Organisation de Coopération et de Développement Economiques 07-Jun-2000
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development 09-Jun-2000
__________________________________________________________________________________________ TRADE DIRECTORATE
Working Party of the Trade Committee
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This report was prepared as part of a joint project undertaken by the Trade Committee and the Committeeon International Investment and Multinational Enterprises. It examines in detail the contents of 246 codesfrom OECD countries with respect to issue coverage and code implementation procedures. The report wasjointly prepared by Barbara Fliess of the Trade Directorate and by Kathryn Gordon and Maiko Miyake ofthe Directorate for Financial, Fiscal and Enterprise Affairs. Didier Campion provided statistical assistanceand the project was supervised by Anthony Kleitz and Robert Ley.
The OECD wishes to thank all organisations, governmental and non-governmental that contributedinformation for this project.
This text is released as a general distribution document under the responsibility of the Secretary General ofthe OECD, with the aim of bringing information on this subject to the attention of a wider audience.
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THE CONTENT OF THE CODES: ISSUES AND AUDIENCES. 10 V. ECONOMIC MOTIVATIONS MENTIONED BY CODES. 20 A CLOSER LOOK AT THE TEXTILE AND EXTRACTIVE INDUSTRY CODES . 22 VII. WHAT CODE TEXTS SHOW ABOUT IMPLEMENTATION . 26 Activities to promote code awareness among employees and other stakeholders. 26 Performance assessment and reporting . 31 Other aspects of code implementation mentioned by the codes . 33 CODES OF CORPORATE CONDUCT: EXPANDED REVIEW OF THEIR CONTENTS
Based on a slight extension of the inventory of 233 codes of corporate conduct collected for an earlier study (TD/TC/WP(98)74/FINAL), this paper takes a more in-depth look at the contents of the codeswith respect to issue coverage and code implementation procedures.
The main findings of this investigation of 246 voluntary codes of conduct are: The codes examined differ considerably in terms of their content and degree of detail. This reflects the underlying diversity of the organisations issuing the codes, which differ in terms of size, sectorand regional affiliation. All the firms subscribing to the codes covered in this study are based in the OECD(most of the 29 member OECD countries are covered in the inventory). The firms operate in a variety ofsectors including high technology, mass retailing, heavy manufacturing, light manufacturing, primaryproduction, financial services. Some codes in the inventory are issued by business associations and othersby NGOs.
The codes address a variety of issues, many appearing to arise from concerns of the general public. Environmental management and labour standards dominate other issues in code texts, but consumerprotection and bribery and corruption also receive extensive attention. In addition, many codes containextensive text on fairly narrow questions of internal control and protection of shareholder value. Theseissues are particularly important for financial intermediaries, conglomerates and very large manufacturers.
Another objective that appears in some of the codes is the desire to manage risk of liability or to ensurecompliance with the law in such areas as competition and environment.
The statements made by some of the codes suggest that economic motivations related to the desire of organisations to compete successfully in the market place can also play a role in an organisation’sdecision to develop a code of conduct. Relatively often mentioned considerations are the protection orenhancement of an organisation’s reputation and stronger customer loyalty.
Codes addressing labour and environmental issues differ considerably in how they approach these two issues. While some codes mention labour and environment only in passing, many of them aredevoted exclusively to one of these two issues. Especially in these “single issue” codes, the overall levelof commitment is often quite high, although the specifics of the commitment vary. In the environmentalcodes, commitments often include being open to community concerns, engaging in a process of continualimprovement, training employees and encouraging dialog within the firm. The same situation holds for thelabour codes -- the codes that deal with the issue at length tend to show a high level of commitment.
Among the codes mentioning labour, the most common commitments are: creating a reasonable workingenvironment; refusal to discriminate or harass; compliance with law; avoidance of child labour; and conditions of worker compensation. Many of these codes have been influenced by external referencestandards (other codes and international agreements and recommendations).
The codes from the apparel and extractive industries show that industry factors can be very important in shaping the codes. The content of the apparel codes, all of which cover labour issues, is quitedifferent from the “average” content of the labour codes in the overall inventory. All of the apparel codesdeal with child labour and the majority deal with bonded labour, working environment and compensation.
Codes from the extractive industry typically deal with a diverse array of issues and are much more likely todeal with environment and labour than the “average” code in the inventory.
The codes surveyed show the diversity of approach which organisations take to including information about the process of implementation in their codes. The codes are quite selective in theelements of implementation which they describe and the detail of information provided. Certain elements,such as policy to inform stakeholders of the code and monitoring, are mentioned more frequently thanothers.
The methodology adopted by this study has unavoidable limitations and the findings can only be seen as indicative of how firms manage certain aspects of their policies of corporate responsibility. Thecodes of conduct methodology looks only at what may be the “tip of the iceberg” in firms’ efforts to meet agiven standard for business conduct. Codes of conduct, in order to be fully understood, must be placed intheir broader managerial, sectoral and social context. Data other than those derived from the code texts arenecessary to further such understanding.
This paper is part of ongoing collaborative work by CIME and the Trade Committee on codes of corporate conduct. Drawing on a jointly drafted outline for such work and comments made by Membercountries, this paper follows up on a mandate for extended factual analysis aimed at clarifying the content,purposes and effects of codes.
An initial examination of code texts was undertaken in TD/TC/WP(98)74/FINAL, which presents an inventory of 233 codes collected from OECD countries. The present report deepens the examination byaddressing the following two questions: − What objectives do codes set for themselves and how do these relate to public concerns? The paper looks in some detail at how these issues are addressed -- for example, within thegeneral issue of environmental management, what, more specifically, do firms say they wantto do? It also takes a closer look at the codes in the apparel and extractive industries in orderto see if they deal with public concerns that appear to be of particular relevance to thesesectors. In particular, it looks at the codes’ treatment of child labour and other workplaceissues in the apparel industry and at protection of indigenous peoples and site restoration inextractive industries.
− What do the code texts reveal about the activities that are being undertaken by organisations in order to put the commitments or principles set forth into effect? METHODOLOGY AND LIMITATIONS
The study provides an extension of the original inventory of 233 codes contained in TD/TC/WP(98)74/FINAL. The inventory defines codes of corporate conducts as “commitmentsvoluntarily made by companies, associations or other entities, which put forth standards and principles forthe conduct of business activities in the marketplace”. This definition includes self-obligations andnegotiated instruments. It excludes codes of corporate governance.
The present paper deepens the initial content analysis contained in TD/TC/WP(98)74/FINAL1 in several ways. Each code was scored as to whether it mentioned nine issue areas: environmentalstewardship, labour standards, science and technology, competition, information disclosure, taxation,bribery and corruption, and consumer protection. These areas were selected because they are important forthe ways that companies affect the welfare of the societies in which they operate. The content analysis ofthe codes was deepened by breaking individual issues areas, such as environmental protection and labourpractices, further down into various sub-areas.
The initial inventory was also slightly expanded. Codes of firms in the apparel and extractive industries were collected to make possible a more focused analysis of codes in these two sectors. Theadditional firms were identified through competitor analysis of the firms whose codes had already beeninventoried. The Secretariat also conducted several interviews with Japanese and American firmsconcerning codes of corporate conduct as a complement to the textual analysis. The codes that werecollected during these interviews have been included in the inventory. Telephone interviews were The initial content analysis was conducted on seven categories: general descriptors, issue areas addressedby a code, business transactions targeted by a code, reference to international standards, implementationmeasures, non-compliance measures, role of government and other third parties.
conducted with nine French branded apparel firms, none of whom had issued codes. As a result, 13company and association codes were added to the 233 codes inventoried in TD/TC/WP(98)74/FINAL andthe content of a total of 246 codes analysed.
To explore what code texts reveal about the implementation of codes, the texts of the 246 codes were examined for relevant statements, which then were aggregated using broadly defined areas ofactivity. Specific statements taken from codes serve to illustrate the variance in the degree of detail andcontent of provisions on implementation.
The methodological limitations of this study should be born in mind. Because of the way the codes were collected, the set of codes is neither a random nor a representative sample of the codes issuedby companies, associations or other stakeholders in various countries. The types of codes included in theinventory vary widely, from codes designed to influence employees’ conduct to sourcing principles. Forsome organisations, several codes are included (and counted separately) in the inventory; in other cases,the inventory contains only one of several codes which a firm has issued.
There is no way to ensure that the material which the OECD received from respondents is comparable. Some companies and other organisations issue short statements of values and then publishseparately instructions manuals and training material for their employees that reveal more about corporatecommitments and in particular the processes and procedures underpinning code implementation. Thismaterial has not always been sent to OECD. Other issuers include detailed instructions and otherinformation about implementation procedures in the code text itself. Scoring was based on the entire set ofinformation received and therefore may not be fully comparable across code issuers. Thus, some of themeasured variation may stem from the inventory containing fuller information for some code issuers thanfor others.
Finally, the overall code analysis aggregates over a number of important sectoral and geographical factors. This means that it is hard to use the overall aggregates to make certain inferences,e.g. concerning the extent to which the social and economic processes driving the corporate codesmovement have led to uniformity in firms’ commitments.
The composition of the codes by type of issuer is shown in Figure 1. Individual (mostly multinational) companies issued many of the codes (118 codes). However, code activity extends beyondcompanies to industry and trade associations (92 codes), partnerships of stakeholders (mainly NGOs andunions; 32 codes)” and some inter-governmental organisations (4 codes).
Figure 1. Composition of codes by type of issuer
Partnerships of
The inventory contains codes addressing a variety of audiences. While association codes always state the commitments of the association, individual company codes may take different forms. These areshown in Figure 2. The main categories of individual company codes that are found in the inventory are:1) those that set guidelines for employees; 2) guidelines for a supplier/business partner’s conduct; 3) astatement of company’s commitment towards the public. A code may cover more than one functionmentioned above; for example, it often happens that part of a code is intended for employees, whileanother section is intended for business partners. Most of the codes fall into one or two of these categories.
The remaining codes are international agreements, government statements, and recommendations issued bythird parties.
Figure 2. Type of company codes
Guidelines for
suppliers and
business partners
Guidelines for
Twenty-four countries are represented in the codes survey (see Table 1). The distribution is a function of the willingness of respondents to submit information to the OECD. The data should not beinterpreted as reflecting the “true” geographical distribution of voluntary codes.
Table 1. Countries of origin, by issuer of code
Number of codes
It was not possible to identify the nationality for all codes With respect to enterprises that have issued codes, many produce more than one type of product and are involved in several business activities. For this reason, it can be difficult to categorise these firmsby a simple industrial classification. Among the 118 companies whose individual company codes areavailable, 24 operate in the primary sector, 69 in the secondary and 91 in the tertiary sector (see Table 2).
(There is evidently double-counting.) Table 2. Sectoral composition of firms issuing codes
Number of firms
This section gives the results of a textual analysis of the 246 codes. It examines codes for their coverage of the following issue areas: environmental stewardship, labour relations, disclosure ofinformation, competition, taxation, bribery and corruption, science and technology, and consumerprotection (Figure 3). Environmental stewardship (mentioned by 145 codes) and labour relations (148codes) are the issues areas most frequently addressed. The least frequently mentioned issue area istaxation, which appears in only one code.
Figure 3. Attributes of the codes
Environmental Stewardship
Environmental stewardship is one of the most heavily cited of the areas in the extended inventory: 145 codes out of the 246 codes in the set mention it. Twenty-four of the codes are dedicatedexclusively to this subject. The Secretariat has extended the initial inventory to 24 more specific attributesof the environment commitments. The attributes were selected by referring to some major environmentalcodes (Agenda 21, Ceres) and based on the suggestions of in-house experts. The results of this extensionof the inventory are shown in Table 3.
Table 3 shows the frequency with which specific types of commitment are mentioned in the codes that cover environment. A significant number of issuers include in their codes a commitment to“comply with the law”. In fact, 68 per cent of the codes examined include such a statement. Otherfrequently mentioned commitments are: employee education, awareness and training (mentioned in 36% ofthe environment codes), openness to community concerns2 (40%), environmentally friendly products andservices (38%), provision of information so as to heighten community or consumer awareness (33%),obligations for contractors and suppliers (35%) and global applicability (34%).
Openness to community refers to the local dimension of environmental stewardship – that is, considerationand protection of communities and the environment immediately surrounding a plant site or otherwiseaffected by company activities Table 3. Environmental content of codes
Percentage of codes
mentioning attribute*
Environmentally friendly products and services Employee training, awareness and dialogue Conservation of Materials & Recycling Internal Reporting & Performance audits These are calculated as: 100*[the number of codes mentioning attribute]÷[the numberof codes citing environmental stewardship] Labour management
“Fair employment and labour rights” is a very frequently mentioned issue area, with well over half of the codes making related statements. Codes were examined further for 18 more specific attributes oflabour commitments which were chosen based on consultations with in-house experts. Table 4 reports thefrequency with which each of these attributes is mentioned in codes that contain text on labour relations.
In understanding the content of these codes, it is necessary to keep in mind that many of them are, at least in part, responses to NGO- or government-sponsored campaigns to improve workingconditions in the sub-contracting sector of the apparel industry (e.g. the “Clean Clothes” campaign). Massretailers and some other consumer goods companies also tend to be sensitive to this issue. Thus, 41 percent of the codes dealing with labour issues mention obligations for sub-contractors or other businesspartners. Similarly, many of them concentrate on the “cluster” of issues that came up in the course of thesecampaigns – forced labour (39%), child labour (43%), working hours (32%), compensation (45%) andreasonable working environment (76%). 13 per cent of the codes that deal with labour issues mention ILODeclaration or Conventions. More generally, respect for human rights in the workplace is mentioned by25 per cent of these codes.
There is relatively less coverage of certain other aspects of human rights in the workplace. 30 per cent of the codes mention respecting freedom of association and collective bargaining. Even less frequentlymentioned issues are the right to information (14%) and reasonable advance notice (3%).
Relations with sub-contractors and other business partners are mentioned in 41 per cent of the labour texts. As noted above, many of the texts are, in fact, addressed to subcontractors and other businesspartners. Often partners are asked to sign a letter of understanding that contains language to the effect thatthere might be sanctions if the standard is not adhered to. However, the codes often state that, before suchmeasures are adopted, remedial action may be taken by the contractor to achieve compliance. For example,one North American retailer states the following on monitoring and enforcement in its vendor code: “As a condition of doing business with [the company], each and every factory must comply withthis code of vendor conduct. [The company] will continue to develop monitoring systems toassess and ensure compliance. If [the company] determines that any factory has violated thisCode, [the company] may either terminate its business relationship or require the factory toimplement a corrective action plan. If corrective action is advised but not taken, [the company]will suspend placement of future orders and may terminate current production.” Some of the codes come with training material and formats for data collection designed to serve as a basis for data bases tracking the labour conditions prevailing at sub-contractors’ production sites.
Table 4. The labour content of the codes
Percentage of codes
mentioning attribute*
These are calculated as:100*[the number of codes mentioning attribute]÷[the number of codes citing labour] The codes also attest to certain divergences of opinion or approach. On one extreme, for example, a North American company states that it will use legally permissible means to discourage the unionisationof its work force. In contrast, many other companies commit to freedom of association and the right tocollective bargaining for their own employees and for contractors and subcontractors. Labour codes alsodiffer in their specific treatment of particular issues. Child labour is a good example of this. Althoughmany labour codes do not mention this issue, all those that do commit the company to contributing to thelong-term goal of eliminating child labour. However, several codes recognise that the ethicalconsiderations underpinning child labour mean that outright prohibition might not always be in children’sinterests. For example, a mass retailer from continental Europe has issued a code that states: “In many countries, child labour is both permitted and common. Asking our suppliers to prohibitit completely for children under a certain age would have dramatic consequences for the childrenthemselves and for their families (extreme poverty, prostitution…). It is therefore necessary toopt for a more gradual, pragmatic, incentive-based approach. Accordingly, [the company], inextreme situations (excessively young workers, inappropriate working conditions…) willimmediately cease its commercial relations with the enterprise concerned. In other cases, [thecompany] will encourage its supplier to participate actively and progressively in eliminatingchild labour by using the most appropriate methods in the interest of the child. In order torealise this objective, [the company] will promote compliance among its suppliers with the ILOconvention that fixes the minimum working age at 14 years”. Numerous codes also specify what is to be done if a child is found to be in the employ of a sub- contractor (e.g. child is to be taken care of until some alternative is found – return to family, re-entry intoschool etc.) Other codes do not specify whether any special obligation to the child exists.
The survey illustrates diversity of and lack of consistency in treatment of issues in the labour codes. Idiosyncrasies may reduce the codes’ value as tools promoting transparency and accountability. Onthe other hand, the diversity of codes -- in addition to reflecting the inherent differences of theorganisations that issue them and probable weaknesses in the methodology -- also reflects an underlyinglack of consensus on some of these issues.
Disclosure of information
“Disclosure of information” is a key aspect of corporate citizenship since the disclosure policies render the firm accountable to outside assessment. Disclosure texts tend to discuss three “concepts” fordisclosure (often codes cover more than one of these): − Disclosure of product information. Companies promise full and accurate disclosure of
product information. This is discussed in greater length in the consumer section -- 41 percent of the texts that address consumer protection make commitments concerning disclosureof product information.
Disclosure as an aspect of financial control. Companies commit themselves to various
18 per cent of the codes reviewed for this paper contain text on financial disclosure(Figure 3). In addition, many of the codes state the need to safeguard proprietary businessand financial information and not to reveal insider information. Generally the texts deal withfinancial accounting and disclosure in an extremely general way. For example, one codefrom a consumer products multinational states: “[Company] accounting records and supporting documents must accurately describe andreflect the nature of the underlying transactions. No undisclosed or unrecorded account,fund or asset will be established or maintained.”Disclosure in relation to code commitments. Companies promise to disclose information
documenting what they are doing to implement their codes and their performance relative tothe standards and aspirations set forth. However, this is not a uniform practice. Manycompany codes (61%) do not mention a commitment to disclose relevant information.
Also, disclosure can be to select audiences. More company codes mention procedures toinform employees, managers, and at times the board of directors (and for suppliers to provideinformation to outsourcing companies) than transparency vis-à-vis the public (see Figure 4).
The latter type of commitment is most common in environmental codes, where transparencycommitments vis-à-vis the public are mentioned in 29 per cent of a total of 142environmental codes included in the overall inventory. Of the labour codes, 22 per centpromise disclosure to the public. A number of codes mention a specific obligation to report togovernment authorities. These are mostly environmental codes or codes governing theconduct of professional organisations. 46 company codes mention reporting to at least one ofthe four kinds of audiences shown in Figure 4.
Figure 4. Disclosure mentioned in company codes
of 25

At least one of the
To public
To government
4 audiences
Roughly 20 per cent of the codes surveyed include statements relating to competition. Most texts restrict themselves to a general description of the virtues of fair competition3. For example, the sameconsumer products multinational just cited states: “[Company] believes in vigorous yet fair competition and supports the development ofappropriate competition laws. Employees receive guidance to ensure that they understandsuch laws and do not transgress them.” Some texts are slightly more specific. For example, a European entertainment company states: “[Company] believes in the principle of fair competition as a basis for conducting its businessand will comply with all applicable laws prohibiting restraints of trade, unfair trade practices orabuses of economic power. All purchases, sales and other contractual commitments must bebased solely on consideration of quality, suitability, service, price and efficiency. In particular,reciprocal arrangements, whereby a supplier is expected to become a customer because they area supplier or vice versa, are not permitted.” In contrast, some of the texts are extremely detailed and even technical. These texts appear to be designed for a specific legal and competition policy environment (usually North American). One U.S.
company’s code, for example, mentions the fact that the company is still subject to a court decree inrelation to its competition practices.
Only one code addresses the issue of taxation.
Bribery and corruption
23 per cent of the codes in the inventory address bribery and corruption. These 56 codes vary widely in their definitions and commitments. Many of the company codes encompass concerns aboutbribery, corruption, political contributions and gift giving that go beyond dealings with public officials.
They address corruption vis-à-vis customers, suppliers and employees and in some cases also competitors.
38 per cent of the codes that mention bribery and corruption make a distinction between the treatment ofpublic officials and business partners. Stated rules are generally stricter when public officials are involved.
The codes also often proscribe solicitation by employees of bribes or gifts from business partners.
The codes show a variety of approaches to this issue: some codes directly use the word “bribery” and/or “corruption” while other codes are more detailed in describing what possibly could become a bribe.
36 per cent of the codes simply prohibit bribery and corrupt behaviour. It is equally common for firms todiscuss the act of offering, giving, soliciting and/or receiving “gifts and entertainment” (36% cent of thecodes). The codes examined here do not employ the term adopted in the OECD’s Bribery Convention, i.e.
attempting to obtain “undue/improper advantage” from the activity. Some 5 per cent of the codes make a Fair competition refers to avoidance of actions which adversely affect competition in the market placethrough e.g. unreasonable refusal to deal, discriminatory pricing, or predatory behaviour towardcompetitors.
distinction between cash and other items: although gifts/entertainment may be acceptable under certainconditions, the acceptance of cash is completely prohibited.
Most codes dealing with bribery do not prohibit acceptance of gifts or entertainment completely when they are offered or given by business partners. They normally allow employees to offer gifts orentertainment that “is not excessive in value”(mentioned by 39% of the codes mentioning bribery), “iswithin the business norm” (30%), “is not seen as an inducement of business” (39%), “does not violate thelaw” (20%), and “does not damage corporate image”(18%). Obviously, some of these pronouncements arequite ambiguous. Only 5 per cent of the codes set a limit in monetary terms.
The codes addressing bribery also show different approaches to implementation. 34 per cent of the codes require reporting and notification of the provision and receipt of gifts/entertainment. Often,however, reporting is required only when the gifts/entertainment “exceeds business norm”. The norm isgenerally not further defined. 13 per cent of the codes state that prior approval should be sought whetherthe gift/entertainment can be received or given. Of these, 86 per cent of the codes require approval only inthe case when the gifts/entertainment exceeds the norm. Whistleblowing facilities are often mentioned inthese codes.
32 per cent of the codes commit the firm to refrain from making political contributions—be it to a person holding an office, to candidates, or political parties. 14 per cent of the codes treat employees andimmediate relatives of employees in the same manner. 9 per cent of the codes acknowledge the culturaldifferences among countries as a factor in determining what is appropriate in gift giving. Of these codes,only one code sets strict guidelines; all other codes allow exceptions on the basis of cultural differences.
Table 5. The attributes of bribery codes
Percentage of bribery
Vis-à-vis public officials:- Giving bribes only Vis-à-vis private actors:- Giving bribes only Conditions under which entertainment and gift giving - Excessive entertainment and gift giving - Requirements for internal reporting of gifts These are calculated as:100*[the number of codes mentioning attribute]÷[the number of codes citing bribery] Science and technology
Twenty-six codes (or about 11%) make commitments in the area of science and technology. Five codes deal specifically with the development and diffusion of environmental technology. Three are issuedby professional associations (e.g. of chemists and civil and electrical engineers) and deal with their role inthe development and diffusion of technology. Three other codes refer to increasing public awareness oftechnology issues in order to promote acceptance of new technologies. A few codes state that they seek topromote the diffusion of technology. For example, the following text comes from a North Americantelecommunications firm: “Where knowledge of product and manufacturing technology can be shared without harming[company’s] competitive position in the market place (and without contravening nationalrestrictions on transfer of technology), [company] will engage in technology co-operationprojects with industry and industry associations around the world.” Consumer protection
Consumer protection receives extensive attention in the voluntary codes. It is the third most common issue appearing in the codes reviewed here (after environment and labour standards): 48 per centof the codes address some aspect of consumer protection. The three main attributes of consumer protectionin the voluntary codes are: (1) provision of safe and quality products/services; (2) provision of informationon safe and quality products/services; (3) and protection of consumers’ personal information.
Figure 5 shows that provision of safe, high-quality products is the most common commitment to consumers expressed by firms. This is mentioned in 50 per cent of the codes that include statementsrelating to consumer protection. The relevant texts often begin with a general commitment to customerservice. For example, a British retailer states: “We aim to achieve commercial success by meeting our customers’ needs by the provision of highquality, good value products with exceptional service and relevant information which enablescustomers to make informed and responsible choices.” The provision of environmentally friendly products and services leads the list. Research suggests that this is the first phase of corporate response to ‘green consumerism’ (Jones and Baldwin, 1994).
Provision of product information and protection of customer privacy are mentioned less often.
Figure 5. Consumer protection in the codes
Provision of high quality, safe
Adequate information on
Protection of customer
goods and services
products or services
Other subject areas that are mentioned in the codes are: advertising ethics; electronic commerce; public health and safety (almost always treated as an aspect of environmental management); animal rights;genetic engineering and protection of indigenous peoples.
Codes are expressions of obligations or responsibilities to the public or to specific stakeholders.
While they seek to address public concerns, economic motivations related to the desire of companies tocompete successfully and build or protect their reputation in the market place are at times also mentionedexplicitly by the codes.
Some of the codes inventoried mention commercial benefits or competitive advantages which code issuers hope the commitments will contribute (Figure 6). Where such statements are made, they oftenappear in forewords to the code texts. For many large companies, reputation is an important corporateasset. Some codes assert the desire of the company to build or retain industry leadership on certain issuesof corporate responsibility (see also Box 1).
Sometimes the statements made are more specific. 9 per cent of the codes suggest that the commitments made should help strengthen customer loyalty or confidence in using a service or product. Afew codes (6%) mention aspects of improved business operations (better-quality products, production orworking environment). Less frequently, codes are expected to strengthen the loyalty of staff. Otheradvantages mentioned by some codes (6%) are better control or reduction of potential risk arising fromviolation of legal requirements and regulations and associated sanctions, reduction in the likelihood ofcostly litigation, reduction in compliance costs with respect to government regulation or a reduction ofgovernment regulation itself.
Figure 6. Competitive advantages mentioned by codes*
P rotect or
M ore custom er
Im proved
Stronger staff
Control of legal
operation of
If there are economic motives prompting organisations to adopt codes, these are not readily identifiable from a content analysis. A majority of code texts is silent on this issue. Other research hasinvestigated this question by asking code-issuing organisations directly. For example, a recent survey(Conference Board, 1999) asked 106 large companies from the United States and 21 other countries withglobal operations to cite their business or strategic justifications for having an ethics code. Respondentsmentioned the need for establishing core principles for their growing involvement in global markets andlegal issues, such as legal incentives and the desire to limit legal risks as the most important motivations.
Enhancement of company reputation was considered to be somewhat less important and public relationsconcerns much less.
Box 1. Examples of code statements about competitive advantages and other benefits
“.the continued good reputation of the Group depends upon our personal business ethics standards.” “Anyone who knowingly disregards these rules, or does so through negligence, causes prejudice to theprofession, each of its members and the good reputation of the financial centre.” “[Company name] enjoys a reputation for conducting its business with integrity and with respect to theinterests of those our activities can affect. This reputation is an asset, just as real as our people, factoriesand brands.” “We believe that our competitiveness and future success depends not only on our employees and thequality and sincerity of our assets but also on our record as good neighbours and partners around theworld.” “We want our efforts to set a precedent for others” “In taking this action itself the [association name] feels that it will enhance both the image of the industryand the marketability of its [product name].” “.to improve the image of the industry as a reliable source of clear and correct information forconsumers.” “A well-founded reputation for scrupulous dealings is itself a priceless asset.” “This commitment -- reflected in our new company mission and values -- forms the cornerstone of ourreputation, and our reputation is what distinguishes us from our competitors and gives us an unshakeablecompetitive advantage”.
“.to be recognised as the preferred choice in home shopping retail achieving standards of excellence inproduct and services unmatched by our competitors.” “Integrity is an advantage to [company’s] employees and shareholders.” “We have found that these standards result in higher quality working environment and in higher qualityproducts”.
“We believe that the incorporation of internationally recognised human rights standards into our businesspractice improves worker morale and results in a higher quality working environment and higher qualityproducts.” “A track record in conforming with the Code will increase regulatory agency and stakeholder confidence ina signatory’s environmental management ability. This may reduce inspections by regulatory agencies,lower licence and permit fees, and expedite environmental approvals.” A CLOSER LOOK AT THE TEXTILE AND EXTRACTIVE INDUSTRY CODES
The textual analysis of the inventory of 246 codes reported above covers a variety of firms and sectors -- hence, the codes represent responses to a diverse array of needs and circumstances. Thisdiversity makes it difficult to evaluate the codes for consistency and uniformity of treatment, since part ofany perceived lack of uniformity may stem from the diversity of problematiques facing the issuingorganisations, not from differences in values and commitment. This section attempts to control for one ofthese underlying factors -- namely the economic sector.
The first of the sectors examined is apparel, a sector with a distinct set of issues (extensive sub- contracting using partners engaged in labour-intensive assembly and production in less developedcountries). The second sector is the extractive industries, which also faces a distinct set of concerns(environment, protection of local communities from the effects of their large and often hazardousextraction and processing facilities). Both industries have been the subject of intense public scrutiny atvarious points in time. This analysis will reveal some things about codes that the full inventory cannot: isthere convergence of commitment? Is there evidence that firms are selective in their commitments (e.g.
deliberately avoiding commitments in areas that are costly to them)? The apparel codes
The set of codes contains 37 codes of conduct related to the textile and apparel industry. Five codes were published by coalitions of entities. The rest were codes published by individual companiesfrom five countries (see Figure 7).
The overwhelming majority (25 codes) has been issued by U.S. companies. Sweden seems to account for a disproportionately large number of apparel codes in the inventory, whereas Japan and Franceare conspicuously absent from this set. Indeed, this is one of the few areas in which information isavailable on firms that do not have codes. Contacts with Japanese apparel companies show that they havenot felt pressures to respond to public concerns about labour standards in their industry. Of nine apparelfirms with major brand names contacted in France in mid-1999, only one was aware of the existence ofcodes of conduct and was currently working on a code. The others were unaware of codes as an issue andhad no plans for adoption.
Figure 7. Countries of origin of apparel industry codes
United Kingdom
The 37 apparel codes show a strong focus on labour standards. All cover labour standards, although there are some variations in the specific topics mentioned. This will be discussed later.
Environment stewardship is listed as an area of commitment in 21 of the apparel codes (but usually not in any detail). Two companies mentioned consumer protection in very general terms (e.g.
“providing quality items for customers”). Compared to the overall average of the inventory, the apparelcodes tend to be very focused. None of the codes refers to such other areas of corporate responsibility asbribery, finance, science and technology, taxation and competition.
The most frequently expressed commitments in the area of labour standard are related to ILO Conventions and UN Human Rights Conventions. Such commitments, i.e. reasonable workingenvironment, adequate compensation, no forced labour, no child labour, no discrimination and reasonableworking hours, are all frequently mentioned (Figure 8), although few firms (6 and 10 firms respectively)specifically mention ILO and UN Conventions. These issues are much more strongly emphasised in theapparel codes than they are in the overall inventory. Of 32 company codes, 21 refer to all the six issues.
Also, to not employ child labour is the most frequently mentioned commitment (36 out of 37 codes). In fact, one code -- issued by an association of sporting goods manufacturers -- is dedicatedentirely to this issue. By comparison, freedom of association is mentioned in just under half of the apparelcodes. Commitments to provision of training are less frequent in the apparel codes than in the set of labourcodes contained in the broader inventory. Other issues -- the treatment of employees’ rights toinformation, provision of training, reasonable advance notice and commitment to forego use of excessivecasual labour and flexible workplace relations -- attract relatively little attention in the apparel codesexamined here.
Figure 8. Issues addressed in apparel companies’ codes of conduct
26 of the 32 company codes are addressed to suppliers and contractors. The majority of the issuers of these code are retailers. Retailers typically are close to the market and directly influenced byconsumers’ purchasing decision, and they normally use subcontractors to manufacture products.
Therefore, they do not have a direct control over the labour standards. What they can do is to proscribecertain labour standards. In 12 cases, the codes speak of the possibility to terminate the contract if thestandard is not met. A significant number (23 codes) make no mention of monitoring systems (a fewappear to try to establish the possibility of whistleblowing in their supply chains). Only three companiesmention the provision of training and education for promoting the standard.
Extractive industries
The inventory contains 23 codes of conduct issued by organisations in the extractive industry (mining, petroleum and natural gas).
These entities are based in seven OECD countries, with Canada and Australia being particularly heavily represented (see Figure 9). 17 codes are issued by companies and 4 by business association. Onecode takes the form of an agreement between business and labour union and another one an agreementbetween a company and governments.
Figure 9. Countries of origin of extractive industry codes
Czech Republic
United Kingdom
In contrast to the rather focused codes of the apparel industry, the codes of the extractive industry address a broad range of issues (Figure 10). The areas that receive the most attention are environment andlabour: all 23 codes mention environmental issues, and 21 refer to labour standards. Other frequently-citedcommitments are general ones such as compliance with the law (20 codes), continual improvement (17codes) and global applicability (16 codes). Another frequently covered issue area (by 17 of the 23 codes)is the need to consider the concerns and welfare of local communities. 5 codes (mainly from Canada andAustralia state the need to protect indigenous rights. Bribery and corruption, competition, informationdisclosure, science and technology and technology transfer are other issues which the codes in this sector attimes address. 17 codes mention the use of internal reporting and performance auditing. 13 of thecompany codes mention that the company publishes an annual report on environment performance andmake information publicly available.
Figure 10. Issues addressed in the extractive industry codes
The most frequently cited specific aspect of the environment issue is the provision of environmentally friendly products (14 codes) and conservation of energy (14 codes), followed byconservation of materials and recycling (12 codes).
Among labour issues, the far most frequently cited commitment is the provision of a reasonable work environment (19 codes). This mostly refers to the provision of a safe work environment in thecontext of extractive industry and is linked to the compliance with occupational safety laws. Unlike in theapparel industry, the concern for forced labour and child labour is very low (2 codes respectively).
Likewise, discrimination and freedom of association are infrequently mentioned (6 and 4 codesrespectively). 13 codes include a commitment to human resource development through provision oftraining, but only five codes mention the existence of a monitoring system.
The purpose of this section is to explore what code texts show about the kind of activities that organisations undertake or are expected to undertake in order to put code commitments into practice.
Codes may or may not provide much information in this regard. Companies and business associations may separately issue instruction manuals, audit checklists and other documentation that mapout procedures for code implementation and follow-up. In fact, 49 of the 246 code texts make reference toother, published or unpublished, material of that type, which was not available for the purpose of thisstudy. Also, implementation may call for different types of procedures and activities depending on suchfactors as the issue area which commitments address, the industry sector and company size, which are nottaken into account in this analysis. Therefore, examination of code content can provide only a veryimpressionistic picture about code implementation procedures. The data obtained from the content analysisare presented in Table 6 for the main implementation aspects covered by the 246 codes inventoried. Noconclusions about actual practices can be drawn from the findings.
Activities to promote code awareness among employees and other stakeholders
It is relatively common for the codes surveyed to include language describing policies and procedures aimed at familiarising relevant personnel inside the organisation and/or outside businesspartners (and also members in the case of business associations or partnerships of stakeholders) with therequirements of the code and the responsibilities attendant to it. 147 of the codes (60%) contain provisionsin this regard.
Of these codes, 108 (or 74%) mention that the organisation has a policy in place to communicate the code to internal stakeholders, such as employees or, in the case of business associations, members andtheir employees.
Approaches taken vary across the codes. Some statements are broad formulations. For example, the code of an Australian company in the extractive sector contains the following statement: “It is [company’s] policy to…….ensure that its employees and suppliers of goods and servicesare informed about this policy and aware of their environmental responsibilities in relation to[company] business.” 96 (or 90%) of the codes mentioning internally oriented communication provide for an ‘active’ information policy: a requirement for managers to personally distribute codes to employees, or formanagement to discuss codes in meetings, or for management to show codes to newly hired employees or a requirement for employees to acknowledge periodically that they have read the code, or for suppliers topublicly display a sourcing code so that workers know of its existence.
The code of practice setting out principles for agreements between oil companies and resellers in the petroleum industry of a Pacific nation states: “The Code Administration Committee shall publicise the existence and effects of the code andthe administration rules to oil companies and resellers who are parties to the code. This shouldinclude detailed briefing of staff by their respective oil companies and of resellers by theirrespective associations.” The licensee and supplier code of conduct of a North American services company includes the “Product Suppliers shall take appropriate steps to ensure that the provisions of this Code arecommunicated to employees, including the prominent posting of the Code (in the local language)in their manufacturing facilities.” In the case of a few of the other codes stating an internal communications policy, the approach taken is to make information about the code available upon request (6 codes). Contact points for answeringquestions about code-consistent practices and/or unclear situations are mentioned by 34 (or 32%) of thecodes that provide for an internal communications policy .
The primary role of a code is to communicate principles and commitments which organisations pledge to uphold. For some of the codes included in the inventory, the importance which high-levelmanagement attach to the contents of the code and its application is underlined by how the code ispresented. In the case of 22 per cent of the 246 codes inventoried (and 30% of all company codes), thechairman of the board of a company, the president or other top officer has signed either an attachedforeword, usually formulated as a message to employees or association members which introduces andstresses the importance of the commitments made, or the code text itself.
Also, 36 codes inventoried mention explicitly that the code has been adopted by the highest level of decisionmakers, i.e. the council, board or equivalent body. The majority of these codes are issued byindustry, trade or professional associations.
70 (or 48%) of the codes which make mention of a communication policy state that information about the code is or ought to be shared with external stakeholders and/or the general public, either as ageneral rule or in response to inquiries. For example, the code issued by an association in the Pacific regionthat represents a consumer products industry provides: “The [association] shall widely publicise the existence of the Code and the administrationrules (and any alterations thereto) to the industry, the general public and other relevantaudiences.” One means for making a code widely available is to post it on the Internet. Based on information provided in code texts or the type of document submitted (no effort was made to search the Internet), 38codes are made public in this way. Codes that are made publicly available via the Internet or through otherchannels are more often issued by associations and partnerships of stakeholders than individual companies.
Code-related education and training
Education and training of staff in the meaning of codes and application of the commitments set forth is an element of ensuring compliance on the part of employees or association members, which 21 percent of the codes mention explicitly. The relevant statements vary in their specificity. For example, theenvironmental policy statement of a European forestry company contains the following language: “Personnel are given both specialised and general training in environmental matters. The aim isto develop a sense of responsibility for the environment and its protection. This training alsoequips personnel to follow and take part in the public debate on environmental issues.” A detailed statement from the business ethics code of a major U.S. company reads: “Each operating group and division will establish a training program. The program will bedesigned to ensure that all employees have an awareness of the [company’s code] and thestandards of conduct and legal requirements that are relevant to their work at a level of detailappropriate to their job functions. Managers and employees in sensitive positions, such as sales,marketing, finance, contract, and material, require more comprehensive training as well asperiodic refresher courses.” The fair practices code adopted by an association of services providers in New Zealand states: “Members will train staff and their agents at all levels in the requirements of the [code], ensurethat procedures are in place to train both new and existing staff and their agents, and to providerefresher courses to remind them of their obligations under the Code.” Some of the codes that do not mention training in such explicit terms contain various illustrative and other educational material designed to give employees guidance or instructions about what would becode-consistent conduct or business practice in specific situations which employees may come to face intheir dealings with customers, suppliers, etc. In particular codes issued by professional organisations caninclude long text with task or situation-specific instructions. A contact point (such as a manager,supervisor) where employees and other stakeholders can seek clarifications of the Code or situation-specific advise is another way how some organisations seek to promote code-consistent behaviour.
Code management systems
Codes differ greatly in the information which they provide about an organisation’s management systems applicable to the implementation of code commitments. Many codes do not go into the details ofthe management systems used, as the following statement from the ethics code of a British producer ofconsumer goods shows: “We will institute appropriate monitoring, auditing and disclosure mechanisms to ensure ouraccountability and demonstrate our compliance with these principles” a)
Assignment of responsibilities and administrative structure
It is common for the codes issued by companies and business associations to point out that the primarily responsibility for the observance of the code lies with the individual employee and membercompany, respectively. Some of the codes issued by companies merely state that it is the responsibility ofmanagement to ensure that the codes are understood and taken seriously by all employees. Similarly, someof the codes issued by business associations content themselves with stating that member companies areexpected to set up adequate and effective internal control mechanisms and procedures.
For example, a multinational oil company states in its code of conduct: “We expect everybody who works for [company] to take responsibility for lining up to thesecommitments…Line managers are accountable for policy implementation and for providingassurance on compliance for their area of responsibility.” The environmental policy statement issued by a European company operating in the forestry “…through its line organisation, ensure that all of its plants set objectives and imposerequirements in accordance with [company’s] environmental policy…” While code administration is sometimes described as being part of the regular day-to-day management process, language contained in other codes provides for a code-specific structure andprocedures for carrying out and overseeing the implementation of code commitments.
The textual analysis finds that 27 per cent of the 246 codes mention at least one specialised body or a commitment to create such a body. Such provisions are more common for codes issued bypartnerships of stakeholders and business associations than for companies. The terms frequently used are“Ethics Committee” or “Code Administration Committee”; one company has a “Committee on Social andEnvironmental Accountability”. Responsibilities vary in scope but always require the body in question tofacilitate and supervise proper implementation of the code and participate in the review the policies andpractices relating to the standards or goals set.
Consider for example the following code issued by a U.S. company, which states: “The structure includes the Corporate Responsibility Committee of the Board of Directors andthe Leadership Committee, which have oversight responsibility; the Compliance Council, whoseduties include education, monitoring and response; and all employees of the Company.” A code of practice for environmental marketing issued by an association of companies based in the Pacific region and operating in the consumer goods sector states: “A Management Committee, consisting of one representative of each company which is asignatory to the Code, a nominee from an appropriate Government regulatory authority, and arepresentative of the [association] Secretariat will be responsible for the administration andgeneral operation of the Code.” Some of these specialised bodies also handle complaints by employees, conduct investigations and take decisions with respect to disciplinary measures. Some (predominantly association) codes providefor separate complaint bodies and/or dispute settlement procedures (see next section).
Monitoring of compliance
Among the elements of code implementation that a large number of the codes mention are monitoring procedures aimed at preventing and detecting violations of code commitments.
A majority of codes (66% of all codes and 71% of all company codes) mention some type of monitoring procedure. These are predominantly internal systems. In the case of company codes, internalmonitoring is often described as being part of the regular management process, with managers beingresponsible for ensuring, as part of their regular duties, that the standards are being observed.
Closer examination reveals that a significant number (79%) of the codes that refer to internal procedures for monitoring provide for a mechanism whereby code compliance is pursued ‘actively’ ratherthan wait for suspected violations to be reported by employees. Active monitoring can range fromrequiring company employees to annually certify that they are complying with a code to instructingmanagers to regularly review code standards with their staff.
The code of an mining company from the Pacific region states: “Each year the Managing Director will ask you to sign a reconfirmation of your commitment toand understanding of the Code of Conduct.” It is quite common for codes which extend to contractors to make specific reference to inspection of partners’ production facilities and records. Consider the following statement made by the code of aNorth American corporation: “[Company] and its subsidiaries will undertake affirmative measures, such as on-site inspectionof production facilities, to monitor compliance with the …standards. [Company] Contractorsmust allow [company] representatives full access to the contractor’s production facilities andbooks and records and respond promptly to reasonable inquiries by [company] representativesconcerning the operations of the contractor’s facilities.” Of the 45 codes in the inventory which specifically target the conduct of contractors and other entities from which a company purchases (sourcing codes), more than two-third (71%) mention thatmonitoring will or may involve on-site inspections. A few of the remaining sourcing codes state that theircompliance program consists of screening suppliers prior to the placing of any orders. Almost all of thesecodes address labour practices.
At times, active monitoring is complemented by policies and procedures to receive, investigate and respond to complaints. Some company codes mention only this type of compliance activity. Forexample, statements in some codes expressly encourage employees to report suspected violations or failureto comply with code standards. This procedure enables managers or associations to deal with violationsonce they have occurred. Codes adopted by business associations frequently also mention such policies.
They also mention the existence of rather formal dispute-settlement bodies, which are to receive and ruleon complaints about a member’s conduct which other members of the association, the clients of themember companies and other interested parties may wish to bring.
Codes that mention active monitoring often also make reference to requirements for record- Another aspect of code management which is relatively frequently mentioned in code texts are prospective penalties or other consequences of non-observance for employees, business partners ormembers of business associations. 42 percent of the company codes and even 78 per cent of the codesissued by partnerships of stakeholders make statements in this regard.
Performance assessment and reporting
45 per cent of the codes examined mention some procedure of preparing and disclosing data on an organisation’s performance in relation to stated commitments. Reporting can occur to the public, toselective external stakeholders (including government authorities), within a company to higher-levelmanagement, or to boards or councils within business associations. Reporting activities mentioned areusually carried out on some regular basis.
Statements affirming that an organisation’s performance relative to the standards and commitments contained in the code will be evaluated periodically are found in 37 per cent of the codes.
The codes issued by partnerships of stakeholders are much more likely to include a reference (66% containsuch statements) than company codes (29%).
The code of conduct by a North American manufacturer of metals products provides as follows: “Education, updating and general compliance with [code title] will be measured by audits. Theseaudits will also review reporting and recording procedures, compliance seminars and anyrefresher programs and the audited locations.” An agreement committing two organisations representing companies and trade unions in the textile and clothing sector to promoting certain labour practices among their membership and at companylevel provides: "[Organisation] and the [organisation] agree to follow up … the progressive accomplishment ofthe implementation of this Charter. To this effect, [organisation] and the [organisation] willconduct a yearly evaluation of the Charter's implementation, the first evaluation will take placeno later than [date]." a) Internal
Data on disclosure commitments presented in Section IV indicate that internal reporting prevails over public disclosure in those company codes that address this issue. Codes issued by businessassociations tend to give external stakeholders more attention. As the examples given below show, thedegree of detail of codes’ provisions for internal disclosure varies, as does the scope of activities and typeof information subject to reporting.
The business ethics code of a North American transport equipment manufacturer states: “The Committee reports periodically to the Audit Committee of the Board of Directors on thecompany’s ethics and business conduct program and related compliance activities.” The code of conduct adopted by a European financial services provider states: “The main Board will receive an annual report from the Group Chief Executive on the extent towhich the provisions of this Code are understood by all employees and applied by them in theirday-to-day conduct of business.” The code of practice issued by a consumer products industry association in the Pacific region “The Committee shall report at least annually on its activities including the number ofcomplaints, types of complaints, and whether complaints were substantiated. The Council [of theorganisation] shall produce an annual report on the Code and its administration and make itavailable to interested parties.” b) External
Provisions for reporting on the organisation’s performance to external stakeholders are contained in about 29 per cent of all codes and almost half of the 32 codes issued by partnerships of stakeholders.
They are especially frequent in the codes that deal with environmental management issues. Theirstatements can be very short but usually contain some reference to separately issued environmental reportsor inclusion of environmental information in annual financial reports. For example, the code setting forth aNorth American petroleum company’s health, environmental and safety (HES) principles states: “We support the concept of accountability for HES performance and will provide annually to thepublic a report on our HES performance in measurable terms.” Yet more elaborate, the following statement is taken from the code of business practice of a “We prepare annually and half yearly reports and financial statements for our shareholders onall aspects of our business performance…These reports are available to anyone else whorequests them…In several areas we go further. On health, safety and the environment, forexample, we not only review in out annual report to shareholders major aspects of policy andpractice, but we also publish a separate health, safety and environment report, extending thequality and quantity of the information we provide. The report deals with present performance inmanaging the key HSE issues and the work under way to achieve further improvements in thefuture. It is independently verified and then widely circulated within the Group. Copies areavailable to both shareholders and members of the public." Of the 111 texts containing a provision for disclosure, 43 per cent mention reporting to both, Code review and revision
The examination of code texts finds that codes are “living documents” that organisations may choose to review and revise periodically. For example, a U.S. company’s statement of business ethicsincluded in the survey is the fourth version of a code that was issued for the first time in 1961. A total of 55codes (22%) make mention of code review and/or revision procedures. The process can involverepresentatives from several stakeholders. Again, statements range from more general formulations todetailed descriptions.
The code of conduct issued by a large European consumer goods retailer provides: “Whilst accepting the need for continuity and consistency, we also recognise that this Code mustbe developed over time in the light of practical experience and changing circumstances. We willtherefore ensure that the Code is reviewed on a regular basis and revised where necessary. Allemployees and suppliers will be invited to contribute towards the further development of theCode over time.” “Comments shall be sought from interested parties on the review and evaluation of the Code andon proposed amendments.” The code of practice issued by an industry organisation in New Zealand states: “This Code is reviewed every three years by the [organisation], in consultation with communityand consumer groups. These groups include the [names of various stakeholders].” On the other hand, 47 codes (19%) speak of progressive or continuous improvement of an organisation’s performance relative to stated commitments. About two-third of these codes set forthenvironmental management commitments. Many of the issuers of environmental codes also committhemselves to carrying out research and development in environmental matters as part of the overall effortto achieve stated objectives.
An illustration provides the following statement from a code of an Australian company belonging “To fulfil this commitments, the Company will…progressively establish and maintain company-wide environmental standards for our operations throughout the world…continually improve ourenvironmental performance, including reducing the effect of emissions, developing opportunitiesfor recycling, and more efficiently using energy, water and other resources.” Of the codes with references to continuous improvement, a few also set specific performance targets for the company or industry or mention that measurable targets for improving performance will beincluded in the business plan. These are almost all codes or undertakings addressing health, safety andenvironmental performance issues.
Another element of implementation mentioned by a few codes pertains to the sharing of experiences and best practices. Experiences can relate to substantive matters, i.e. the code principlesthemselves, or to the range of activities undertaken to implement code principles, for example bycompanies belonging to one and the same industry association that has issued a code for its members. As amultinational oil company puts it: “We recognise that these commitments may in some cases represent aspirations for the futurerather than statements of today’s reality. We will share our experiences and best practices. Wewill endeavour to learn from our mistakes.” Other aspects of code implementation mentioned by the codes
The analysis of the code texts reveals certain other types of activities or elements of Some of the codes include statements to the effect that an organisation will actively participate or work actively to assist in the development of public policies, national legislation, regulations orinternational treaties in those subject matters which the code commitments address.
Few codes make mention of the financial aspect of administering a code. Statements addressing this issue typically are not detailed and appear mostly in codes issued by business associations. Theseorganisations collect fees from members to cover the administration expenses involved in promoting andoperating the code.
A number of codes describe various types of community outreach activities which organisations pursue as part of their programmes to give effect to their code and promote code values. This includesfinancial assistance to communities or projects, support for or sponsorship of various education andawareness programs, etc. For example, the stated policy of a European consumer goods producer is “…toinclude environmental projects in our community and charity expenditure budgets”. Another codeaddressing child labour mentions the establishment of an autonomous budget to help improve the life andwork of children. Some of the codes include descriptions of achievements in these areas.
A few company codes inform the reader of concrete steps which the company has already taken to fulfil code commitments. The sourcing code of a European apparel retailer mentions that, because ofviolations of the code which the company detected in spot checks of its suppliers, business relations withtwo factories were cancelled. It also provides the names of these supplier factories.
In conclusion, the available code documents reveal how diverse the approaches are which organisations take to providing in the codes information about implementation structures and procedures.
When deciding which elements of implementation to mention in a code of conduct and the degree of detailof the provisions, organisations are selective. While the survey finds that certain elements of theimplementation process are more frequently mentioned than others, there is overall not much agreementamong the organisations surveyed as to what information about implementation a code should contain.
Table 6. Main aspects of implementation covered by the codes
Partnerships of
All codes
Communication policy
Education and training
Body(ies) with code

‘Active’ internal
On-site inspection

Channel for reporting
Formal complaint body

Penalties and other
consequences of non-

Performance assessment
Reporting on
of which:
Review/revision of code
improvement of

progressive code

Source: OECDNote: * includes 4 codes issued by intergovernmental organisations that are not reported separately BIBLIOGRAPHY
Jones, L.R. and John Baldwin (1994), Corporate Environmental Policy and Government Regulation Gordon, Kathryn and Maiko Miyake (2000), “Deciphering Codes of Conduct: A Review of their Contents.” Working Papers on International Investment, Number 99/2, October.
OECD (1998a), “Codes of Conduct: An Inventory” TD/TC/WP(98)74/FINAL.
The Conference Board (1999), Global Corporate Ethics Practices: A Developing Consensus. Research Report 1243-99-RR (prepared by Ronald E. Berenbeim), 53 p.



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