A document setting out the way a company believes its employees should respond to situations that challenge their integrity or social responsibility. The focus of the code will depend on the business concerned. Banks may concentrate on honesty, and chemical firms on pollution control. It has proved difficult to produce meaningful, comprehensive codes; Natwest Bank, for example, took two years to produce its ten-page document.
A typical code might include sections on:
• Personal integrity – in dealings with suppliers and in handling the firm’s resources
• orporate integrity, such as forbidding collusion with competitors and Cforbidding predatory pricing
• Environmental responsibility – highlighting a duty to minimise pollution emissions and maximise recycling
• Social responsibility – to provide products of genuine value that are promoted with honesty and dignity.
Critics of ethical codes believe them to be public relations (PR) exercises rather than genuine attempts to change behaviour. What is not in doubt is that the proof of their effectiveness can only be measured by how firms actually behave, not by what they write or say.