, Volume 63, Issue 3, pp 217-236

Ethical Codes of Conduct in Irish Companies: A Survey of Code Content and Enforcement Procedures

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Abstract

This paper reports on an investigation of issues surrounding the use of ethical codes/codes of conduct in Irish based companies. Using a comprehensive questionnaire survey, the paper examines the incidence, content and enforcement of codes of conduct among a sample of the top 1000 companies based in Ireland. The main findings indicate that the overall usage of codes of conduct amongst indigenous Irish companies has increased significantly from 1995 to 2000. However, in line with prior research, these codes focus primarily on issues surrounding company and employee protection as opposed to society protection. Almost half of all codes are written by company personnel or provided by head office. Revisions of codes are common but formal ongoing methods of instructing new staff about codes are not prevalent. Less than one-third of companies with codes have formal channels for reporting violations but a high percentage have formal disciplinary procedures in place for breaches of codes.

Grainne Madden is the founder of and senior consultant in GMJ Associates, a Dublin based corporate responsibility consultancy. Prior to founding GMJ Associates she had over 20 years business experience, 15 of those years in advertising and publishing. She worked in different business functions including Sales, Marketing, Quality Management, Market Research, Strategy Development, automated Sales Systems, Database Management and New Product Development. In these roles, she participated in partnerships and negotiations with organisations in Ireland, the UK, Belgium, The Netherlands and Portugal. She obtained her MBA from the Smurfit Graduate School of Business in Dublin in 2000 in which she specialised in Business Ethics. As well as working with various client companies and organisations, she lectures on corporate responsibility to MBA students.
Brendan O’Dwyer is Professor of Accounting at the University of Amsterdam Business School, University of Amsterdam. Brendan’s research interests are interdisciplinary and qualitative in focus and encompass: corporate and non-governmental organisation (NGO) accounting and accountability; social and ethical accounting and reporting; sustainability reporting assurance practice; corporate stakeholder engagement; corporate social responsibility, corporate governance; qualitative research methods, and professional accounting ethics and disciplinary procedures. His academic work has been published in the three foremost international interdisciplinary accounting journals Accounting, Organizations and Society, Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal and Critical Perspectives on Accounting as well as in other accounting journals such as The European Accounting Review and The British Accounting Review. He serves on the editorial board of Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, The British Accounting Review and Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management: An International Journal.