BBB International Torch Awards

November 15, 2017

May 21, 2018

1 (703) 276.0100

Awards Description

Presented annually since 1996, the International Torch Awards for Ethics honor companies that demonstrate best practices, leadership, social responsibility and high standards of organizational ethics that benefit their customers, employees, suppliers, shareholders and communities. The award embodies the Better Business Bureau mission of advancing trust in the marketplace. The International Torch Awards are brought to you by the Better Business Bureau Institute for Marketplace Trust.

The International Torch Award for Ethics is open to all for-profit businesses in North America that provide goods or services to retail and/or wholesale markets. Non-profit organizations or businesses whose primary markets are local, state or federal governments are NOT ELIGIBLE for this award.

To enter the International Torch Award for Ethics, a business must first be a winner of their local BBB award program.  BBBs in Canada and the United States conduct local competitions, forwarding winning entries for consideration in the International Torch Award competition. If a local BBB does not have a business award program, businesses in that BBB’s service area are deemed ineligible to enter the International Torch Award program.

A company is not eligible if any of the following conditions apply:

They have not won an award from their local BBB business award program

  • They have been in business less than three years
  • They have earned less than a “B” rating from BBB
  • There are indications they have not met their financial obligations
  • They have been the recipient of the International Torch Award in the past three years

Key Dates

  • Deadline for entries: May 21, 2018
  • Winners announced: Mid-July 2018
  • Award Luncheon Ceremony: Tuesday, September 18, 2018 in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
How to Apply

All entrants for the International Torch Award for Ethics (ITAE) must first be winners of their local BBB business award program. If you have not won a local award, please contact your BBB to inquire about their business award program. BBBs in the United States and Canada conduct local competitions, forwarding winning entries for consideration in the International Torch Award competition. If a local BBB does not conduct a business award program, businesses in that BBB’s service area are deemed ineligible to enter the ITAE program. Click here to locate your BBB.

Judging Process

Entries for the ITAE will be reviewed by an independent panel of judges. Judges for the award program may request additional information from the business regarding any of the six judging criteria. If the nominee has been the object of a major lawsuit, including class action suits, or government actions in the past three years, information must be disclosed as part of the entry. Judges decisions are final.

Submission Requirements

Entries for the ITAE award must include a completed entry form, a two-page summary (maximum), and materials corresponding to the six judging criteria.

Applicants must:

  • Explain why the business merits consideration for the ITAE award in their summary
  • Highlight specific best practices in leadership character and organizational ethics relevant to the award (see judging criteria)
  • Illustrate the business’ commitment to standards that build trust in the marketplace
  • Submit entry form and supporting documentation either online (contact your BBB for online assistance), electronically, or by mail.
  • If you send your entry by mail, you are limited to a 2-inch, three-ring binder. Tabs must separate the binder into six sections corresponding to the judging criteria. Please do not use sleeves or staples in your binder.

Applicants should retain a copy of their entry. All entries become the property of CBBB and cannot be returned. If submitting a hardcopy of your entry, please forward up to five complete copies of the entry for the judges’ review. Entries may be sent to:

Council of Better Business Bureaus,
Attn: International Torch Award Coordinator
3033 Wilson Blvd, Ste. 600
Arlington, VA 22201

If you are sending an electronic copy, please send it to Sheila Adkins via email here.

Businesses may be asked to provide contact information for customers, vendors, and suppliers whom the judges may contact about the firm’s entry.

Businesses may also be asked to allow judges to conduct a site visit. To determine that the business is meeting financial obligations, judges may obtain a Dun & Bradstreet report.

**Legal Actions: If your business has been involved in major lawsuits, class actions or government action in the past three years, please provide a summary of the nature of the legal/government action. Recent independent auditor reports may be submitted in place of a summary. For large-size or publicly-traded businesses, copies of the two most recent annual reports will suffice.

Award Criteria

Award selection for the International Torch Award for Ethics (ITAE) is based on the following six criteria.  Businesses should keep in mind that in order to enter the ITAE they must first be a winner of their local BBB business award program.

We understand that no leader, nor their company, is perfect; each company is unique and has different experiences and policies.  Consequently it is not necessary for the applicant to address all of the suggested content for each of the six criteria listed below.  Examples are merely provided as illustrations (not requirements) of possible content to demonstrate each criteria.  We encourage you to find examples of your organization’s practices that best exemplify each, or any, of the six listed criteria.

CRITERIA 1: Leadership commitment to ethical practices

Ethical leaders know that positive character traits are an essential guide to life and work.  They strive to live and lead accordingly and they intentionally seek feedback in order to make personal improvements.

The following are suggested ideas for demonstrating this criteria (two or more are required):

  • A statement of the leader’s or leadership team’s personal code of ethics and how this code became personally significant.
  • A personal letter from the CEO/President or Owner that includes a personal statement of his/her commitment to ethical business practices.
  • Description or evidence of leaders’ participation in workshops/conferences or training in ethics.
  • Coaching/mentoring and feedback assessments that demonstrate that leaders seek to improve their ethical leadership practices.
  • How the leader(s) are transparent, value candor, or receive personal feedback from the organization, vendors, or customers (possibly including how such feedback has led to personal change).
  • Any public statement (speech, advertising, business material, or publication) of the leader’s commitment to ethics.
  • Cases/stories of leaders admitting error or the need for personal change, accepting responsibility, and taking corrective action.

CRITERIA 2: Communication of Ethical Practice

Leaders reinforce and build a culture of high character ethics.  The leader and leadership team intentionally behave and communicate with one another, employees, and stakeholders in ways that are consistent with their beliefs.  Their actions follow their words which intentionally reinforce the character culture of their organization and build a high performance business model.

The following are suggested ideas for demonstrating this principle (two or more are required):

  • How new employees (including part-time or contract employees) are informed and/or trained in the organization’s ethical policies.
  • How the CEO/President/owner’s personal code of ethics is communicated to employees, vendors, or customers.
  • Tools or activities that model, mentor, teach and reinforce defined character ethics as part of normal business/management practices.
  • Use of a character code or content in management/employee meetings.
  • Ethical practices/expectations documented in vendor relation manuals, customer policies, or stakeholder relations procedures.
  • What employees are taught/encouraged to do if others in the organization are not following the ethical code of the organization
  • How ethical behaviors of employees are identified and recognized.
  • Examples of ethical challenges faced and how they were resolved.
  • Common practices of identifying and/or addressing violations of the organization’s ethical code.
  • Examples of situations in which your organization demonstrated ethical decision-making. Include the dilemma or problem face by your organization, possible choices you had for resolving the issue, the pros, and cons of each option, any resources that were consulted, and the final outcome.


CRITERIA 3: Leadership Practices to Unify the Organization

Leaders unify the organization around clear purpose and compelling convictions.  The leader and leadership team, work consistently to ensure clarity of purposes and an adherence to clear convictions that motivate and unite stakeholders.  By doing so, they establish and emphasize the “whys” of an organization – why work here, why be a customer, why be a supplier, why be who we are?

The following are suggested ideas for demonstrating this principle (two or more are required):

  • How organizational statements such as “Vision”, “Mission”, “Core Business Values”, “Culture Description”, or “Business Purpose” have been created and/or are used to unite the team.
  • How these statements are shared with existing and potential employees.
  • Examples of training and policies that assist employees and corporate officers in carrying out ethical practices and behaviors.
  • Leadership practices or communications of progress or adherence to the vision/mission of the organization.
  • How feedback collected from the marketplace is used to assess the organization’s performance and focus employees on common issues.
  • How feedback from employees is utilized to make adjustments in organizational practices to better match the vision/mission or core values.
  • How recognition/celebration or other practices are used to unite employees and reinforce the mission or organization’s values.
  • Compensation systems/factors that help to unite workers.
  • Transparency of, and teaching of, management information and reports.


CRITERIA 4: Organizational Commitment to Performance Management Practices

Leaders guide organizational performance by implementing high competency management practices.  High character must be accompanied by high competency.  The leader and leadership team continually manage performance by establishing goals, measuring achievement and allocating just rewards.  They establish practices that represent their commitments to the future and the means for the organization to achieve those commitments.

The following are suggested ideas for demonstrating this principle (two or more are required):

  • The planning process, including time frames and the organizational levels that participate.
  • Practices in the use of clear measurements to evaluate progress, analyze performance and adjust plans to accomplish goals.
  • The processes/systems of establishing individual/team/department objectives or targets including time frames and responsibilities.
  • Practices using performance information to encourage, guide and motivate.
  • Samples of your advertising or promotional informational materials that you feel particularly exemplify your focus on ethical expression.
  • Accountability and compensation systems implemented for high performance.
  • Rewards and recognition that integrate performance and high character or ethical behavior.
  • How employees demonstrate accountability for performance and ethical behavior.
  • Unique budgeting or forecasting processes and unique performance metrics.
  • How innovation is encouraged and rewarded.


CRITERIA 5: Organizational Commitment to Ethical Human Resource Practices

Leaders prize the intrinsic value of people.  The leader and the leadership team adopt and implement human resource practices that prepare, continually support/recognize and provide opportunities for growth of all staff members.

The following are suggested ideas for demonstrating this principle (two or more are required):

  • Hiring practices that insure people are hired for character.
  • How employees are involved in hiring practices.
  • Unique systems and processes for training and preparing staff.
  • Practices and procedures to resolve ethical issues.
  • Any policies or procedures that specifically insure that employees are treated fairly, respectfully, and that workplace safety is ensured.
  • Mechanisms or procedures for employee professional development.
  • Termination practices that demonstrate respect of the individual.
  • How employees influence organizational practices and decisions.
  • Operational structures or systems that support the individual employee’s ability to perform.
  • Processes that insure meritorious selection of individuals for assignments and additional responsibilities.
  • Other practices that demonstrate leadership’s and/or organization’s commitment to individual employees.

CRITERIA 6: Organizational Commitment to the Community

The leader and leadership team transfer their ethical beliefs by their active engagement with their industry and the communities from which the organization derives its customers, workforce, vendors, investors, and governance.

The following are suggested ideas for demonstrating this principle (two or more are required):

  • How leaders/employees participate in industry organizations and activities to promote best practices.
  • Examples of programs, contributions, and activities that return value and support your community.
  • Examples of your reputation for ethical standards of behavior in the marketplace along with a list of recognitions or acknowledgments by industry peers, trade associations, or the communities in which you do business.
  • How employees are encouraged to, and recognized for, spending time in community service activities that the organization values.
  • Any contribution of funds, or in-kind services to community programs that is consistent with the organization’s values and character.
  • How the company’s advertising, operations, risk management, governance, and regulatory compliance behaviors are assessed against proven standards.
  • Proof of achievement with any industry benchmarks for high standards of business excellence.
Past Awards

Event/Gala/Luncheon Details

September 18, 2018

Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

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