Business Codes of The Global 200


In drafting and updating my code of conduct and ethics it is always useful to see what other companies are doing. I look for both approach, content and style. For instance, I collected the Whistleblower Hotlines for Home Builders. It is great to see a comparison of a group of compliance codes. KPMG put together a study of the codes of conduct for the Fortune Global 200 companies: Business codes of the Global 200 — their prevalence, content and embedding (.pdf).

A good and properly implemented business code is not just a nice thing to have; it is based on an all-encompassing business need. A business code contributes to an organization’s strategic positioning, to strengthening its identity and reputation, to an improved corporate culture and work climate, and to improved financial performance. A business code and the compliance program to implement it are the cornerstone of an organization.

This whitepaper illustrates some of the results from a study that KPMG conducted with RSM Erasmus University. In 1990 only 14% of the Global 200 had a code of conduct but in 2007 86% of them have a code, including 100% of North American firms.

A few interesting things jumped out at me.

The codes are mostly directed at employees, with less than half discussing corporate responsibility to shareholders. I found this strange since the purpose of the code should be to protect the shareholder’s investment and provide a long-term result for shareholders. It is the focus on the short-term that leads to trouble.

Although 73% of the codes refer to the acceptance of gifts, only 59% refer to the offering of gifts. You would expect a code to address both.  Since both offer the same danger of being viewed as bribery.