, Volume 18, Issue 3, pp 283-294

Corporate Ethics Practices in the Mid-1990's: An Empirical Study of the Fortune 1000

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Abstract

This empirical study of Fortune 1000 firms assesses the degree to which those firms have adopted various practices associated with corporate ethics programs. The study examines the following aspects of formalized corporate ethics activity: ethics-oriented policy statements; formalization of management responsibilities for ethics; free-standing ethics offices; ethics and compliance telephone reporting/advice systems; top management and departmental involvement in ethics activities; usage of ethics training and other ethics awareness activities; investigatory functions; and evaluation of ethics program activities. Results show a high degree of corporate adoption of ethics policies, but wide variability in the extent to which these policies are implemented by various supporting structures and managerial activities. In effect, the vast majority of firms have committed to the low cost, possibly symbolic side of ethics management (e.g., adoption of ethics codes and policies, etc.). But firms differ substantially in their efforts to see that those policies or codes actually are put into practice.