US apparel giant VF Corp, Hong Kong-based sourcing specialist William E Connor & Associates, and retailer Marks & Spencer are the only apparel, sourcing and retail companies to make it on to the latest annual ranking of the world's most ethical companies.

The firms have all been named by the Ethisphere Institute, and are praised for their ability to influence and drive positive change in the business community and societies around the world and work to maximise their impact wherever possible.

"Over the last 12 years, we have repeatedly seen that those companies who focus on transparency and authenticity are rewarded with the trust of their employees, their customers and their investors," explains Ethisphere CEO, Timothy Erblich.

"While negative headlines might grab attention, the companies who support the rule of law and operate with decency and fair play around the globe will always succeed in the long term."

"At VF we believe that business success and social responsibility are interconnected," says its CEO Steve Rendle. "Our 65,000 associates around the world operate by this ethos every day, and this recognition is testament to their integrity, commitment and passion for doing the right thing across VF's global enterprise."

While for William E Connor & Associates this is now the seventh year in a row that the company has been included on the list. It is also one of only a few Asia-based companies to receive the award – and the only sourcing firm in the world to be featured.

The World's Most Ethical Companies assessment is based upon the Ethisphere Institute's Ethics Quotien (EQ) framework, which offers a quantitative way to assess a company's performance in an objective, consistent and standardised manner.

Scores are generated in five key categories: ethics and compliance programme (35%); corporate citizenship and responsibility (20%); culture of ethics (20%); governance (15%); and leadership, innovation and reputation (10%). All companies that participate in the assessment process receive their scores, providing them with valuable insights into how they stack up against leading organisations.

This year, the Ethisphere Institute has recognised some 135 companies from 23 countries and 57 industries who make up its list of the 2018 World's Most Ethical Companies.