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Pittsburgh Business Ethics Awards honors outstanding efforts

| Thursday, Feb. 26, 2015, 12:01 a.m.

Jason Wolfe spent the week before Christmas driving up and down the East Coast handing out gift cards to kids in tough situations.

He owns a gift card business, GiftCards.com, but this wasn't about promoting his company.

“I grew up in the Milton Hershey School,” Wolfe said. “I feel like I have an obligation to give back.”

Wolfe's Green Tree-based company was among those honored Wednesday at The Pittsburgh Business Ethics Awards, given annually to employers that demonstrate a commitment to ethical standards and practices.

Hosted by the Pittsburgh chapter of the Society of Financial Professionals, the 14th annual luncheon event attracted 210 people Downtown at the Omni William Penn Hotel.

Companies chosen as winners included:

• Gtech, a nonprofit community development organization in Larimer that employs 18, in the small company category

• GiftCards.com, which sells customized gift cards and employs 95 people, in the medium company category

• Peoples Natural Gas, a North Shore-based gas distribution company with 1,300 employees, in the large company category

Wolfe said his motivation to give to charity wasn't aimed at improving the company's image or profits, it was something he felt personally obligated to do. But keynote speaker Ralph Manning said that practicing good ethics could have a positive impact on a company's bottom line.

“Truly those leaders and those companies that have a culture and a practice of good ethics make the most money,” said Manning, an attorney at Tucker Arensberg, a 2013 award recipient and one of this year's event sponsors. “They're profitable, and they last a long time.”

When health care giant Johnson & Johnson discovered in 1982 that someone laced Tylenol capsules with cyanide, the company accepted responsibility, moved swiftly to recall the products and replaced them with tamper-proof capsules. As a result, Johnson & Johnson overcame the short-term losses and recaptured market share. As a counter-example, ethical lapses have led to major financial losses for both individuals and companies, from disgraced financier Bernard Madoff to collapsed corporations like Enron, he said.

“Always remember that greed is short-lived and trust is long-lived,” Manning said.

Chris Fleisher is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7854 or cfleisher@tribweb.com.

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