Beware of ethics awards, yes. Stay away from? Lord, no.

Are there conflicts of interest at nationally known ethics awards consultants? Perhaps a better question: Are there people working there? If so, there will be conflicts of interest. Conflicts are--as Slate author Will Evans explains--reason to beware. We say, however, they're not a reason to run away. 

Let's agree that "beware" means one does not stumble naively about as though they were a Freshman at their first fraternity party. "Keep your eyes open, and do not accept drinks from strangers," are good advice at school and work. In the ethics realm, it's even simpler.

If the award can be bought, it's not worth the price. 

I called a recent candidate to interview her for the ethics award that I oversee. When I asked if she would have the time needed for our students to fully vet her organization, she asked me if a donation was involved. I replied no, we don't track donations, and that the students consider community involvement in generic terms. In other words, we take steps to avoid conflicts of interest like asking you to donate. 

She told me that many other "best of" groups commonly give a nice award after a nice check clears the bank. She confided that her company paid $2,500 for one. Perhaps you agree with me that award was overpriced. I told her that next time she might just stop by the trophy store and have one made for less than a hundred--you're still saving a ton of green.

On the other hand, if the award is not quid pro quo, it's worth it's weight in gold. It will make you money. 

Why you should go for an ethics award is not as complex as when to steer clear.

Seriously, a legit ethics award will increase your revenue. Ethical awareness from trying to meet award criteria, shines a light on one's ethical claims and behaviors. That tends to lead either to more ethical decision-making or more recognition of unethical decision-making. If the latter, you know who to train or fire. If the former, you know who to reward and promote. Either way,...

the scrutiny of an ethics award gives your team a measure against a less biased standard.

Of course, you need to evaluate the standard, but don't you agree that outside eyes are less biased than inside eyes? If we want to increase trust with customers, peers, vendors, management, and direct reports, good award criteria make it easier. Everyone wins.