Codes of Ethics
Codes of ethics are acceptable standards of behavior expected of business organizations. It is prudent to note that codes of ethics are now prevalent in large corporations across the world. Various business organizations globally are expected to uphold certain codes of conduct. Different corporations in different countries across the world have different levels of code of conducts. For instance, approximately thirty percent of the French companies have code of conducts while fifty seven percent of the U.K companies have code of conducts.
Despite of the growth of the corporations’ code of conducts globally, researchers have been able to point out a number of issues related to the code of conduct. On the top agenda are the reasons why different corporations develop code of conducts. After careful review of different codes of conducts, researchers have been able some of the prevalent and missing issues in the code of conduct of different corporations. Several researches have been conducted in order to verify whether the codes of conducts influence behavior. However, the results are mixed up.
Several studies have found that codes play critical role in influencing behaviors while others have found that the relationship between the codes of conduct and behavior change is very weak. Other studies have also found that there is no relationship at all between the codes of conduct and behavior regulations.
Normative Research on Codes
Most people define code as a written distinct, formal document that consists of moral standards which helps in guiding of the employee or the corporate behavior. This definition implies that the codes of conduct have normative guidelines for behavior. However, the question is that if actually codes are essentially normative in nature then what normative research has actually took place with respect to corporate codes of ethics. This is because despite different definition implying that codes are normative in nature; limited studies have been conducted to verify this assumption. Furthermore, few studies which are normative in nature and which are related to corporate codes of ethics.
Some studies conducted by different scholars such as the one which was conducted by (Benson1989) have criticized corporate codes as focusing too much inwardly as opposed to the external welfare. Other studies also always tend to solely rely on moral theory for guidance of which standards to apply in evaluating codes. Other studies also tend to utilize the tools of philosophical ethics such as deontology and utilitarianism in order to evaluate codes of ethics.
Of all the studies conducted so far in this article, only one study attempt to consider specifications which ought to be met so as to have ethical validity: the participation by employees in the development of codes of ethics and promulgation; coherence with the general ethical principles and the dictates of conscience; code coherence with the lived commitments of the company’s officers.
Apart from the above mentioned studies, the practitioners of the codes of ethics appear to accept the notion that so long as codes is at least effective in reducing either harmful behavior or promoting good behavior, then they necessarily posses ethical legitimacy. Some studies on ethics do not always attempt to systematically weighty ethical concerns required of them and which are related to code content and the process involved in developing of a code. This paper therefore attempts to answer certain pertinent questions. For instance, when a code of ethics should considered ethical and how can it be developed. In the development of ethical codes of ethics, the following are some of the stages which ought to be considered.
- Code content
- Code creation
- Code implementation.
- Code administration.
This process leads to the creation of codes of ethics which in turn help in the regulation of corporation’s code of ethics. According to this article, the corporate codes of ethics is used to regulate the behavior of the large Canadian companies which represents a variety of industries, telecommunications, banking, manufacturing and the high technology.
Set of Universal Moral Standards.
Despite of the fact that there exist many moral standards that regulate behavior in various corporations, this study attempt to identify some of the moral standards which appears to be universal in nature. The moral standards should be able to retain their significance or purpose irrespective of the difference in culture, religion, time and circumstance. These standards should be the ones that are acceptable by large and diversified number of individuals and the social groups as being fundamentally important in guiding and evaluating behavior, actions and the policies.
Despite the importance of the universal moral standards, it has not been easy to attain it by the moral philosophers and the cultural anthropologists. For thousands of years, they have been defeated to come up or to develop universal moral standards. This implies that it is extremely difficult to provide a philosophical justification for each of the selected moral standards despite of it being recognized as a factor that can strengthens the normative grounds for their use. However, in order to set universal moral standards, it is prudent to review four distinct sources: employees, company codes, the global codes of ethics and the business codes literature. According to this article, the following proposed sources can result into the following proposed set of universal moral standards.
- Responsibility and accountability
- Citizenship including obeying laws and protecting the environment.
Entails the moral obligations with respect of what ought to be included in a code of ethics. It is believed that the inclusion of the following six moral standards results in the generation of a number of moral minimums in terms of the code content: inclusion of the six universal moral standards, obligation to stakeholders, consistency with the moral standards, prioritization of the standards, sufficient rationale, and inclusion of the procedural provisions, comprehensible and achievable.
In order to create code, the most pertinent issue revolves around whether the corporations have the moral obligation involve employees in the creation of codes. It is prudent that the companies involve employees in the code creation process if such codes have to live up to the universal acceptable moral standards. This is because the code of ethics will directly affect the behaviors of the employees. It is therefore morally justified to allow the employees to participate in what is will affect them directly. However, the stakeholder groups such as the consumers, suppliers, competitors, shareholders and the community will only be entitled to participate in the creation of codes of ethics if the criterion for participation was in the basis of impacts. However, one factor which could hinder or prevent the stakeholder groups from participating in code creation process is the fact that they are not obligated to comply with the provisions which the company have set out in its code.
However, despite of this fact, the stakeholders may also be obligated to participate in code creation if they desire. However, despite the fact that it will be advantageous to include the stakeholders as opposed to the employees in code creation process, it is important to note that there is no moral requirement to do so on the basis of the six moral standards. The fundamental value and importance of the employee’s to participate in the code creation lies in their ability to confirm the practicability of the provisions.
The code implementation process entails the following processes.
Distribution: entails the distribution of the copies of the moral codes of ethics to respective employees and other relevant stakeholders. It is prudent to note that there exist a set of moral standards which propose that each employee is entitled to a copy of the code. This is because since the employees can be accused or dismissed for violating the code, they are therefore morally entitled to know what standards they ought to comply with. However, in case where there could not be any consequences for failing to comply with the set code of ethics, then it could be concluded that there is no need for distributing the copies to the employees.
Caring is also a moral standard that supports the universal distribution of the copies. Caring requires the company to protect its employees from unnecessary harm. Therefore, if distribution of copies would prevent the employees from being dismissed as a result of violating the codes of ethics for the organization, then it is morally justifiable. The third standard which supports the distribution of the code of ethics copies is accountability. This is because the company cannot be held accountable unless the code of conducts are distributed and made available to the relevant people.
Sufficient Training, Support and Reinforcement.
The principle of caring requires that the corporations train employees and the stakeholders on the general use and practicability of the code of ethics in order to avoid unnecessary harm. It is believed that sufficient training is attained at the point in which all the employees are conversant with the standards and in which they cannot violate the code due to lack of understanding or knowing how the code provisions work. This is because failure to understand the code of ethics and how it apply may cause stringent harm to the society in general.
This is because of the failure to comply with the code of ethics because of lack of understanding. The company therefore has the moral duty to ensure that not only the employees acquires or receives a copy of the moral standards but also have sufficient understanding on how such standards work or apply. The employees should therefore be given opportunity to train and also ask different questions on how the standards would apply in different situations without being threaten.
Role modeling: the senior management in the organization should ensure that they are role models to their employees in issues concerning integrity and the respect of the set code of ethics. They therefore have the moral duty to support the set code of ethics without fear or favor.
Administration or the code of ethics has something to do with enforcement of the codes. The companies have the obligation to enforce the code of ethics into the organization. However, they should do so in a consistent and the fairest manner. During the enforcement stage of code, it is prudent that the employee receive preferential treatment on the basis of their position in or the financial contribution to the company. The executive management should ensure that reinforcement take place with the consideration of the procedural rights of the accused including the right to defend oneself against accusations and with respect towards protecting the accused reputation following unfounded allegations.
Protection: according to the principle of caring, the obligation to blow the whistle incase of violations of the standards of ethics is morally justifiable. This is because caring should be extended also to the company itself because violations of ethics may cause harm to the company. Despite the fact that employees are required to report any violations of the company’s code of ethics, it is only morally justifiable to do so when full guarantees such as anonymity and confidentiality as well as the protection against reprisal are provided and adhered to. This is because reporting such obligations can lead to loss of life. Because of the complex nature involved in reporting of some violations, it is prudent that proper measures be put in place so as to protect the employees who report violations from the side of the executive management.
Monitoring: it is prudent to note that moral standards will generate several obligations in terms of monitoring the codes of ethics. It is important that the employees understand and abide by the set code of ethics. This will require monitoring of the behavior of people within the workplace. Periodic audits to confirm whether individuals are abiding with the set code of conduct is necessary and morally obligated. It is important that measures be put in place to ensure that feedback concerning the comprehensibility of the code of ethics be taken.
As part of the code monitoring process, it is also important that the executive management put in place measures to ensure that the corporate policies, programs, structures, systems and objectives are part and parcel of the company’s code of ethics.
In conclusion, it is prudent to note that the codes of ethics are acceptable standards of behavior expected of business organizations. It is prudent to note that codes of ethics are now prevalent in large corporations across the world. Various business organizations globally are expected to uphold certain codes of conduct. Different corporations in different countries across the world have different levels of code of conducts. For instance, approximately thirty percent of the French companies have code of conducts while fifty seven percent of the U.K companies have code of conducts.
In attempt to come up or develop a universal set of ethics, a set of six universal moral standards have been generated in this paper. This has been done through convergence of four different sources such as employees, companies, global codes of ethics and the business ethics literature. These universal moral standards include trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship. It is believed that the application of the six moral standards in the four development stages of moral standards could result to the creation of universal moral standards.
Schwartz M.S. (2002). A code of ethics for corporate code of ethics. U.S.A: Springer.