A Nucor steelworker cleans a tube used to pour molten steel. APWhen a big company gains enough momentum that its direction becomes self-sustaining, its influence can ripple through society -- for better or worse. Whether it's the environment being polluted with reckless abandon or CEOs lining their pockets at the expense of employees, shareholders, and consumers, recent headlines show plenty of evidence of capitalism at its worst.

But there are also companies that are doing right -- and all too often they are overshadowed by their less-conscientious peers.

Call it conscious capitalism or just good business, but the following five companies have all prospered in every measure over the last decade -- and have done so by doing good for their employees, suppliers, customers or the general public.

Motley Fool contributor Brian Stoffel owns shares of Costco, Berkshire Hathaway, Starbucks, and Whole Foods. You can follow him on Twitter, where he goes by TMFStoffel. The Motley Fool owns shares of Walmart, Berkshire Hathaway, Starbucks, Whole Foods, and Costco. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Berkshire Hathaway, Walmart, Nucor, Costco, Starbucks, and Whole Foods, as well as writing covered calls on Starbucks and creating a diagonal call position in Walmart.

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Buy from the small retailers. Do you really think you are getting a good deal from these box stores. Got to admit that your local ACE might not have the variety but they certainly in a lot of instances are less then going to a box store. Hell a lumber yard has better molding prices. Why would a contractor even consider going to a box store

May 01 2012 at 11:05 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

What about Ford Motors Corp?? This an American Co. who did not take any stimulus money when it was popular and available at a very good rate because they wanted to remain independent of the Government's tentacles and have thrived because of hard work and building better cars. Kudos to them.

April 30 2012 at 12:28 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Gilbert's comment

Doesn't put a feather in the POTUS's cap. GM? Now there is a success story for you. Osama may be dead, but GM is not alive as Biden would have us believe. It is on permanent life support, and they will be back to the the Government's teat and soon. You can't go from a 900 million $ loss in one quarter to a one billion dollar profit two quarters later without some fancy and creative financing. I suppose when you are temporarily out from under all those princely union benefits, you can't go wrong. It did suck a lot of slobbering lovers into buying the stock though, and as long as the government can see fit to keep them on the taxpayer's umbilical cord they'll perform OK.

April 30 2012 at 4:01 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

More like Whole Pay Check

April 30 2012 at 10:29 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Robert & Lisa

Whole Foods is our 10 family stores competition. We beat them with lower prices 99% of the time. Once I had a customer tell me she could buy a product cheaper at Whole Foods. I immediately called Whole Foods and informed the customer that she was mistaken. It was over 10% cheaper in our store.

April 30 2012 at 10:18 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Just a guess but is there any chance that they have all donated to the Obama campaign

April 30 2012 at 12:08 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Boogie's comment

Not if they want to make money the "old fashioned way."

April 30 2012 at 9:21 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Costco? OMG!! China crap!!!

April 29 2012 at 9:41 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to themechanicsix's comment

My family has belonged to Costco since 1999 and I could not disagree with you more. Costco's merchandise is not "crap"--far from it. Are you a Costco member? Have you ever shopped at Costco? Are you familiar with their generous return and warranty and customer support policies? Do you know what brands are available for purchase at Costco? Have you ever bought food at Costco?

April 30 2012 at 12:12 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to msopherco's comment

What do you see when you first walk into a Costco store? Vizio made in China crap! Food is about the only thing that is requisitioned locally. The majority of hard goods less books, DVD's and some office supplies is China crap. The stuff that isn't China crap is just average to low quality merchandise.

April 30 2012 at 5:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down

Warren Buffet is an example of the good in big business The Koch brothers are an example of big business breaking bad

April 29 2012 at 4:57 PM Report abuse -5 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to userabc21's comment

Those who profit by sponging off other peoples' money (aka financiers, hedge fund managers, etc), are loathsome. Some (not mentioning any names) have profited by creating bubbles only to soak up the spoils through pin pops at the top while the unassuming victims are left impoverished and suffering. Personally, I like companies that have started low and worked like hell to make their business successful. These companies hire millions of people who WORK to produce tangible products, and therefore contribute to the GDP.

April 30 2012 at 9:35 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Kudos to these companies They are profitable and they treat their customers and employees well.

April 29 2012 at 4:55 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Warren B. barks about paying your fair share- BUT HIS COMPANY OWES BILLIONS TO THE IRS.Why doesn't the IRS put a LIEN on his company and him,since he is the CHIEF. BE PROUD OF HIM

April 29 2012 at 4:33 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to vargajoseph's comment

Warren doesn't cozy up with the Obama administration for nothing. The idea of the Buffett Rule is nothing more than a deception to create an open door whereby Obama can then say he's done his part by insuring that the rich are paying their "fair share." Heifer dust! That's just the start. The taxes then propagate their down the food chain to the middle class where the real tax $'s can be garnished. A good portion of the 49% who do not currently pay taxes will be affected, and that's when the real outrage begins. If people can't see through this convenient duplicity, then they are pretty darned clueless and naive.

April 30 2012 at 10:09 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to jenyouwino's comment

They are. Why do you think he got so many votes?

April 30 2012 at 5:07 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down

i am very impressed with Whole Foods and their polite staff. No questions asked when returning merchandise and always helpful. I do wish they would go meat free but at least they raise their meat products under more humane conditions than the usual run of the mill.

April 29 2012 at 4:22 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply