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.
corporate social responsibility business ethics code of ethics content analysis Italian quoted companies