A New Generation of Corporate Codes of Ethics

Journal of Business Ethics 90 (4):607-622 (2009)
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Globalization theories posit organizational convergence, suggesting that Codes of Ethics will become commonplace and include greater consideration of global issues. This study explores the degree to which the Codes of Ethics of 157 corporations on the Global 500 and/or Fortune 500 lists include the "third generation" of corporate social responsibility. Unlike first generation ethics, which focus on the legal context of corporate behavior, and second generation ethics, which locate responsibility to groups directly associated with the corporation, third generation ethics transcend both the profit motive and the immediate corporate environment. Third generation ethics are grounded in responsibilities to the larger interconnected environment. The results of the study suggest convergence, insofar as Codes of Ethics are becoming standard communication features of corporations across region and industrial sector but still manifest a primary concern with profits and those behaviors which are mandated by law. Only corporations headquartered in the European Union demonstrate a significant degree of global consciousness and reflexivity. However, there is some evidence that third generation ethics and thinking are becoming part of the corporate landscape. More then three quarters of the corporations made at least some reference to third generation ethics



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