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Article
Publication date: 27 February 2007

Göran Svensson and Greg Wood

Research has so far not approached the contents of corporate code of ethics from a strategic classification point of view. Therefore, the objective of this paper is to

Abstract

Purpose

Research has so far not approached the contents of corporate code of ethics from a strategic classification point of view. Therefore, the objective of this paper is to introduce and describe a framework of classification and empirical illustration to provide insights into the strategic approaches of corporate code of ethics content within and across contextual business environments.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper summarizes the content analysis of code prescription and the intensity of codification in the contents of 78 corporate codes of ethics in Australia.

Findings

The paper finds that, generally, the studied corporate codes of ethics in Australia are of standardized and replicated strategic approaches. In particular, customized and individualized strategic approaches are far from penetrating the ethos of corporate codes of ethics content.

Research limitations/implications

The research is limited to Australian codes of ethics. Suggestions for further research are provided in terms of the search for best practice of customized and individualized corporate codes of ethics content across countries.

Practical implications

The framework contributes to an identification of four strategic approaches of corporate codes of ethics content, namely standardized, replicated, individualized and customized.

Originality/value

The principal contribution of this paper is a generic framework to identify strategic approaches of corporate codes of ethics content. The framework is derived from two generic dimensions: the context of application and the application of content. The timing of application is also a crucial generic dimension to the success or failure of codes of ethics content. Empirical illustrations based upon corporate codes of ethics in Australia's top companies underpin the topic explored.

Details

Corporate Governance: The international journal of business in society, vol. 7 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1472-0701

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Article
Publication date: 1 July 1990

Bodo B. Schlegelmilch and Jane E. Houston

Business ethics is an area growing in importancefor business managers. Research in the USAsuggests that three‐quarters of major corporationshave specific codes of ethics

Abstract

Business ethics is an area growing in importance for business managers. Research in the USA suggests that three‐quarters of major corporations have specific codes of ethics, and in the UK some 40 per cent (and increasing) of major organisations have codes of ethics. This article explains a survey on corporate ethics undertaken in the UK and points to some reasons why firms choose to have codes of ethics, and why some firms do not. It concludes by suggesting that further research is needed, especially on the perceived benefits of a corporate code of ethics to organisations.

Details

Management Decision, vol. 28 no. 7
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0025-1747

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Article
Publication date: 2 July 2019

Michel Dion

The purpose of this paper is to see to what extent Hans-Georg Gadamer’s hermeneutic philosophy could be used to unveil how corporate discourse about financial crimes (in…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to see to what extent Hans-Georg Gadamer’s hermeneutic philosophy could be used to unveil how corporate discourse about financial crimes (in codes of ethics) is closely linked to the process of understanding.

Design/methodology/approach

Corporate ethical discourse of 20 business corporations will be analyzed, as it is conveyed within their codes of ethics. The companies came from five countries (USA, Canada, France, Switzerland and Brazil). In the explanatory study, the following industries were represented (two companies by industry): aircrafts/trains, military, airlines, recreational vehicles, soft drinks, cigarettes, pharmaceuticals, beauty products, telecommunications and banks.

Findings

Historically-based prejudices in three basic narrative strategies (silence, chosen items and detailed discussion) about financial crimes are related to the mindset, to the basic outlook on corporate self-interest or to an absolutizing attitude.

Research limitations/implications

The historically-based prejudices that have been identified in this explanatory study should be analyzed in longitudinal studies.

Practical implications

The historically-based prejudices that have been identified in this explanatory study should be analyzed in longitudinal studies. Historically-based prejudices could be strengthened by the way corporate codes of ethics deal with financial crimes. They could, thus, have a deep impact on the organizational culture in the long-run.

Originality/value

The paper analyzes the way corporate codes of ethics use given narrative strategies to address financial crimes issues. It also unveils historically-based prejudices that follow from the choice of one or the other narrative strategy.

Details

Journal of Financial Crime, vol. 26 no. 3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1359-0790

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Article
Publication date: 8 June 2015

Jang B. Singh

– The purpose of this paper was to examine changes in the contents of Canadian corporate codes of ethics over a period of two decades from an institutionalization perspective.

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper was to examine changes in the contents of Canadian corporate codes of ethics over a period of two decades from an institutionalization perspective.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper tracks changes in the contents of the codes of large Canadian corporations longitudinally by analyzing their contents at two points over two decades, in 1992 and 2012. In particular, the paper tests three hypotheses related to the institutionalization of codes.

Findings

It was found that the codes have become more prescriptive, they are more concerned with social responsibility and are more likely to identify their moral and legal authority. Overall, the findings support an institutional interpretation of the observed changes.

Research limitations/implications

While large corporations are critical in establishing new and innovative management practices, their selection as the study population limits the generalizabilty of the findings. Another limitation of this paper is that it used an a priori determined set of items to analyze the contents of the codes and while this was needed to facilitate the comparison across time, it also meant that some important items were not clearly identified.

Originality/value

Codes of ethics are the foundation of ethics programs in corporations and their contents could be critical in the development of a culture of ethics in corporations. This paper makes a valuable contribution to research on business ethics by analyzing the codes of ethics of the largest corporations in Canada at two points over two decades. The need to track changes in corporate codes of ethics over time has been advocated by several researchers, but longitudinal studies in this area are rare.

Details

European Business Review, vol. 27 no. 4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0955-534X

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Article
Publication date: 26 June 2009

Gael M. Mcdonald

Corporate codes of conduct originated around 1900 in the USA gaining further momentum in the 1950s in relation to anti‐trust legislation. Subsequently, the adoption of

Abstract

Purpose

Corporate codes of conduct originated around 1900 in the USA gaining further momentum in the 1950s in relation to anti‐trust legislation. Subsequently, the adoption of codes of ethics has spread throughout the world and they now feature extensively in many organisations. The literature relating to codes of ethics, therefore, spans many decades and is undoubtedly comprehensive. The purpose of the paper is to provide an appropriate anthology of codes of ethics.

Design/methodology/approach

A descriptive, historical, anthological approach has been taken.

Findings

This paper examines the motivations for the adoption of codes of ethics, which naturally also includes international codes, their frequency of use and content. Codes are also not without critique and it is appropriate to highlight the criticisms of codes, to provide an assessment of their potential effectiveness, the issues surrounding implementation and enforcement and the relationship to organisational culture and leadership.

Research limitations/implications

As noted, the literature on codes of conduct is extensive and while effort has been made to capture the key themes the review is not necessarily exhaustive.

Originality/value

The literature is characterised by the means of institutionalising ethics in organisations and the paper concludes with a summative reflection on the key dimensions that appear to be paramount for improving the efficacy of codes of conduct.

Details

European Business Review, vol. 21 no. 4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0955-534X

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Book part
Publication date: 6 December 2005

James E. Roper

Beginning with the premise that large corporations are legal entities but not members of the moral community, the paper examines how “corporate ethics codes” might…

Abstract

Beginning with the premise that large corporations are legal entities but not members of the moral community, the paper examines how “corporate ethics codes” might facilitate ethical actions by employees. “Wide reflective equilibrium” is explored as a way of creating “corporate ethics codes.” I suggest how a wide reflective equilibrium mediated ethics code might be utilized to suffuse ethics throughout an organization. Before exploring how wide reflective equilibrium might facilitate the development and use of corporate ethics codes to promote ethical actions by members of a company, I consider another vision of a corporate code of ethics. Some proponents of such codes may reject my description of this alternative model as unrepresentative of their work, but I question their reasons for doing so. I call this alternative approach “The Ten Commandments” model, and I argue that any approach to developing a corporate code of ethics that is consistent with this model is unlikely to promote ethics throughout an organization – and may actually have the opposite effect.

Details

Crisis and Opportunity in the Professions
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-84950-378-5

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Article
Publication date: 9 May 2016

Mercy Mpinganjira, Mornay Roberts-Lombard, Greg Wood and Göran Svensson

This study aims to examine and describe ways that organisations in corporate South Africa try to embed ethos of corporate codes of ethics in their organisations.

Abstract

Purpose

This study aims to examine and describe ways that organisations in corporate South Africa try to embed ethos of corporate codes of ethics in their organisations.

Design/methodology/approach

The study followed a quantitative research approach. The target population was the top 500 companies operating in the corporate sector by revenue. Data were collected using a structured questionnaire from 222 company secretaries and heads/managers responsible for ethics in the companies.

Findings

The findings show that the majority of companies have regulations that can help promote ethics ethos. The most prevalent artefact in the area of regulation was found to be conduct of ethical audits. Training was found to be the most prevalent artefact under staff support.

Research limitations/implications

The study was limited to large organisations in South Africa. The findings can thus not be generalised to include small- and medium- sized businesses which make up the largest segment of all businesses in South Africa.

Practical implications

The research provides information that can be used to compare companies operating in different contexts on practices that help promote corporate ethics quality. It provides business managers with information that they can use to evaluate and benchmark their companies on practices that help promote the ethos of corporate codes of ethics.

Originality/value

The study is the first of its kind to examine how organisations go about institutionalising codes of ethics in South Africa. The findings can be used by all sectors of South African business as a point of reference in their efforts aimed at embedding the ethos of ethics in their respective organisations.

Details

European Business Review, vol. 28 no. 3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0955-534X

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Article
Publication date: 5 October 2015

Giovanni Maria Garegnani, Emilia Piera Merlotti and Angeloantonio Russo

This study aims to investigate the antecedents of code of ethics’ quality with specific regard to the peculiarities of corporate governance, which include the role of the…

Abstract

Purpose

This study aims to investigate the antecedents of code of ethics’ quality with specific regard to the peculiarities of corporate governance, which include the role of the primary shareholders within the firm, the role and influence of independent directors on the board, the effect of board size on the strategic decision-making process and the influence of the chief executive officer’s (CEO) age and gender diversity.

Design/methodology/approach

A sample of 248 Italian public companies publishing a code of ethics as of 2011 is used to test the hypotheses through Tobit regression models.

Findings

A positive or negative impact is derived from the implementation of a high-quality code of ethics. Codes of ethics are strongly influenced by the ownership structure of the company given the critical role played by primary shareholders with larger stakes in influencing the quality of a code. Moreover, the lower the number of independent directors, the higher the firm’s propensity to invest in code of ethics’ quality. Similar results were found in relation to board size and CEO age, where smaller boards and younger CEOs are more inclined to implement higher-quality codes of ethics.

Originality/value

Results support the argument that when linked to a sustainability strategic orientation focused on a high-quality code of ethics, corporate governance characteristics reveal influences that differ from those found in prior literature.

Details

Corporate Governance, vol. 15 no. 5
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1472-0701

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Article
Publication date: 1 August 2003

Spero C. Peppas

Recent news of corporate misconduct at Arthur Andersen, Enron, WorldCom, etc., has focused attention on ethics in business. Government, business, educational institutions…

Abstract

Recent news of corporate misconduct at Arthur Andersen, Enron, WorldCom, etc., has focused attention on ethics in business. Government, business, educational institutions, as well as professional organisations have had to rethink ways of addressing this issue. This article presents the findings of a study of attitudes toward business codes of ethics. The attitudes of Master’s‐level US business students at two different points in time, before and after recent reports of corporate misconduct, are compared to see what changes had occurred, to see whether these changes were linked to the disclosures of unethical corporate conduct, and to examine whether taking a course in ethics had an effect on attitudes.

Details

Management Research News, vol. 26 no. 6
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0140-9174

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Article
Publication date: 13 May 2019

Mornay Roberts-Lombard, Mercy Mpinganjira, Greg Wood and Göran Svensson

The purpose of this study is on the top 500 companies in South Africa (as per the TopCo, 2014 list) that have a code of ethics, to see the current state of development in…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this study is on the top 500 companies in South Africa (as per the TopCo, 2014 list) that have a code of ethics, to see the current state of development in this area after 20 years of focus by the government and business on making corporate South Africa a more ethical environment, in which to conduct business.

Design/methodology/approach

A structured questionnaire survey method was used to gather the data and it was directed to the company secretaries of these top 500 companies.

Findings

Many companies in South Africa have a well-established set of protocols to enact the ethos of their code of ethics, indicating that they are becoming increasingly aware of the benefits to them of having a code. South African companies are, therefore, implementing both a code of ethics and strategies that contribute to creating an ethical corporate culture.

Research limitations/implications

This study provides an opportunity to further research assessing and comparing other companies in non-Western and emerging economies.

Practical implications

After 20 years of endeavours by business people and lawmakers to improve the ethical framework of South African business, there is still plenty of work to be done, as so many top companies do not appear to have a code of ethics.

Originality/value

There have been limited studies in the area of business ethics in South African companies. This study is the first of its kind in the South African context and establishes the current practice 20 years after the King I report.

Details

European Business Review, vol. 31 no. 3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0955-534X

Keywords

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