Shelley Polansky BBB

Shelley Polansky, BBB President/CEO

When businesses are awarded the prestigious Torch Award, they are seen as reputable, honest and trustworthy, while also gaining a new marketing tool that can help increase their brand recognition.

This year’s BBB Torch Awards for Ethics will be hosted virtually from 9 to 10:30 a.m. April 22. As in the past, the 23rd annual event will celebrate trust and ethics in the marketplace with BBB’s award presentation to three businesses and one nonprofit in northern Colorado and Wyoming for exemplifying outstanding ethics.

Eight businesses have been nominated for this year’s award, including A-Train Marketing and Communications, Lion Home Service, Palmer Properties and Trebuchet Group in Fort Collins, Colorado; PFS Insurance in Johnstown, Colorado; Blue Federal Credit Union in Cheyenne; and Coffey Engineering & Surveying Inc. and Spine & Injury Clinic of Laramie in Laramie.

The four nonprofit candidates include Animal Friends Alliance in Fort Collins; Stillwater Ranch in Loveland, Colorado; and A Woman’s Place and Life Stories Child & Family Advocacy in Greeley, Colorado. The nonprofit category was added in 2016, and since the award began in 1999, more than 100 organizations have received the honor.

The award process

Organizations can self-nominate or be nominated by their customers or members of the community for the award. They are invited to complete the Candidate Selection Form, which asks for details about their business or nonprofit and about the ethical foundations of their organization. To apply, the business or nonprofit must be in operation for at least three years, be in good standing with BBB and demonstrate ethical practices in their daily operations.

Business and nonprofit candidates that meet the criteria are paired with BBB Ethics Scholars, interns hired from Colorado State University, the University of Northern Colorado and the University of Wyoming.

The BBB Ethics Scholars work with the business and nonprofit candidates to prepare their application by meeting with the business’s leadership team, doing research and gathering documentation. The scholars use the material to write an application paper and to give a presentation to the BBB Torch Awards Selection Committee, which met in December 2020 before a panel of judges for this year’s award.

The award criteria

The Torch Awards have six award criteria or TRUST! Principles that include Transformation at the Top, Reinforce and Build, Unite the Team, Steer Performance, Treasure People and Enthusiastically Reinvest!


Transformation at the top; leadership commitment to ethical practices – This examines how leaders cultivate ethical practices and carry them out in their mission, vision and company culture. It also looks at how they gather feedback to positively grow their business and improve the business’s ethical culture.

Reinforce and build; communication of ethical practices – This demonstrates how leaders reinforce their ethical beliefs and practices through effective communication with employees, customers and stakeholders.

Unite the team; organizational commitment to ethical practices – This shows how leaders unite employees around a common purpose rooted in the organization’s ethical values and shows in what ways the organization has overall value. Why do employees work there? Why do customers want to buy from the business and not a competitor? Why do suppliers want to do business with the company?

Steer performance; organizational commitment to performance management practices – This looks at how leaders drive performance through setting goals, measuring achievement and rewarding success, while also demonstrating how the business can keep those commitments that lead to long-term success.

Treasure people; organizational commitment to ethical human resources practices – This considers how leaders adopt and carry out those practices and procedures that provide opportunities and growth potential for staff members.

Enthusiastically reinvest; organizational commitment to the community – This demonstrates how leaders are actively engaged with their industry and are supportive of their community, such as through donations and reducing any negative impact on the environment.

The Torch Awards for Ethics is the most prestigious honor the BBB presents to businesses and nonprofits for practicing the ethics and standards it promotes. Organizations that take part in the process receive multiple benefits as they prove their ethical worth, both to the BBB and to the larger community.

The award benefits

The BBB promotes the Torch Awards through press releases, advertisements, blog and social media posts, and its website, as well as during the ceremony, helping the award-winning organizations market their business or nonprofit and increase their visibility. The award winners gain a boost in credibility from recognition from an outside source and enhance their reputation as ethical and trustworthy organizations.

The businesses working with the Ethics Scholar Interns gain an in-depth analysis of their organization that points out their areas of strength and areas where they can make improvements.

Businesses and nonprofits also can use the award to demonstrate how they communicate and practice ethical principles throughout their organization.

It helps customers understand what they do and why, as well as what gives them value.

It helps build trust between the organization and its customers or the clients it serves, as well as its stakeholders and the larger community.

And it helps the organization be seen as an award-winning business or nonprofit that stands out from the competition. The organization is viewed as more reputable, honest and trustworthy, as well as successful at what it does.

To learn more about the awards ceremony online, visit Torch Awards for Ethics (

Shelley Polansky is president/CEO of BBB Serving Northern Colorado and Wyoming.

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