Business codes of multinational firms: What do they say?

Muel Kaptein*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter/Conference proceedingChapterAcademic

4 Citations (Scopus)


Business codes are an oft-cited management instrument. But how common are codes among multinationals? And what is their content? In an unprecedented study, the codes of the largest corporations in the world have been collected and thoroughly analyzed. This paper presents the results of that study. Of the 200 largest companies in the world, 52.5% have a code. More than half f these codes describe company responsibilities regarding quality of products and services (67%), adherence to local laws and regulations (57%) and the protection of the natural environment (56%). Many codes make reference to principles governing stake-holder relations (e.g. transparency (55%), honesty (50%) and fairness (45%)), corporate core values (e.g. teamwork (43%)), appropriate conduct among employees (e.g. discrimination (44%) and intimidation (43%)) and treatment of company property by employees (e.g. conflict of interests (52%), corruption (46%) and fraud (45%)). Monitoring compliance with the code is addressed in 52% of the codes. Based on this content study, three types of codes are distinguished: the stakeholder statute (72%), the values statement (49%) and the code of conduct (46%). The results of this inquiry present a benchmark for the evaluation and development of both individual and international business codes.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCitation Classics from The Journal of Business Ethics
Subtitle of host publicationCelebrating the First Thirty Years of Publication
PublisherSpringer Netherlands
Number of pages23
ISBN (Electronic)9789400741263
ISBN (Print)9789400741256
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2013

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2013.


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