Tuesday, March 23, 2010

23 MAR 10: Pure as the Driven Duck

Don't you love the folks at Aflac? Every time the company receives every kind of honor, they issue a news release which seems to get on every evening newscast. It's almost like that auxiliary campus had to be built to hold all the plaques.

Monday's big announcement was that Aflac has been named one of the "World's Most Ethical Companies." If you're going to make a statement like that, you had better pass a fact-check - else you'll have "duck egg" all over the face.

Aflac actually was named one of the World's Most Ethical Companies for the fourth year in a row. If the company's ethics are that strong, it needs to start offering full health insurance and prove House Republicans wrong.

The ethics title was awarded to Aflac by Ethisphere magazine. Ever heard of it? Neither had I. Ethisphere sounds like something Ethiopian runners use to train for the Boston Marathon.

Ethisphere actually is a quarterly publication from a "think tank" which focuses on business ethics and corporate "social responsibility." Uh oh -- Glenn Beck might see that last phrase and call on Aflac employees to flee.

Ethisphere honored three insurance companies as the "World's Most Ethical" this year - not only Aflac, but companies based in Wisconsin and Switzerland. It's hard to believe our "Bible Belt values" somehow made it to places that cold....

But here's the thing - companies nominate themselves for the title "World's Most Ethical." It's not exactly customer-driven, as the Ledger-Enquirer "Readers' Choice" awards are. But then again, the companies aren't trying to be named World's Most Humble.

While companies have to fill out surveys explaining their ethics policies, that's really no guarantee all is well at the top. I couldn't resist checking Ethisphere's first list of the "World's Most Ethical" from 2007 - and find it included Toyota.

Considering Aflac values ethics so highly, it's been surprisingly mute about the antics of the NASCAR driver it sponsors. A corporate statement says it trusts Carl Edwards's intentional crashing of an opponent in Atlanta "was handled appropriately." It calls the wreck simply an "on-track incident" - if it claims adjusters are still trying to determine if Aflac really has to pay damages.

The title of "World's Most Ethical" was given to Aflac less than a month after it was named a "Most Admired Company" by Fortune magazine. With titles this lofty, corporate executives might want to consider taking over Beacon Seminary.

Amazingly, a check of the Ethisphere home page Monday night found a featured essay by Aflac Chair Dan Amos. Trouble was, he wrote it 14 months ago - and he praises a "Say on Pay" vote by shareholders which hasn't been repeated in three years. Is Amos up for re-election next spring?

Hoping you have an ethical and enjoyable day, let's see what else made news Monday....

+ The high temperature in Columbus was a not-so-nifty 50 degrees F. That was a record low for the day - giving coffee shop owners hope of one more week with big profits, before spring comes.

+ The Josh McKoon campaign released a list of public officials who have endorsed his State Senate campaign. The most surprising name on the list to me is Muscogee County Sheriff John Darr. Undercover officers must have informed him no Democrats are running for this seat.

+ Georgia Congressman Nathan Deal finally resigned - a resignation delayed two weeks so he could vote against health care reform. As tense as that vote was, he probably left office with a raw Deal....

(WRBL's late news showed Deal now is seeking the "Republication Nomination" for Governor. Republication domination has yet to spread across the nation - but Republication in this location is a different operation.)

+ Alabama Attorney General Troy King fired anti-gambling task force commander John Tyson. Then Tyson announced he won't leave office, and has the support of Governor Bob Riley. If all these Republicans had been in Washington over the weekend, the winning margin for health care reform wouldn't have been close.

+ WTVM showed the Columbus State University women's soccer team preparing for a trip to England. Each player's luggage has a 50-pound limit - and that's probably what their spending limit should be as well.

+ Fired Auburn men's basketball coach Jeff Lebo was hired by East Carolina. Lebo was out of work nine days - so thousands of unemployed workers now want him to post his cover letter online, so they can copy it.

+ Instant Message to the Over the Mountain Touchdown Club of Birmingham: Wow - you finally named Nick Saban the college football coach of the year? In late March?! Were you waiting to see how well Alabama started spring drills?

BURKARD'S BEST BETS: FREE pastries with a beverage until 10:30 a.m. at Starbucks.... FREE ice cream cones from 12:00 noon - 8:00 p.m. at Ben & Jerry's.... and FREE warning messages to both companies about obesity from Michelle Obama....

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