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April 4, 2016

Covenant Health is the only Canadian company recognized as a 2016 World's Most Ethical Company by the Ethisphere Institute.

Ethisphere, a U.S. based firm, coaches and evaluates companies and institutions on how to define and create good ethical business practices.

Gordon Self, vice-president of mission, ethics and spirituality for Covenant Health, said Covenant turned to Ethisphere last year for an independent evaluation that would help enhance the health organization's ethical practices.

This year, Ethisphere evaluated 131 companies around the world, seven of them in health care. The companies are critiqued in five areas: corporate governance; compliance and ethics; culture of ethics; corporate citizenship; leadership, innovation and reputation.

Covenant Health did not meet all the criteria their first year. But they acted on Ethisphere's findings and this year changed their programs and policies to better meet their criteria. Each year, the criteria for recognition change.

The drive, said Self, is to raise the ethical bar of the health care organization. Covenant Health received the recognition because it "earned it and by commitment to quality."

Concerns in health care delivery are constantly evolving, he said.

One of the newer problems is human trafficking. Health care organizations must be mindful when a patient seeks care; the doctors and nurses must watch for signs the client might be at risk, or "that they are being trafficked, that their home situation might not be safe."

The evaluated companies must also have a global perspective so that they are not, by their purchases, perpetuating slave labour practices or other practices that violate human rights.


Another example focuses on Alberta's boom and bust cycle.

When an industry cannot meet its employment needs, sometimes it brings in labour from other countries, countries that need those people themselves. "That's not right or just," said Self.

Last year, the evaluators looked at the diverse population which Covenant Health treats. The suggestion was made to respond to that reality by preparing information in the patient's first language.

So now Covenant Health produces basic documents, such as pre-op information, "so they can make an informed decision and will know what they are getting into," said Self.

The translations include Spanish, Vietnamese, French, Punjabi and Mandarin.

The available translations will vary according to the ethnic makeup of patients at various Covenant Health facilities across Alberta.


To ensure ethical compliance in its various departments, Covenant Health has an online learning module for all staff. Should a problem arise, Covenant has a disclosure hotline, said Self. "If there is something wrong, we want to know about it."

To ensure privacy of the concerned employee, Self has a private email address.

The Covenant official said the organization is concerned that employees are treated fairly, and that it follows diversity inclusion policies.


The focus on creating a just workplace means employees have a voice in decision-making and succession planning, and are coached so they will "flourish in the workplace."

The result, he said, is lower staff turnover, high quality performance from staff and a stronger work culture.

Self noted that what is a first class practice one year may not be first class the next.


So the goal, he said, is "continuous quality improvement."

By participating in the Ethisphere evaluation each year, Covenant Health not only raises the bar for its own performance, but its innovations and new practices can be shared with other Ethisphere clients.

This rigorous scrutiny results in health care dollars being spent in an ethical and practical way, said Self.

"The outcome is good for people we serve," he said. "Our taxpayers get good quality care and we do not squander resources."