, Volume 84, Issue 1 Supplement, pp 33-45
Date: 18 Mar 2008

The Codes of Ethics of S&P/MIB Italian Companies: An Investigation of Their Contents and the Main Factors that Influence Their Adoption

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Abstract

This article introduces and discusses the initial results of a survey focused on the contents, role and effectiveness of company codes of ethics. The article examines the contents of the codes of ethics of companies operating in the private sector in Italy, quoted on the Italian Stock Exchange (Standard&Poor/Mib-Milano Indice Borsa). The purpose of this investigation was to identify any correlations between sector characteristics and the contents of the codes of ethics, which would enable us to map out the main principles followed in writing the companies’ codes of ethics. The analysis was conducted in order to ascertain whether there were common factors deriving from the shared ethical questions faced by the companies operating in the same sector of activity. As the first step, the 40 companies were subdivided into three main economic categories – Industrial, Financial and Service. Then the contents of each code of ethics were evaluated and classified in accordance with different criteria. The main categories of classification were based on – general principles, social values, rules of conduct, relationships with third parties, implementation and sanctions. The next objective was to investigate whether these characteristics were due to the regulation of the sector of reference, the existence of sector benchmarks for best practice, or simply companies’ voluntary stance on ethical issues. The main conclusions were that the codes of ethics of the Italian companies that we analysed do not seem to show relevant differences traceable to sector of activity, and their adoption is affected by several reasons other than intentionally ethical considerations.

Ennio Lugli was born in Italy. He obtained a first degree in Economics and Business Studies from the University of Modena in July 1994. In June 1997 he was awarded a Master’s degree in Business and Administration at the William E. Simon Graduate School of Business Administration, University of Rochester, Rochester, NY, USA. In March 2006 he obtained a Ph.D. from the University of Parma in Determination and Communication of Corporate Value. He is currently Assistant Professor at the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia. His main research topics are Business Ethics and Corporate Communication, Corporate Governance and Management Accounting. Ulpiana Kocollari was born in Albania. She obtained an Italian degree in Economics in December 2005. She is currently a Ph.D. student attending the third year of the doctorate school in Determination and Communication of Corporate Value. She is engaged on research on several themes, including Business Ethics and Corporate Communication, Tourism Management and Corporate Governance, at the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia Department of Economics and Business Studies. Chiara Nigrisoli was born in Italy and obtained her first degree in the Science of Communications in February 2006. She is engaged in research on several themes, including Business Ethics and Corporate Communication, Migration and Development and Quality Management at the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia Department of Economics and Business Studies. She is currently attending the second year of the doctorate school in Determination and Communication of Corporate Value.