Entry Guidelines

The Torch Awards for Ethics (Torch Award) honors companies whose leaders demonstrate a high level of personal character and ensure that the organization’s practices meet the highest standards of ethics, and consequently generate trust. These companies generate a high level of trust among their employees, customers and their communities. The award embodies the Better Business Bureau® mission of advancing marketplace trust.

These are the five available size categories based upon your number of employees:

  • 1 - 9 employees
  • 10 - 99 employees
  • 100 - 499 employees
  • 500 - 7,500 employees
  • 7,500+ employees

The nominated business must be located within the service area of the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Illinois. Check here for a list of counties served.

The Judging Process
The Torch Awards are presented in the November/December time period to businesses that have been nominated and then provide an entry packet for analysis by a team of outside judges from local colleges, universities and businesses. Remember, since the judges do not know your organization, your written submission (including examples, stories and documents) should provide a robust and accurate description of the organization’s culture.

Criteria for selection are based on the six Principles of TRUST!, established by BBB.

Entry Submission Requirements
To enter the Torch Awards competition, a business must first be nominated. Self-nominations are accepted. Businesses that have been nominated and meet eligibility requirements will be notified and provided information for online or hardcopy entries. You may nominate a buiness via our online nomination form.

We fully 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. Examples are merely provided as illustrations (not requirements) of possible content to demonstrate each Principle. We encourage you to find examples of your leaders’/organization’s practices that best exemplify each, or any, of the six Principles of TRUST! Completed Torch Awards entry materials must be sent via online form, email, sent with postmark, or delivered to the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois no later than September 7th, 2018.

  • Upload any supporting documents (description of practices, example stories of practices, policies, employee manuals excerpts, leader communications, etc.) in the “supporting" document sections (pages 4-9)
  • Include materials (mission statement, company communications and publications, news media articles, company advertising, letters of recognition or commendation, customer testimonials, and the like) that demonstrate the company's strengths regarding each of the


The following areas are the criteria used by the Torch Awards judges for evaluating entries. Relevant Topic Ideas are those subjects that you may wish to address, or include in your entry as substantiation for your statements.

Criteria 1: 
Leadership Commitment to Ethical Practices

Describe how leaders in your organization work to increase the manifestation of their own high character in the organization’s culture. Describe how these Ethical leaders show positive character traits are an essential guide to life and work.  

Relevant Topic Ideas:

  • A statement of the leader’s or leadership team’s personal code of ethics and how this code became personally significant.
  • A copy or formal code of ethics that has been adopted by management and/or the board.
  • A personal letter from the CEO/President or Owner that includes a 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 Practices

Tell us how your leaders reinforce and build a culture of trust. Showcase how leadership intentionally behaves and communicates with one another, employees and stakeholders in ways that are consistent with their beliefs.

Relevant Topic Ideas:

  • How new employees (including part-time or contract employees) are informed and/or trained in the company’s ethical policies.
  • How the CEO/President/Owner’s personal code of ethics is communicated to employees, vendors, or customers. 
  • How ethical practices are made part of the day-to-day operations of your organization through specific policies or training for employees, (or volunteers).
  • 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 relation’s 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 faced 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.  Show us how you establish and emphasize the “whys” of your organization – why work here, why be a customer, why be a supplier, why we are who we are?

Relevant Topic Ideas:

  • 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
  • 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.  How does your organization continually manage performance by establishing goals, measuring achievement and allocating just rewards?

Relevant Topic Ideas:

  • 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
  • Rewards and recognition that integrate performance and high character or ethical behavior.
  • How employees demonstrate accountability for performance and ethical behavior.
  • How innovation is encouraged and rewarded.

Criteria 5: 
Organizational Commitment to Ethical Human Resource Practices

Summarize how the leadership team adopts and implements human resource practices that prepare, continually support/recognize and provide opportunities for growth of all staff members.

Relevant Topic Ideas:

  • 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 systems that support the individual employee’s ability to perform.
  • Processes that insure meritorious selection of individuals for assignments and responsibilities.
  • Other practices that demonstrate leadership’s and/or organization’s commitment to individual employee.

Criteria 6: 
Organizational Commitment to the Community

Give examples of how the leaders or 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.

Relevant Topic Ideas:

  • Participation in industry organizations and activities to promote best practices
  • Programs, contributons, and activities that return value and support to your community
  • Examples of your ethical standards in the marketplace
  • Recognitions or acknowledgements by industry peers, trade associations, or communities
  • Contribution of funds, or in-kind services to community programs


For more information about the BBB Torch Awards, call
312-245-2643 or torchteam@chicago.bbb.org