group, and The Hartford Financial Services Group— were among 91 selected from 10,000 companies worldwide that were reviewed in the past year.

According to Ethisphere, the judging process included reviewing the companies' codes of ethics, litigation, and regulatory infraction histories; evaluating their investment in innovation and sustainable business practices; and looking at activities designed to improve corporate citizenship. Judges included 21 executives, lawyers, government officials, and academics from around the world who specialize in ethical practices, such as Chris MacDonald, PhD, president, Canadian Society for the Study of Practical Ethics; and John Dienhart, PhD, director, Northwest Ethics Network, Seattle University.

In an article in Ethisphere magazine, Aflac CEO Dan Amos said the company’s transparent leadership and employee training programs have highlighted the role that ethics play in the company’s everyday business.

“Our ethics program is company-wide,” noted Amos. “It extends from the call center worker to the IT technician to the board room. You cannot work at Aflac without having taken an online course on ethics and privacy and every employee receives constant reminders of the Aflac way of doing business, which is to treat customers, stakeholders and colleagues with respect and dignity.”

Similarly, The Hartford was cited for its systematic effort to build a strong ethics and compliance program for its 31,000 employees. The expanded program focuses on ethical standards, including policies and practices to detect and prevent noncompliance. For more on the “2008 World’s Most Ethical Companies” click here.