An Updated Inquiry into the Study of Corporate Codes of Ethics: 2005–2016

Journal of Business Ethics 168 (1):71-108 (2019)
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This paper presents a review of 100 empirical papers studying corporate codes of ethics in business organizations from the time period mid-2005 until mid-2016, following approximately an 11-year time period after the previous review of the literature. The reviewed papers are broadly categorized as content-oriented, output-oriented, or transformation-oriented. The review sheds light on empirical focus, context, questions addressed, methods, findings and theory. The findings are discussed in terms of the three categories as well as the aggregate, stock of empirical CCE studies in comparison with previous reviews, answering the question “where are we now?” Content and output studies still stand for the majority of the studies, whereas the transformation studies are fewer. Within these areas, two new trends are found to have emerged: discursive analyses and a focus on labor conditions. The review finds that the content of CCEs is still predominantly self-defensive, that CCEs are insufficient in themselves in terms of protecting workers’ rights, that CCEs are likely to encounter tensions when implemented across national and organizational boundaries, and that while perception of CCEs is generally positive, CCEs may lead to both positive and negative outcomes. Based on these findings, potential areas for further exploration in the area of CCE research are suggested.



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