Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to explore emerging trends in the content of codes of ethics of US Fortune 100 and Global 100 corporate web sites through a longitudinal study. Design/methodology/approach – The web sites of the 200 companies were surfed and the relevant documents of the codes of ethics were extracted to separate text files. The computer files were then mined using the customized developed software and each ethical keyword was counted. The number of filed codes of ethics was 95 for both the 100 US‐based and the 100 Global‐based companies. Findings – In addition to the content analysis of the ethic codes of the studied groups and finding high‐frequency ethical keywords, the results of this study indicate a convergence of the contents. Moreover, the results also show that the ethical codes are now more readily available on corporations’ web sites; that is a sign of higher level of disclosure of ethical codes compared to that in 2006. Finally, this research proposes some hypotheses to explain the changes from 2006 to 2009. Practical implications – Many smaller corporations and start‐up companies can benefit from the results of this study by comparing their codes of ethics with those of the major US and global companies, using key ethical phrases that are discussed here. Moreover, US companies wanting to establish new subsidiaries in other countries can also take advantage of the results of this study. They can find out what are the common dissimilarities between American corporates and other international firms, from ethical point of view, when they want to reach a uniform code of ethics. Social implications – Longitudinal study of the content of codes of ethics can help in encouraging firms to give consideration to ethical issues. This research is the first attempt to study the ethical standards adopted by the major US and global corporations, before and after the global financial crisis. Originality/value – This study analyses the content of codes of ethics of the world's top firms and compares Fortune 500 and global 500 companies, considering the frequency of ethical keywords on their codes. It also compares the similarities and differences and indicates whether the content is divergent or convergent. The study also shows how the disclosure of codes of ethics has changed in the time‐span of research.
Journal of Management Development – Emerald Publishing
Published: Jul 12, 2013
Keywords: Business ethics; Corporate governance; Web sites; Global 100; Fortune 100; Ethical standards; Codes of ethics; Corporate ethics
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