Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 126, Issue 4, pp 541–557 | Cite as

Scoring Firms’ Codes of Ethics: An Explorative Study of Quality Drivers

  • Giovanni Maria Garegnani
  • Emilia Piera Merlotti
  • Angeloantonio RussoEmail author


Research in the field of management has increasingly focused on strategies and tools related to corporate sustainability. Of the tools examined, codes of ethics have been found to play a primary role. Many studies have investigated the content of such codes, as well as their capacity to condition the behaviour of people within organizations. However, few studies have considered the intrinsic quality of codes of ethics. This study aims to investigate the impact that specific factors—firm size, degree of internationalization and industry effect—can have on the quality of codes of ethics. Based on a sample of 248 listed Italian companies, the results of the empirical analysis show that the quality standard is particularly high in larger companies and in those firms operating in industries in which relationships established with critical stakeholders—and disclosure to those stakeholders—play a crucial role. These results have interesting implications for both researchers and practitioners.


Code of ethics Code of ethics quality Firm size Industry Internationalization Scoring model 



We thank Muel Kaptein, Editor of the Journal of Business Ethics, and the anonymous reviewers for their comments and support. We also thank Valentina Cortellazzi for her support in collecting data. Participants at the European Business Ethics Network (EBEN) 2012 Research Conference, New Castle, 7–9 June, and at 12th European Academy of Management Annual Conference, Rotterdam, 6–8 June, 2012 are also gratefully acknowledged for their comments. The authors contributed equally to this work and are listed in alphabetical order.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Giovanni Maria Garegnani
    • 1
  • Emilia Piera Merlotti
    • 2
  • Angeloantonio Russo
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of ManagementLUM UniversityCasamassimaItaly
  2. 2.Department of AccountingUniversità BocconiMilanItaly

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