Global Code of Conduct Drafting Strategy

Global Code of Conduct Drafting Strategy

 
Codes of conduct provide employees with an ethical and behavioral framework to help make the right decisions and form productive relationships. Global codes of conduct should be broad enough to reflect the shared values of an international community, and "local" enough to respect diverse cultures and abide by their laws, regulations, and standards. No code could ever anticipate every eventuality; this article offers a high level design strategy.

Mr. Dowling writes: Most major multinationals, particularly those based in the U.S., seem to have issued a global code of conduct that spells out certain rules governing worldwide operations. But global codes of conduct vary substantially in both purpose and content. According to the International Labour Organisation, "corporate codes of conduct do not have any authorized definition. [T]here is a great variance in the way these statements are drafted." Indeed, "code of conduct" is not a term of art, but is merely a label affixed to a range of corporate and non-governmental-organization policies.

Many corporate policies called "codes of conduct" have little to do with employment relationships: There are professional-association antitrust compliance codes of conduct, environmental-protection codes of conduct, and advisory codes of conduct on topics like intellectual property and computer programming. These codes--while vital--are only loosely connected to global efforts at legal and ethical human resources compliance.

Anchoring our code of conduct discussion in the international employment context, there are two very-different types of codes to distinguish: External supplier codes chiefly protect employees working for a multinational's suppliers from so-called "sweatshop" conditions, whereas internal ethics codes chiefly impose compliance rules on a multinational's own employees across its worldwide workforces. In one sense, these two global codes of conduct are opposites: External supplier codes seek to protect employees not on the code issuer's payroll, while internal ethics codes seek to restrict (impose rules on) a code issuer's own employees. Some multinational codes of conduct try to combine these two types of document, but effectively doing so is difficult, because both the goals and the intended audiences differ. As such, any multinational launching a global "code of conduct" should first clarify which type of code it needs.
 
 
If you do not have a lexis.com ID, you can purchase the Emerging Issues Analysis content through our lexisONE Research Packages