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 (unless the affected party also profits in this manner). 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? It could be all that positive PR translating into repeat customers. 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 still plays hardball in his business operations. He might not try to sabotage his competition or cheat his customers, but if he spots a loophole in a contract you sign with him, he will have no issues using it to maximum effect. Finally, he could stay ahead of the curve by living on the line between genius and insanity.

He will likely be contrasted 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 a 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 an 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 
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!: Despite jokes thanks to the Abridged Series, Seto Kaiba 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.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! GX: Pegasus develops into this sequel series, to the point of becoming the closest thing to the Big Good in the series. Even then, his underhanded tactics in the original was more personal than buisiness.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Between Parts 1 and 2 Robert E. O. Speedwagon discovered oil and became insanely rich. He established the Speedwagon Foundation, invested his money into numerous successful business adventures, cared for his best friend's son and grandson, and invested countless dollars into helping the poor and hungry. In Part 2, he funds the fight against the Vampires, and numerous agents from the Foundation team up with the Nazis to banish the undead menace. From then on, the Foundation provides aid to the future heroes of Jojos, even after Speedwagon passes. In part 3, Kakyoin and Iggy have their serious wounds treated by a doctor from the foundation, and the Joestars can rely on them to fund transportation.

    Comic Books 
  • 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.
  • Another example from the Duckverse occurs in Darkwing Duck: When Launchpad McQuack is appointed as the new CEO of Quackwerks, he actually does a lot of good with the company and former Crimebots/now Herobots, until (in the Joe Books omnibus, anyway), he steps down during the "Campaign Carnage" arc.
  • 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.
    • When Tony fell way off the wagon and lost Stark International to Obadiah Stane, most of his key employees still sided with Tony and resigned from Stane. Rhodey and the Irwins later allowed a recovering Stark to join them in their new venture in California, which eventually led to Tony founding Stark Enterprises. In fact, the only major employee to stay on with Stane was security chief Vic Martinelli, who being in Witness Protection for standing up to the mob, didn't have a lot of options.
  • 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. 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 (doubly sad because he planned the hit for himself, making him indirectly responsible), and he does make his funds legitimately and without personal gain as a goal in mind, so he technically counts here.
  • The Transformers: G.B. Blackrock, owner and founder of Blackrock Industries. He's firmly on the Autobot's side, even giving them free fuel, after getting involved in their war when Shockwave attacks an oil rig he owns and cripples one of his best workers. At one point, he's asked to help a government agency find out more about the Transformers, and tries to tell them the Autobots are good. He's promptly kicked out for this.
  • Many Superhero stories feature Honest Corporate Executives who are targeted for everything from ransom kidnappings to sabotage by their crooked rivals, which necessitates the hero stepping in to help them. Occasionally, the Honest Executives themselves will cut out the middleman and become superheroes themselves, as noted above.
  • Archie Comics has Hiram Lodge, who has no problem forcing his daughter Veronica to "live like the little people."

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 
  • 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.
  • 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.

    Films — 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". Reportedly he was originally to be a full inversion, but John Glover was sick of playing villains and went against script.
  • 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.
  • 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
    • 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) made a difference, much to Ra's Al Ghul's annoyance.
  • In RoboCop, "The Old Man" chairman of OCP in the first movie seems to be this in comparison to the movie's Big Bad, but morphs into a Corrupt Corporate Executive in the second.
  • Jurassic Park: John Hammond truly believes in his vision of a theme park with real life dinosaurs. He doesn't like the blood-sucking lawyer and, when convinced that his park can never be made safe, abandons it. (Note that this was changed from the book, where he was more on the corrupt side of corporate executives, and it's one of the few changes to the book everyone agreed was for the better.)
    • John Hammond's nephew, Peter Ludlow, in The Lost World: Jurassic Park may be the film's Designated Villain even dipping into Villainy-Free Villain status because "all" he did was take the company from his uncle through the board of directors because it was nearly bankrupt. Using an existing source of dinosaurs that the company had made and was entitled to so that countless of people could retain their jobs (and their investments), and never doublecrosses anybody or bullies anybody into his service.
    • Many years later, in Jurassic World his Spiritual Successor Simon Masrani is very similar in fulfilling Hammond's dream, caring more about whether the dinosaurs and visitors are happy rather than profits. His problem was mainly biting off more than he could chew when he tried to breed an extra terrifying dinosaur for a new attraction and got killed for his trouble. It didn't help that his chief scientist and chief of security did a Face–Heel Turn.
  • Vickers in Prometheus is probably the only honest executive ever employed by the Weyland Corporation. She expresses concern over the cost of the mission crippling the company. She is the only one actively concerned about the lives of the crew and who takes adequate precautions against alien contamination. Not that it helps.
  • Pierce Brosnan's character in A Christmas Star genuinely wants to invest in the village the story is set in. He wasn't aware that his employee was going to demolish the area to make an amusement park. He fired him instantly when he found out.

  • 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.
  • Alice Adams: Mr. Lamb, who has kept Virgil Adams on the payroll throughout his illness, and tells him not to worry about coming back to work before he's ready. And apparently Virgil was pretty much dead weight at the factory even before he got sick, but Mr. Lamb considers Virgil a friend. So he's incensed when Virgil decides to open up a glue factory with the glue formula that he derived while working for Lamb.
  • 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.
  • In the Honoverse, Klaus Hauptmann is an arrogant, aggressive, judgmental and vindictive human being in general, but he is also scrupulously honest in his dealings as the head of the Hauptman Cartel, the largest commercial/industrial combine in Manticore. Part of it is just rolled up in his pride at his reputation of being the wealthiest individual in the system by legitimate means, but even Honor Harrington, who was so infuriated by his actions that she threatened to kill him if he followed through on a threatnote , acknowledged that he likely had nothing to do with the corruption and treason she had discovered on the part of some of his underlings. When Space Pirates begin to attack Manticoran merchant ships passing through the Silesian Confederacy, Hauptmann, who always claims to care for his employees, puts his money where his mouth is and instructs every merchant captain in his employ to present Hauptmann's generous ransom offer to any pirate who boards a Hauptmann merchant ship; even more than just the promise, he means it.
  • 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.
  • Elijah in Last Mage - his company is more of a safe, non-threatening to reality way to help people. And it fills the time.
  • Jean Valjean in Les Misérables. He becomes successful thanks to his new cheap method of manufacturing black jet while also managing to uplift the whole town's economy all the while taking care of his workers and even other people. He is so popular that he is elected mayor (after refusing the honour multiple times). He is wrecked with guilt after finding out that a woman he allowed to be fired based on rumours ended up destitute and eventually abandons his business to save an innocent man from prison.
  • Roarke in the In Death series is one of the wealthiest individuals in the world, with corporate interests in all kinds of sectors. He started out as a thief and a black marketeer, but by the time the series starts he's gone fully legitimate (when his police detective love interests asks, he remarks with tongue in cheek that he almost wishes he did still have some dirty business going so that he could give it all up for her sake). He treats his employees well and is quick to put a stop to any unethical shenanigans he discovers going on at the lower levels of his companies; in later books, he founds a shelter for victims of domestic abuse and makes sure that it stays well-funded and staffed by capable, caring people.

    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.
    • When Oliver takes over his parent's business, he is technically an honest executive, it's just that he cares more about being the Arrow than running his business which is how his company gets bought out from under him.
      • Ray Palmer falls into a similar trap. He starts off genuinely wanting to make Starling City a better place, but then decides the best way to deal with the many problems plaguing the city is become an Iron Man Expy. But unlike Tony Stark he doesn't keep an eye on his company.
  • 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.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Bullet Club's unprovoked and indiscriminate interference during Colt Cabana and Jay Lethal's world title match at Global Wars would normally be grounds for suspension in Ring of Honor but Nigel McGuinness declined to go through with it because the group makes ROH a lot of money. So he instead fined them and used that money to hire more security.

    Video Games 

    Web Comics 
  • 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.
  • Richard Okubo, Brian's most important client in Rhapsodies. Even the very leftwing Kate is impressed by him.
  • Cosmic Dash has Walter Kimney, CEO of Kimney Robotics and high-ranked executive in its parent company GalactiCorp. He quickly strikes a friendship with the protagonists, and after they lost their ship recovering stolen GalactiCorp property, he's quick to point out the company owes them. In the end, he hires them all in a new GC subsidy, and provides them with a new ship.
    • In fact, he's such a nice guy that even a crime lord can't fathom who would send an assassin after him: He just has no known enemies.

    Web Original 
  • 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.

    Western Animation 
  • 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.
  • The Legend of Korra
    • Hiroshi Sato became one of the richest men in Republic City from running a legitimate business. He's apparently passing on his ethics to his 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. She's one of the main heroes, and makes great strides in rebuilding the city after the events of season 2.
    • 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.
  • Scrooge McDuck of DuckTales is proud that every red cent of his fortune was earned square.
  • 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.
  • The appropriately named Filthy Rich from My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic is this, quite surprisingly considering what his daughter Diamond Tiara and wife Spoiled Rich are like. He's very amiable to the Apple Family (because they helped him gain most of his fortune) and an all-around nice guy to everyone, only getting a little peeved once when Cheerilee calls him "Filthy" and in a flashback when he thought Applejack was trying to renegade on a business deal. Averted with his Equestria Girls counterpart in Legend of Everfree, who's a Corrupt Corporate Executive through and through.