Encyclopedia of Business and Professional Ethics

Living Edition
| Editors: Deborah C Poff, Alex C. Michalos

Business Code of Ethics

Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-23514-1_64-1



A business code of ethics (BCE) is a distinct and formal document containing a set of prescriptions on a range of issues, which has been developed by and for a company for the purpose of guiding its employees’ behavior toward each other, the company, external stakeholders, and/or society in general. A BCE is a device for self-regulation developed for and by a particular company. A BCE is one of the layers in the whole spectrum of codes for businesses that consists, among others, of professional, industry, national and international codes.


In the business ethics literature, a BCE is the most frequently cited instrument for managing the ethics of business. Nowadays, many companies have a BCE. For example, 76% of the Fortune Global 200 companies have a BCE...

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  1. Cooper N (1990) Developing a code of business ethics. Institute of Business Ethics, LondonGoogle Scholar
  2. Kaptein M (2011) Toward effective codes: testing the relationship with unethical behavior. J Bus Ethics 99:233–251CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Kaptein M, Schwartz MS (2008) The effectiveness of business codes: a critical examination of existing studies and the development of an integrated research model. J Bus Ethics 77:111–127CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. KPMG (2014) The business codes of the fortune global 200: what the largest companies in the world say and do. KPMG, AmsterdamGoogle Scholar

Further Reading

  1. Kaptein M, Wempe J (1998) Twelve Gordian knots when developing an organizational code of ethics. J Bus Ethics 17:853–869CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Kaptein M (2004) Business codes of multinational firms: what do they say? J Bus Ethics 50:13–31CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Kaptein M (2008) The living code. Embedding ethics into the corporate DNA. Greenleaf, SheffieldGoogle Scholar
  4. Leipziger D (2017) The corporate responsibility code book. Routledge, LondonGoogle Scholar
  5. Schwartz MS (2005) Universal moral values for corporate codes of ethics. J Bus Ethics 59:27–44CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Business Ethics and Integrity ManagementRotterdam School of Management, Erasmus UniversityRotterdamThe Netherlands

Section editors and affiliations

  • Muel Kaptein
    • 1
  1. 1.Business Ethics and Integrity ManagementRSM Erasmus UniversityRotterdamNetherlands