Honest Corporate Executive
"We were trying to decide which of two cities to move to. Both were on either side of the river we needed to use. As it turned out, because of wind and river currents, most of the air and water pollution would go to the town on the other side of the river. It was also a poor community, and the richer one was offering some very attractive tax benefits which the other (poorer) town couldn't afford. In the end, we decided to choose the poorer community so it would get more of the job and tax benefits even though it cost the company a little, because it was the right thing to do."
— Company profiled in the book ''In Search of Excellence."
This is a powerful businessperson who is not willing to profit at the expense of sacrificing their moral principles such as business/social ethics, corporate responsibility, or protecting the environment. Extreme examples may even do so in spite of great detriment to their business operations.
The question then becomes: if he succeeds, then how does he do it? Perhaps he's a Benevolent Boss
who attracts and retains high quality employees. Maybe his success lies in making every effort to outdo his rivals by providing better products and services than they do. The spirit of competition drives him to excel.
There's also the possibility that even though the HCE may be a good person, he can still play hardball
in his business operations. He might not try to sabotage his competition or cheat his customers, but if you leave a loophole in a contract that you sign with him he will
make use of it. Finally, he could stay ahead of the curve by living on the line between genius and insanity
He will likely be contrast with his Evil Counterpart
, the Corrupt Corporate Executive
and the differences in their approaches could be a central theme of the work. In the poorly handled cases, the Corrupt executive can turn into a Card-Carrying Villain
or making the Honest executive's business savvy an Informed Attribute
. After all, even if the corrupt executive is motivated purely by greed, you would think he wouldn't Kick the Dog
unless it was profitable.
If the Honest executive is doing better it could be because he's more talented businessman, whereas the less-talented Corrupt exec needs to "cheat" to succeed. It's also possible that the Corrupt executive gets ahead through cheating or otherwise being unethical to achieve more immediate success, but the Honest executive wins in the long run
because his customers prefer his dependability and/or his employees are more motivated.
Often (but not necessarily) also a Reasonable Authority Figure
, Uncle Pennybags
, and/or a Benevolent Boss
. If he's part of the minority in his organization that are trying to resist the rest's rampant corruption
, he would probably be also a Internal Reformist
. If he's given the chance to act corrupt
, expect him to say Screw the Money, I Have Rules!
. May teach An Aesop
that Good Pays Better
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Anime And Manga
- Despite jokes thanks to the Abridged Series, Seto Kaiba from Yu-Gi-Oh! becomes one of these after Yami beats the evil out of him in the Death-T arc. Even before then, his entire backstory centered on him taking a weapons company and dismantling it to break into making games for children. His adoptive father, Gozaburo, while an abusive bastard at home, also seems to have been one, if in the morally dubious field of arms dealing. This makes for a contrast with the KaibaCorp board of directors, The Big Five, Duelist Kingdom Big Bad Maximillion Pegasus, and KaibaCorp Grand Prix Big Bad Siegfried von Schroeder, all of whom are willing to be as underhanded as possible to make a profit.
- Pegasus also develops into this by Yu-Gi-Oh! GX, to the point of becoming the closest thing to the Big Good in the series.
- Yoshino, the head of the Poseidon delegation in Appleseed Ex Machina. When Poseidon becomes aware that their loose phlebotinum is causing all the trouble, she and her corporation are more than willing to help clean up the mess.
- Disney Ducks Comic Universe has Scrooge McDuck. Call him a greedy bargainer, call him a slavedriving taskmaster, call him an exploitative manipulator... but he prides himself on earning his fortune "square" without being a dishonest and immoral businessman — unlike his Evil Counterpart, Flintheart Glomgold. Typical Depending on the Writer and Characterization Marches On caveats apply.
- DC Universe:
- Tony Stark, CEO of Stark Enterprises, is this once he quit being a weapons dealer. Well, in his "better" portrayals, at least; issues like his involvement in the events of the Civil War series cast doubts on the integrity of his corporate practices. But even as distasteful as weapons manufacturing is to a lot of people, he was a pretty honest guy with those, too. Making for the US Armed forces, not (knowingly) ever providing for terrorists, etc. For instance, in a famous story, "Doomquest," when Stark learned that an underling sold military tech to Doctor Doom, he instantly fired him, refunded Doom's money, tried to prevent Doom's minion from taking the goods anyway, and then personally confronted Doom in his own castle to get them back.
Tony is such a benevolent boss that he earns the absolute loyalty of his employees, who genuinely admire him and believe in him. Resulted in a Crowning Moment Of Awesome for the employees of Stark Industries in one storyline where a Corrupt Corporate Executive took over Stark Industries and Tony announces he's starting a new company from scratch; virtually the entire Stark Industries workforce quits, walk out on the new CEO, and eagerly go to join Tony at his new company, purely out of loyalty and respect for him.
- Richard Rich from Richie Rich.
- In Sonic the Comic, Charmy Bee after he bought out Crimson Cobra Inc ending the threat of the villian The Crimson Cobra.
- Watchmen has an odd example in Adrian Veidt, formerly the superhero Ozymandias. His leaps-and-bounds advantages over the presumptive competition and near-monopolistic control of the market were acquired purely through genius understanding of the zeitgeist and where people will be spending their money next, rather than through dishonesty and cheating. Of course, it turns out that he's a Well-Intentioned Extremist using the money he makes from this to fund a plan that ultimately kills millions of people and leaves even more mentally damaged survivors... but in doing so he completely ends the threat of nuclear war as far as the reader can tell. But he's still a personable and friendly Benevolent Boss who's genuinely saddened when his young secretary dies in a planned attack intended for Veidt himself, and he does make his funds legitimately and without personal gain as a goal in mind, so he technically counts here.
- Do note that Veidt ordered that hit on himself, so he was directly responsible for the young secretary's death.
Film — Animated
- Sulley becomes one at the end of Monsters, Inc..
- Austin Bux from Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer is very rich, and certainly not above commercialism, but is shown to be an all around decent guy and in the end promises to help Grandma Spankenheimer spread her store around the country.
- Bigweld from Robots is a happy-go-lucky inventor who's always looking for new ideas and who believes in an open-door policy. He ends up getting ousted by Ratchet, who takes the company in a newer, more cynical direction.
- Atlantis: The Lost Empire: Preston Whitmore is tremendously successful businessman who is very proud of the fact that he's going to the afterlife with a clear conscience.
Film — Live Action
- Mr. Clamp from Gremlins 2: The New Batch. He didn't like the idea of the genetic splicing, gives the vampire guy the job he always wanted, etc. And he helps save the day and builds a nice little suburb. "Clamp Corners, where life slows to a crawl".
- Like his comic book example above, the film-version of Tony Stark becomes this after returning from being kidnapped. Granted, he was never corrupt in either version; it's really more a case of his becoming proactive in his attempts to do good after he returns from his experience, having learned to appreciate his life more.
- TRON universe: Walter Gibbs was more interested in science and development than day-to-day operations of his company. Unfortunately, that gave Dillinger an opening. Flynn takes down Dillinger and gets to be one of these. TRON: Legacy rolls around and Alan Bradley is crossing this with Only Sane Man in the Encom boardroom. Fortunately, Sam did some needed growing up and will be taking his dad's old position after all.
- Jeffrey Wigand, the tobacco company executive in The Insider who blows the whistle on his company's suppression of scientific evidence about the harmfulness of smoking.
- The title character in Jerry Maguire suffers a crisis of conscience at the beginning and becomes determined to do right by his clients.
- Mr. MacMillan in Big.
- In Hotel Rwanda, the Belgian hotel executive played by Jean Reno is horrified by what is going on and does everything he can to aid his employees.
- The Dark Knight Rises has Bruce Wayne drains his companies' finances into creating a clean and sustainable power source to solve the energy crisis. When he realises the new fusion core's technology could be used to create a weapon of mass destruction he essentially bankrupts Wayne Enterprises by claiming the project failed rather than risk it falling into the wrong hands.
- This seems to be a case of Like Father, Like Son as Thomas Wayne almost ruined the company as well when he set about trying to help the city out of an economic crisis. His efforts (and his tragic death) did make a difference much to Ra's Al Ghul's annoyance.
- In RoboCop (1987), "The Old Man," chairman of OCP, seems to be this in the first movie, but morphs into a Corrupt Corporate Executive in the second.
- Airframe has Casey Singleton, an executive at the Norton Aircraft Company, who's tasked with investigating the cause of a deadly incident involving one of their planes. Though she tries to do the right thing throughout, toward the end she's turned up nothing beyond some videos of the terrifying ride, she's being hounded by reporters, and she's been set up by her own superior to take the fall if the plane is discredited.
- Atlas Shrugged: Hank Rearden, Dagny Taggart, Ellis Wyatt, really most of the main heroic cast. In Ayn Rand's philosophy, the honest industrialist is one of the most noble figures a person can aspire to be.
- In A Christmas Carol, whatever faults Ebenezer Scrooge has, the book makes clear that being a dishonest businessman is not one of them.
- In Tom Clancy's Debt of Honor, Founder/Chairman of the Columbus Group of mutual funds George Winston is practically a saint, as are most of the Wall Street executives in the story.
- The protagonist of One Trillion Dollars by Andreas Eschbach tries to be one of these. Mostly, he fails due to not understanding what consequences his actions actually have, but the intention is there.
- Julia Evans in the trilogy by British sci-fi author Peter F. Hamilton about psychic-detective Greg Mandel. She inherits the Mega Corp. Event Horizon at a very young age and thus still has her youthful idealism, keeping most of her industry in Britain to provide work and a strong economy (though this also increases Event Horizon's power and influence within the country, giving her a stable power base) and quashes potentially harmful technologies rather than make a profit from them.
- Although Klaus Hauptmann was perfectly willing to threaten Honor Harrington by using his corporate power and wealth after she catches smuggling on his ships (to the point where she promised to kill him if he carried out his threats against her parents' careers), she doubts that he was involved or even knew anything about the smuggling or the ongoing treason involving some of his company's hardware because of his reputation as an honest, if ruthless, businessman and loyal Manticoran citizen. When the two of them eventually get over their differences, Hauptmann becomes a friend and business partner.
- The short story "An Honest Death" by Howard Taylor. A pharmaceutical company has discovered the secret to relatively cheap immortality in the synergy of three of their drugs. They quickly realize they can't profit off this; the second it becomes public knowledge, there will be a massive uproar and the government will be forced to nationalize it. If the company resists, they'll start the worst war in human history. Instead, they hire social engineers and game theorists so that they can "ride the wave" and find a way to profit off the world transitioning to an immortal society. And then Death shows up and tells them to stop.
Live Action TV
- Michael Bluth from Arrested Development is this for the most part, although he occasionally slips up. It's especially admirable in contrast to how his (now imprisoned) father handled the position.
- Oliver Queen on Smallville, in sharp contrast to Lionel Luthor, Lex Luthor (who used to be this trope in the early seasons before becoming corrupt later on), and Tess Mercer. He may be a deeply screwed-up Broken Ace, and he has no problems with throwing his weight around, but his money was all made legitimately and he despises the way that companies like LuthorCorp treat the world as if it were their own personal stripmine.
- Later on, Ollie is joined in this role by Tess Mercer, who undergoes a Heel-Face Turn and joins the heroes.
- Oliver Queen's stepfather Walter Steele in Arrow is one, in stark contrast to Ollie's mother Moira.
- Jack Donaghy of 30 Rock has gradually slid into this after spending the first season or so as a Pointy-Haired Boss CCE. Although he's far from being completely honest and loves playing hardball, he's been proven to be too fundamentally nice of a guy to be that other trope.
- Harold Finch and his partner Nathan Ingram in Person of Interest. Finch built a Machine that could surveil everyone to find threats to national security, and locked up the OS so tight nobody, not even himself, could access it and manipulate it. Nathan sold the Machine to the US Government for one dolllar because he believed that building it was his patriotic duty as an American citizen.
- Real Life executives on Undercover Boss invariably end their appearances with the promise to become a better example of this trope.
- Rare for 24, but its seventh season features an example with Doug Knowles, who tries to help Tony Almeida when he discovers the lengths to which Jonas Hodges was willing to go to harm the country. Unfortunately, things don't go well for him when Hodges finds out.
- At least one of the Silks in Black Market seems to think of themselves this way — though whether or not they're correct is open for debate.
- In the second Knights of the Old Republic, the Czerka docking manager became upset over the dirty actions of his boss and became an informant for the Telos Security force. His dirty boss wants him dead. TSF wants him to come out of hiding to testify against his boss. Your character decides his fate, of course.
- David Sarif is no angel and is certainly not afraid to use his wealth, charisma, and power to further his own goals. However, he is shown to care deeply about his employees, goes above and beyond to make quality products, has made an amazingly effective attempt to rebuild the devastated economy of 2020s Detroit, and genuinely believes in uplifting humanity through augmentation, epitomized by the billions he spends on research into making his single most profitable product, Neuropozyne(the Phlebotinum all augs are Dependent on), obsolete. This obviously makes him far more ethical than his adversaries, especially Zhao Yun Ru. Notable in that the aforementioned corrupt rival is doing much better than he is; not only does she dominate the market by cutting corners on products and spending the money on lawyers and bribes, acquire rival businesses by having mercs shoot up their facilities and frame him for unethical experiments while keeping her own well-hidden - but his government contacts all but openly admit that they're spying on him for her because they don't think he'll win.
- He is also probably the only CEO in Cyber Punk history who invoked The Men First when his personal supersoldier came to rescue him.
- Regal Bryant, from Tales of Symphonia is revealed to be the President of the neatly-run, efficient Lezareno Company, which owns a beach resort city, and provides the world with a vast array of quality consumer goods, from novelty Iron Maidens to high-quality handcuffs. Though he's in prison for murder when you first meet him, it's a bum rap. Turns out he's a disciplined, diplomatic, highly-intelligent gentleman.
- Mr. Torgue from Borderlands 2, in his own screwed-up Large Ham Cloud Cuckoolander Psychopathic Manchild way. A Self-Made Man who built the Torgue corporation up from the ground, he is completely dedicated to the ideals that made the Torgue corporation great... Namely, that everything should explode and be as awesome as possible. He's still a Bad Boss who treats his employees like crap and tried to blow up his own board of directors (alongside himself... And the planet they were on... He thought it would be cool), but it's mainly because he's just too dumb outside of the weapon-crafting thing to know any better. However, a later DLC shows that Torgue has since sold his corporation to his shareholders for $12 and a high-five and is simply a spokesperson and by the end of said DLC is fired by the actual president of Torgue Corporation, who has decided to not put up with his bullshit any longer.
- It is also hinted that Jeffery Blake, Vice President of Hyperion is a lot less evil than Handsome Jack. In the Claptrap DLC of the first game, Blake is portrayed as fairly reasonable and honest to the Vault Hunters (if openly contemptuous of them) and rewards them properly after all's said and done. While you only hear him in ECHO Logs in the second game, a few of them show that not only did he get Dr. Zed to move to Sanctuary so that he wouldn't be killed by Hyperion forces but years ago he tipped off TK Baha about assassins sent to kill him and suggested that he move to a remote location.
- Reeve Tuesti of Final Fantasy VII is an example of the beleaguered Internal Reformist surrounded by Corrupt Corporate Executive types: President Shinra believes in controlling the world with money, and later his son Rufus prefers ruling through fear. The head of the Science department can only be described as a Mad Scientist, and the heads of Public Safety (read:military police) and Weapons Development are both General Rippers. Reeve himself is the head of Urban Development, not one of the departments that makes the company a great deal of money, and as such he has next to no influence on company policy...at least until he's ordered to become The Mole in the heroes' party via an animatronic cat he'd built as a hobby, and executes a neat Heel-Face Turn as soon as this is discovered.
- Arthur in the contemporary arc of Arthur, King of Time and Space, as shown here.
- When Kell accidentally takes over Herd Thinners in Kevin & Kell she tries to change the corporation's corrupt policies. It turns out the board of directors are still loyal to R.L. and waiting for him to recover from his injuries. Though when they oust Kell over 200 employees resign to join her new company.
- Ayla and the rest of the Goodkind family (minus Heather) in the Whateley Universe are both this, Benevolent Bosses, and Uncle Pennybags. They are the richest and most honest people on the planet, think nothing of giving their employees benefits that rival Google's, and fund many many public works projects. The rest of the Goodkinds, however, have other flaws.
- Also a good Reconstruction of this trope. Being honest WORKS! Note, however, that most of this is from Ayla's perspective...Ayla, however, is certainly an example.
- In Galaxy Rangers, a well-meaning mining executive wants the Rangers to hunt down Space Whales that are threatening his miners. It's nothing against the whales, but he wants his people protected. When the Rangers and Space Peace (an Affectionate Parody of Greenpeace) find an alternate solution where the whales avoid areas with mining in progress and leave behind a hydrocarbon gas that can be used as rocket fuel, the executive is delighted about everyone coming out ahead.
- Hiroshi Sato from The Legend of Korra became one of the richest men in Republic City from running a legitimate business. He's apparently passing on his ethics to his Spoiled Sweet daughter.
- Subverted in that he's not only an Equalist, but also because he framed his competitor, Cabbage Corp, making him abhorrently immoral.
- Played straight with his daughter, Asami, when she assumes control over the company.
- The Eccentric Millionaire Varrick from Season 2 initially seems like this; there's some unsavory rumors, and he will resort to bribery to re-rig a Kangaroo Court, but he's been a decent ally to Korra nonetheless. Later on, he proves to have been manipulating the war so that he can potentially profit from it, even secretly bankrupting Future Industries so that he could buy it out from Asami.
- Jerrica Benton, a.k.a. Jem is the owner of the Starlight Music label, and not only does she do all her business dealings fairly but she also uses the profits to fund Starlight House foster home for young girls.
- Bruce Wayne from Batman: The Animated Series certainly counts. He is seen many times to be Reasonable Authority Figure with his employees and cancels several deals with other companies after discovering their dirty secrets as the Dark Knight.