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Report Card: 50 Codes of Conduct Graded

Submitted by: Ethisphere Institute

Categories: Business Ethics

Posted: Nov 16, 2006 – 10:33 AM EST


New Magazine Aimed at Creating Competitive Advantage Through Ethical Leadership Gives PepsiCo "A," Starbucks "A-;" Others Not So Lucky


PHOENIX--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Nov. 16, 2006--With the goal of helping U.S. companies use ethical leadership to increase their competitive advantage and profitability, the Ethisphere(TM) Council has released its first Code of Conduct report card focusing on 50 retail and consumer product companies. A Code of Conduct, often known as a "Code of Ethics" or "Code of Business Standards," is the stated commitment of the behavioral expectations an organization holds for its employees and agents. Serious in topic, but often "tongue in cheek" in its delivery, the report card appears this month in the premiere issue of Ethisphere Magazine, the largest circulation print publication in the compliance, ethics and corporate social responsibility field.

"Corporate scandals have become far too commonplace, tarnishing reputations and dramatically lowering profits for those caught in the headlines," said Alex Brigham, co-founder of the Ethisphere Council. "As a result, companies are increasingly creating Codes of Conduct not only for compliance purposes on what business practices will - and will not - be tolerated within their organizations, but also to establish an ethical culture for its employees. Based on our evaluations, some companies are on the right track in establishing the importance of ethical leadership, but far too many need to make their Codes of Conduct more easily understood and available if they expect them to be followed."

Ranging from "A" to "F," the ratings or "grades" were derived from publicly available Codes of Conduct on each company's website as of Oct. 31. The codes were evaluated on eight important criteria: public availability, leadership commitment, readability, risk topics, learning aides, style & tone, stakeholder commitments, and non-retaliation representations.

Two of nine companies that received an "A" or "A-" grade include Starbucks, whose code is described in the report as "the most comprehensive and explicit addressing of risks of any code we have seen," and PepsiCo, whose code sets an "excellent tone from the top which bubbles throughout and (is) very readable." Other recipients of "A" grades include Best Buy, Gap, Kellogg and Target. The report criticized several companies with C- or D+ grades for problems such as too much legalese, long paragraphs and difficult to understand

-- "Dear Code Writer: please introduce yourself to the return key on the keyboard."

-- "Looks like this code hasn't been a bestseller. Desperately needs to be pulled off the back shelf and dusted off."

-- " Zzzzzzzz...Thank goodness their food is fresher than their code. Mind-numbing."

-- "Can't sleep? Take two...codes and call us in the morning. While succinct, VERY legalistic."

Even codes that received good grades had areas that could be improved such as using American idiomatic terms such as "lip service" that may be deemed confusing or even offensive overseas.

If companies have revised their codes since Oct. 31, they can contact an Ethisphere representative at www.ethisphere.com to receive an updated review.

Ethisphere Magazine: A "Must Read" for Ethics/Compliance Professionals

In an age of deeper government scrutiny of business operations, increased civil and criminal penalties for compliance failure, and heightened consumer awareness and sophistication, organizations that want to lead realize that there is a direct link between ethical leadership and profits. "Ethisphere Magazine was created to illuminate this important correlation," said Stephen Martin, executive director of the Ethisphere Council.

"Our mission is to help corporate executives, directors and general counsel alike learn how to reduce personal and organizational liability exposure, gain market share and create a sustainable competitive advantage through better business practices and corporate citizenship," Martin added. "Thought-provoking, informative, and at times irreverent, Ethisphere Magazine is the new 'must-read'
publication for all things ethics and compliance."

Other articles included in the magazine's premiere issue, which will be sent to 60,000 subscribers this week, include:

-- "Is Ethical Leadership More Profitable?"

-- "Is Google Ranking Your Company as 'Unethical?"

-- "Is This Seat Taken? Keeping the Federal Government Out of the Corporate Boardroom"

-- Larry D. Thompson speaks on Tone from the Top and Attorney Client Privilege

-- "Astrazeneca: CEO talks about ethical dilemmas"

-- Interviews with compliance professionals from PepsiCo, Xerox, Cox, Dresser and Time Warner about cutting edge things they are doing in compliance and ethics for their organizations - and what they wish they had known before they got started.

Future issues will include report cards on the Codes of Conduct of 50 companies in the computer and high technology industries.

For a free subscription, visit www.ethisphere.com/magazineb_form.

About the Ethisphere Council

The Ethisphere Council was created in 2006 by the Practising Law Institute, a non-profit organization committed to enhancing the professionalism of attorneys and others (www.pli.edu); LexisNexis, a leading provider of comprehensive information and business solutions (http://www.lexisnexis.com); and Corpedia, a leader in risk assessment and eLearning for ethics and compliance (http://www.corpedia.com). Formed with support from such leading corporations as Deutsche Telekom, Time Warner, Dresser Industries, Avaya and Kraft, the council is dedicated to the research, creation, and sharing of best practices in ethics, compliance, and corporate governance among its membership companies. It also focuses on the development and advancement of its members through increased efficiency, innovation, tools, mentoring, advice, and unique career opportunities. More information on membership can be found at http://www.ethisphere.com.


Copyright Business Wire 2006

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Cathy Planchard Mindspace
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