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Measuring the Implementation

of Codes of Conduct. An
Assessment Method Based Andre Nijhof
Stephan Cludts
on a Process Approach of Olaf Fisscher
the Responsible Organisation Albertus Laan

ABSTRACT. More and more organisations formu- KEY WORDS: assessment method, business ethics,
late a code of conduct in order to stimulate respon- code of conduct, continuous improvement, learning
sible behaviour among their members. Much time and organisation, quality management, responsible organ-
energy is usually spent fixing the content of the code isation, self-evaluation
but many organisations get stuck in the challenge of
implementing and maintaining the code. The code
then turns into nothing else than the notorious “paper 1. Introduction
in the drawer”, without achieving its aims. The chal-
lenge of implementation is to utilize the dynamics During the last decade of the twentieth century,
which have emerged from the formulation of the
the debate around corporate social responsibility
code. This will support a continuous process of reflec-
tion on the central values and standards contained in (CSR) seemed to intensify. The responsibilities
the code. This paper presents an assessment method, of organisations are no longer addressed only
based on the EFQM model, which intends to support by trade unions and environmental lobbies. In
this implementation process. particular, “new” groupings such as employees,
customers, managers, economists, shareholders
and public servants are taking up the subject
André Nijhof is an assistant professor at the faculty of
Business, Public Administration and Technology of the
University of Twente, Enschede, the Netherlands. Olaf Fisscher is Professor of Quality Management and
Stakeholder theory, ethics of care and organisational Business Ethics at the University of Twente in the
change management are important theoretical notions in Netherlands. His area of research focuses on responsible
his research. Nijhof has published in journals like the management in innovation processes. Fisscher is the
International Journal of Value Based Management, author of many articles and books on organisational
Journal of Business Ethics and the Leadership and values, quality management and management of tech-
Organisation Development Journal, besides several pub- nology and innovation, including “Social-dynamical
lications in Dutch books and journals. Next to the aspects of quality management in NPD (2000)” and
assignment at the University of Twente Nijhof is working “The myth of self-managing teams; A reflection on the
at the management consultancy firm Q-Consult in allocation of responsibility between individuals, teams
Arnhem. and the organisation (1999).
Stephan Cludts is researcher at the Centre for Economics Albertus Laan had recently finished his graduation thesis
and Ethics of the Catholic University of Leuven, on the implementation of codes of conduct. He is working
Belgium. He defended a Ph.D. on employee participa- on a Ph.D. about the responsabilisation of firms in the
tion in which he blended notions of business ethics and Dutch construction industry. He is especially interested
human resources management. His research interests in views on human morality and decision making. He
extend to stakeholder theory, ethics of leadership and has published an article on the responsible organisation
social capital. in the journal Management & Organisatie.

Journal of Business Ethics 45: 65–78, 2003.


© 2003 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.
66 Andre Nijhof et al.

of corporate social responsibility (CSR) the processes and culture of the organisation
(Donaldson, 1995). We have seen the emergence (McDonald and Nijhof, 1999). This need is
of strategically operating NGOs, and the appear- accentuated by the fact that the stakeholders have
ance of a European Green Paper promoting a become increasingly sensitive to the difference
European framework for CSR. One facilitating between words and deeds (SER, 2001).
factor of this development is the growing scale
of organisations, combined with the fading reg-
ulatory function of government, with the con- Defining codes of conduct
sequence that the power of trade and industry
has increased. In reaction to their increasing Our assessment method focuses on the process of
power, CSR appears to have become a broad- implementing a code instead of the outcomes of
based societal and organisational development: at this process. A consequence of this is that we do
the national and international levels we observe not specify in our research what the contents of
a rapidly developing terminology from which, so a code of conduct should be. After an organisa-
far, only a few definitions emerged as dominant. tion has developed a code, our method can be
A plurality of moral conceptions, together with used to assess the degree to which a code of
an increasingly diverse society and a growing conduct is embedded in the organisation.
media influence, makes it increasingly difficult In our research we made certain assumptions
for organisations to predict from where criticisms about the use of a code and about general
will flow. This fosters the fast growth of the subjects addressed. Therefore, our assessment
number of consultancy services being offered on method should be relevant to assess the embed-
subjects such as transparency and community dedness of any of code which meets the fol-
investment. And partly as a result of these devel- lowing assumptions:
opments we see a fast growing attention for the
• The code contains both open guidelines
internal organisation of business ethics; more and
about desirable behaviour (value orienta-
more firms are handling (configurations of )
tion) and closed guidelines pointing at pro-
ethical tools and instruments.
hibited behaviour (compliance orientation);
Within the diverse set of management instru-
• The code relates both to the behaviour of
ments for stimulating en monitoring responsible
individual employees and to the collective
behaviour, codes of conduct seem to be one of
behaviour of the organisation as a whole;
the most widely adopted instruments. As a part
• The code indicates how responsibility is
of their CSR policy, 38% of the top one hundred
distributed within the firm;
organisations in the Netherlands have drawn up
• The code is used as an instrument
a code of conduct. Sixty five percent of the top
enhancing corporate social responsibility.
five hundred organisations in Spain (Melé et al.,
2000) and 50% of the largest companies in If these assumptions are not met completely by
Australia have adopted a code. The United States any particular code, some parts of our assessment
and Canada top the list with 78% and 85% method will not be applicable.
respectively of the top 1000 organisations having
drawn up a code of conduct (Kaptein et al.,
2000). However, research in different countries Functions of a code of conduct
has shown that, if an organisation really wants
to influence the behaviour of its staff, a corpo- Writing a code of conduct has undoubtedly the
rate code of conduct is not enough: there is no advantage of setting managers to think about the
direct relation between the fact that an organi- central values of their company and to reflect on
sation has a code of conduct and the level situations in which these values are at stake.
of responsible behaviour within companies However, we consider CSR to acquire its sub-
(Matthews Cash, 1987; Weller, 1988; N.B.E.S., stance through the behaviour of people within
2000). That “document” has to be embedded in organisations (Goodpaster, 1989). The managers
Measuring the Implementation of Codes of Conduct 67

themselves represent only a tiny minority of the Within the structure and culture of an organisa-
people who work for any given organisation. tion, many barriers to reflection and action exist.
The implication of this view is that organisations Defining these barriers and dealing with them is
need to embed “responsible entrepreneurship” also an important part of the assessment method.
not only into their business strategy and policy, The different processes are operationalised
but also into the organisational processes, the within a questionnaire to be used for self assess-
culture, and the daily matters. ment by the organisation concerned. Our assess-
Therefore, when a code has been drafted, the ment method produces an overview of the extent
first challenge is to trigger reflection on the to which the organisation actively manages the
central values proposed in the code among the processes necessary for the implementation of a
employees. In the second place, it is necessary code of conduct. The identification of the dif-
to link the reflection of managers and employees ferent processes and their operationalisation in
in order to guide actual behaviour within the the assessment method is based on a literature
organisation. For this to happen, the code of study and a comparison with other initiatives in
conduct should be embedded in the web of this field.
organisational processes and routines. For
example, what could be the effect of a code of
conduct if the whole management system were 2. A process approach of codes of
oriented towards stimulating and rewarding short 2. conduct
term financial gain? In order to be effective, a
code of conduct requires a review of the man- A code of conduct is an instrument for respon-
agement system to make sure that employees are sibilisation within the organisation, but it is
encouraged to work in congruence with the in itself not sufficient to shape a responsible
code. organisation. In order to understand this, it is
Embedding the code of conduct can con- useful to distinguish the different processes which
tribute to the emergence not only of responsible shape responsible behaviour within the organi-
individual behaviour but also of a “responsible sation; we call them “processes of responsibilisa-
organisation”. The concept of a responsible tion”. Within the framework of the “Inclusive
organisation refers to the embeddedness of Innovation” research project, we distinguish six
clearly defined and prioritised responsibilities in processes of responsibilisation (see Figure 1): the
the strategy and policy of an organisation. The process of coding, the process of internalisation,
responsibilities of an organisation can be fulfilled the process of identifying and removing barriers,
only through the daily behaviour of its staff and the process of enacting values, the process of
management, but an organisation needs to trans- monitoring and the process of accountability.
late its CSR philosophy into supportive man- These processes have been defined in the first
agement instruments and processes in order to place on the basis of learning models such as
become a “responsible organisation”. As it is those developed by Kolb (1984) and Van der Bij
able to attract managerial attention in this way, et al. (2001). Their models include four broadly
responsibility becomes an explicit management similar stages: (1) gathering information or expe-
criterion, next to others such as efficiency, flex- rience, (2) reflecting on that information or
ibility and quality (Fisscher et al., 2001). experience and comparing it with previous
The assessment method focuses on the dif- norms or concepts, (3) developing of new norms
ferent processes that are necessary, on the one or concepts and (4) experimenting with these
hand, to stimulate reflection across all the layers new norms or concepts. Stage four generates new
of the organisation on the issues and responsi- information or experience, which leads the
bilities mentioned in a code of conduct, and on learning person or organisation to start with a
the other hand to stimulate actual behaviour in new learning cycle. In our scheme, an organisa-
accordance with the code as it is understood tion goes through these four stages by the
through the reflection process just mentioned. processes of coding (stage 1), identifying and
68 Andre Nijhof et al.

Figure 1. Processes for the implementation of a code of conduct.

removing barriers (stages 2 and 3) and enacting have also formulated these processes, as the
values (stage 4). We have formulated these previous ones, such that they could be recognised
processes so as to stress the fact that the man- and steered by managers willing to enhance
agement has the possibility to act upon them. responsible behaviour in their organisation.
In the second place, it was necessary to enrich In the third place, we have added a sixth
this model with processes reflecting the interac- process, the process of accountability, which
tion between the management (who is supposed reflects our conception of responsibility as
to lead the introduction of the code) and the responsibility towards the different stakeholders
employees (whose collaboration is necessary in of the firm. The public justification of behaviour
order to give meaning to the code). This lead us should be an integral part of the conduct of
to define two additional processes: the process business. Therefore, an assessment of responsible
of internalisation, whereby the employees are behaviour in the firm should not be limited to
confronted with the code developed by “the an assessment of employee and management
organisation” (whatever that may entail), and the behaviour. It must include a dialogue with the
process of monitoring, whereby the management stakeholders. This dialogue is conducted not only
observes the extent to which the employees live at the coding stage, but also as part of a regular
by the code. Those processes allow the manage- review of the firm’s performance with regard to
ment not only to intervene when employees the expectations of its stakeholders.
display undesired behaviour, but also to adjust the
organisational values or their translation in the
primary processes of the firm. In this way, these Model for implementing codes of conduct
processes truly reflect an interaction between the
management and the employees, whereby both We end up with the following sequence of
parties can influence each other mutually. We processes to be gone through in order to develop
Measuring the Implementation of Codes of Conduct 69

responsibility. First, it is essential to determine repeating and overlapping cycles. At the same
what function a code of conduct should have. time, each of these processes separately con-
What risks or barriers exist within an organisa- tributes considerably to stimulating responsible
tion which obstruct responsible behaviour? behaviour. If one or several processes are not
Particular care needs to be taken of processes, filled in, the integration of the code of conduct
customs or attitudes which hinder the applica- is at risk.
tion of certain values and norms: these are the Let us note one more thing about these six
barriers, which need to be identified and processes of responsibilisation: they contribute
removed. Second, it is necessary to code one’s not only to enhancing organisational responsi-
values, i.e. to shape and recognize one’s identity, bility, but also to enhancing the moral compe-
which is expressed through a code, which tence of individuals within organisations. It is
includes a mission statement and a list of core obvious to us that an organisation cannot be
values. This process of coding is done in dialogue responsible if its members are not, but we want
with key stakeholders and, indeed, with the to stress that the processes defined here do not
members of the organisation. Third, all the assume a certain level of moral consciousness
employees need to appropriate the code which among the employees. On the contrary, these
defines the corporate identity. Such appropria- processes support the reflection on different
tion goes further than simply agreeing on a list responsibilities and stimulate putting reflection
of values; it entails translating the code in terms into action in order to become responsible
which are meaningful to the employees in their members of the organisation.
daily activities as members of the organisation.
This may require an introduction to the code,
dilemma training, focus groups and so on. EFQM management model
Fourth, the employees have to enact the code.
We define enactment as an integral process of The definition of these six processes of respon-
responsibilisation, and not as the output of a sibilisation is useful to understand that a code of
separate responsibilisation process, in order to conduct is not in itself sufficient to shape a
stress the fact that behaving according to the code responsible organisation. The code, as a static
is itself instrumental to further internalise the document, represents only a part of the first
code and to refine it wherever necessary. Indeed, process. In contrast, we claim that if an organi-
the fifth process (monitoring) does not only refer sation wishes its codes of conduct to be applied
to controlling the application of the code and and embedded in its daily procedures, it should
sanctioning possible deviations, but also to under- use the code as the starting point from which to
stand the causes of such deviations, which are manage these six processes of responsibilisation.
likely to call for adaptations of employee behav- Further, we suggest that the EFQM model (the
iour as well as adaptations of the code. Sixth, model defined by the European Foundation for
the process of accountability covers the commu- Quality Management), which is a widely used
nication between the organisation and its stake- business model in relation to total quality man-
holders about the way the organisation has taken agement, is useful to manage these six processes.
up its responsibility, whereby necessary adapta- The EFQM model is used as an instrument facil-
tions of the code are already envisaged, which itating continuous improvement. In order to
leads ultimately to a new coding round. encourage progress with regard to responsible
Obviously, these processes are closely con- behaviour, it is desirable that the CSR policy
nected to each other and indeed they are not would be very much in line with models such
strictly sequential. For instance, after a critical as the EFQM model.
incident occurred, the identification of the The EFQM model was developed in the early
barrier to responsible behaviour which allowed 1980s by large multinationals with the purpose
the incident to occur may lead directly to a of integrating quality in organisations. Those
process of coding. These processes unfold in multinationals were looking for an instrument
70 Andre Nijhof et al.

that reflects their performance in a simple way. involve an independent process manager in
The EFQM management model determines, in the execution of the self evaluation.
a structured manner, the strengths and weaknesses 03. Select the participants. It calls for recom-
of the organisation, those points which should be mendation to invite a cross-section of the
kept and those which need improvement. By organization (ideally in teams of five up
using the EFQM model, an organisation can also to eight participants).
prioritise the weaknesses that it can work on in 04. Plan the meeting with the expectation that
the short run and in the long run through con- the evaluation will take two to three hours.
tinuous and structural improvements. This results 05. Send a questionnaire to the participants
in working on precisely those (often small) weak- two weeks in advance, requesting them to
nesses that will significantly improve the overall assign points to the indicators based on
performance of the organisation (Hardjono, their own impression.
1997). 06. Gather the individual scores one week in
The EFQM-management model distinguishes advance in order that the process manager
five organisational areas (so-called enablers, i.e. can prepare the meeting by analysing the
the resources, located in different areas, which results.
are available to the organisation in order to 07. Discuss during the meeting the results of
improve) and four performance areas (which the individual scores (relevant indicators)
allow the organisation to measure its improve- and whether indicators which are not fully
ment on a multi-dimensional scale). The organ- met deserve priority in future actions
isational areas are: leadership, strategy and policy, plans.
staff, resources, and primary processes. The 08. Formulate a plan of approach based on the
appreciation of customers, the society, the staff, established priorities.
and the financial performance, form the perfor- 09. Process the scoring into an analysis of the
mance areas. In order to strengthen the various current situation (an example of this
processes of responsibilisation, an organisation analysis is included in Figures 2 and 3).
needs quite naturally to build on the resources 10. Communicate the results to all the persons
available in the five organisational areas. involved and monitor the progress of the
action plan.

3. The assessment method Organisational self-assessments based on this


methodology can serve various purposes:
The assessment method aims at holding a mirror
up to the faces of organisations, in which they • Random picture: To what extent has an
can see the extent to which a code of conduct organisation taken action to improve its
is being integrated in all facets of operational track record in the various fields? In the
management. The assessment method is based on context of the self-assessment of the inte-
the self evaluation methodology that is also used gration of a code a conduct in the organi-
by management systems such as the EFQM sation, the focus lies on the extent to which
model. We may distinguish ten steps for a self the organisation has taken action to facili-
evaluation, which may be roughly described as tate the six processes of responsibilisation
follows: identified in Section 2.
• Action plan: Which activities deserve
01. Determine the organization unit to which priority? The method for self evaluation
the evaluation pertains. If the code applies suggested in this paper can be used to deter-
for a part of an organization, it is best to mine in consultation with the employees
execute the self evaluation for that part, involved which actions deserve priority in
too. order to further stimulate the implementa-
02. Determine whether it is desirable to tion of the code of conduct.
Measuring the Implementation of Codes of Conduct 71

Figure 2. Analysis of the six processes of responsibilisation based on a self evaluation.

Figure 3. Analysis of the organisational areas based on a self evaluation.


72 Andre Nijhof et al.

Though the organisations that are looking for duce all indicators here (they are available from
ways to stimulate responsibility and adherence the authors on request) but in order to give the
to the code of conduct which they have formu- reader a flavour of the assessment method, we
lated are an obvious target group for such self- reproduce some of them in the two following
assessments, the assessment method can be used figures. Figure 4 shows the indicators measuring
by other stakeholders or at the level of an the extent to which the six processes of respon-
industry. sibilisation can be integrated within the organi-
sational area of “primary processes”. Figure 5
• The assessment method can be used by shows the indicators measuring the extent
stakeholders, such as the social partners, to which the process of internalisation (the
who wish to know to what extent an second of the six processes of responsibilisation)
organisation attends to its code of conduct. is integrated within the five organisational
Depending on the results of the assessment areas.
method, confidence that the organisation
concerned actually stands by the values and
responsibilities that are written in the code 4. Case study: self-assessment of the
may or may not arise. 4. municipality of Amsterdam
• Various industry associations have formu-
lated a code that applies to all their affili- We have conducted four case studies in order
ated members in order to stimulate a level to test the practicality of the instrument. These
playing field of responsible action within the case-studies were conducted within “best-
industry. The assessment method yields a practice” organisations which have codes of
coherent survey of the actions that can and ethics and which have taken steps to embed these
sometimes must be executed to stimulate codes. The notion of “best practice” relates to
acting in accordance with the code. the criterion that the organisation should be
frontrunners in their sector on the topic of
implementing a code of conduct. Furthermore,
Indicators the goal of the case studies is to test and improve
the functionality of the assessment method.
We have developed a list of items which fits into Therefore it is valuable to select organisations
the assessment method described above (see in which are divergent on factors like multinationals
particular steps 5 to 7). In line with the theory versus medium-sized companies and profit versus
outlined in Section 2, we have developed a not for profit organisations.
systematic testing framework consisting of 2 In these case-studies, the assessment method
indicators of the extent to which one of the has been used as a self-evaluation instrument.
six process of responsibilisation is embedded The self-evaluations performed by the four
in one of the five organisational areas defined organisations were helpful for the organisations
by the EFQM model. This resulted in a 5 rows themselves, as a method to identify areas of
by 6 columns matrix of 30 boxes, each con- improvement. They also helped the authors to
taining two items. The items were designed on ameliorate the assessment method itself, by
the basis of a survey of the relevant literature showing some of its strengths and weaknesses.
(ILO conventions, ISO certificates, SA8000 In this section, we will describe briefly, and then
social accountability label and AA1000 social discuss one case-study in order to illustrate some
audit methodology) and on the basis of an strengths, weaknesses and ambiguities of our
analysis of best practice organisations. Care was method.
taken to avoid overlap and to formulate indica- We have conducted the four case-studies at
tors which correspond to concrete actions in the municipality of Amsterdam, Shell Group,
order to provide immediate guidance about Siemens Netherlands and SBI (a medium-sized
possible improvements. It is not possible to repro- Dutch training and consultancy organisation). We
Measuring the Implementation of Codes of Conduct 73

Figure 4. Indicators of embeddedness in the area of processes (examples).

Figure 5. Indicators of the internalisation processes (examples).

will report here the first case-study, which was and about forty departments which operate on
performed at the municipality of Amsterdam. widely varied domains and relatively indepen-
Though on the first glance this case might seem dently from each other. Each head of department
relatively distant from mainstream for-profit and each district officer is responsible for imple-
organisations, the implementation of its code of menting the integrity policy in his or her depart-
ethics posed very relevant and interesting chal- ment or district and several departments have
lenges to the leadership of the municipality. their own codes. The municipality developed a
code for the entire organisation in order to
support the integrity of the employees of the
The code of the municipality sets unique standards municipality (i.e. civil servants).1 This code
to be applied in diverse settings contains a set of rules which specify clearly
which behaviour is acceptable and which is not.
Over 22.000 employees work for the munici- The code was officially communicated to all
pality of Amsterdam, in fourteen city boroughs employees in January of 2002. With the intro-
74 Andre Nijhof et al.

duction of its code of conduct, the municipality ments to support integrity. These instruments
explicitly expressed its intention to clarify the include:
legitimate expectations of the stakeholders,
mainly the wider public and the civil servants. • preventive analysis of the activities which
This clarification implies an harmonisation of generate risks of breach of integrity;2
the procedures and values adopted by the • internal audit of the quality of the organi-
various departments. As a consequence, the code sation of the integrity policy;
contains basic values and guidelines which should • advice about the improvement of proce-
prevail throughout the municipal services. Clear dures and rules with regard to integrity (e.g.
guidelines contribute to protect the interests consultation procedures in the works
of the public, but also the managers and the council, appraisal interviews, functioning
employees of the municipality. The departments interviews and personal development);
which had their own code needed to adapt those • activities aiming at relating the integrity
to meet the standards set by the overarching code policy to the Planning and Control cycles;
of the municipality. • training employees about integrity and pro-
fessional responsibility;
• facilitation of strategy conferences in which
The code of the municipality is part of a wider departments define their integrity policy;
integrity policy • legal advice about the integrity policy of the
municipality;
The municipality of Amsterdam decided to • advice about disciplinary sanctions, disputes
develop a code of conduct in 1998, after a series and appeals against the integrity policy;
of fraud and corruption incidents which had • an integrity help desk (internal whistle
been widely publicised in the media (Gemeente blowing procedure) in order to report any
Amsterdam, 2000). The code is one element of incident when communication with the
the integrity policy of the municipality, which direct supervisor is not effective.
aims primarily at preventing future occurrences
of fraud and corruption, and stimulating adequate
behaviour when the civil servants face such cases. Output of the self-evaluation
The code is but one element of that integrity
policy, which includes in addition mandatory In order to test the method of Inclusive
self-assessments by each department and each Innovation we had a self-evaluation with
district of the municipality (these self-assessments managers of different departments and city
are conducted according to a methodology devel- boroughs. We selected especially managers who
oped by the national Security Office) and inde- contributed actively to the implementation of
pendent risk audits. codes of conduct. Therefore the outcomes are
As the mandatory self-assessments lead to the not representative for the whole municipality of
conclusion that the integrity policy needed Amsterdam. The main goals of the self-evalua-
improvement in virtually all departments and dis- tion were to test the model and to exchange
tricts, a Bureau of Integrity (BI) was set up in experience, to identify their respective strengths
2001 with the task to facilitate the implementa- and weaknesses and to select priority areas for
tion of the code in the various departments of further improvement.
the municipality. The Bureau of Integrity has The exchange of experiences was perceived
a support function and employs (anno 2002) as an important added value of the evaluation
fifteen employees with complementary exper- session. The self evaluation also showed that the
tises: researchers, legal and forensic experts, different departments chose many different
auditors, communication specialists and trainers. approaches for implementing the common code
The Bureau of Integrity offers all departments a of the municipality. The endeavours of the
number of activities and methodological instru- Bureau of Integrity are expected to lead to more
Measuring the Implementation of Codes of Conduct 75

uniform approaches in the various departments processes of responsibilisation are better inte-
in the future (the Bureau of Integrity has been grated in some organisational areas, e.g. the area
set up only recently). of leadership, than others, e.g. the area of
The self-evaluation also showed that, overall, primary processes. This outcome was no surprise
some processes of responsibilisation receive for the participants of the self-evaluation.
clearly more attention than others. For instance, Presently, a lot of attention is paid to the exem-
the process of internalisation appears to receive plary role of managers in stimulating responsible
a lot of attention. Indeed, the management of the behaviour. Also the start of the Bureau of
municipality acknowledges that most employees Integrity is an outcome of several years of policy
do hardly ever read the code. In order to trans- making about stimulating responsible behaviour
form the code into a living document, they need within the municipality of Amsterdam. One
to literally bring it to life. One department of the participants nuances the relative poor
achieved that by inviting theatre actors to outcomes on the primary processes. When you
organise a performance about the code. The look at it from a general point of view the
employees of another department do not receive processes are quite well aligned with the code of
the code by post but receive it, together with a conduct. But when you make a detailed analysis,
short introduction to the code by their superior, like several departments did during the last year,
during their first appraisal interview in order to you’ll find many points for improvement. The
stress its importance. In addition, the munici- outcome of this is that the awareness of these
pality summarised the key points of the code on points for improvement first results in a lower
a “smart card” which is distributed to all con- evaluation. More generally, the scores of the self-
tractors and temporary employees. evaluation are not only related to objective
On the contrary, the process of enacting the findings but also to the awareness about these
code appears to be relatively underdeveloped. findings.
The self-evaluation allowed the participants to
point at some weaknesses of the integrity policy
which barred the way to effective enactment of 5. Reflections on the assessment method
the code. Though the municipality intended to
translate the principles set out in the code in clear The four case-studies, of which one has been
guidelines, some of those guidelines send con- summarised in the previous section, provided
tradicting messages to the employees. For interesting insights about the assessment method
instance, as corruption is a key issue in the civil itself.
service, it was decided that the employees could First, the organisations which present them-
accept no gift whatsoever. However, the code selves to customers as responsible organisations
makes one exception: because of practical reasons generate an irreversible process because their cus-
the members of the municipal executive are tomers will expect employees to account for their
allowed to accept gifts which do not exceed 45 actions. This implies that each employee should
euros. Though gifts of such a magnitude obvi- be trained and equipped in order to enact the
ously do not jeopardize the integrity of the exec- code. Efforts to integrate the code of conduct are
utive members, this exception to the “no gift” more efficient when the code is made congruent
rule is perceived by some employees as tolerance with management systems such as the quality
with people who circumvent the rules, provided management system of the organisation. As the
they are powerful enough. This can result in a expectations of the stakeholders continue to shift
cynical attitude also towards other efforts to over time, it is also necessary that efforts to inte-
support integrity in the organisation. To prevent grate the code would be continuous.
this some departments and city boroughs decided Second, several respondents insisted that the
to erase the exception to the “no gift” rule out identification of critical activities which are
of their own code of conduct. performed in the various departments is very
Similarly, the self-evaluation shows that the useful as a point of departure for embedding
76 Andre Nijhof et al.

the code, because barriers for ethical behaviour Fifth, the link between the code of conduct
often provide the stimuli for individual employees and its implementation on the one hand, and the
to think about integrity issues. Insight in organisational structure on the other hand, is not
concrete dilemma situations makes it easier to addressed in this paper. It is certainly the case that
discuss relevant integrity-supporting measures. organisations which are structured as typical
Moreover, an integrity policy is often introduced informal adhocracies or machine bureaucracies,
by the management as a reaction to unethical of which no one is a priori the better choice,
behaviour, which is caused or facilitated by such should adopt different ways to embed responsible
barriers. The fear that new incidents would occur behaviour within their structures. This paper pre-
often drives efforts to embed the code. Examples sented a first general attempt to measure the
of such barriers, named by the employees of the embeddedness of a code of conduct by measuring
municipality of Amsterdam, are cynical attitudes, its integration within the quality systems of an
wrong behaviour by people who occupy exem- organisation. Further research may be necessary
plary functions, conflicts of interests and the con- to refine this instrument to fit different types of
centration of various functions within a single organisations.
person.
Third, it is necessary to articulate both indi-
vidual behaviour and collective performance in 6. Conclusion
the code of conduct, because a responsible
organisation is more than a collection of respon- In the process of setting out the structure and
sible individuals. Only when a code specifies starting points of this research project several
how the aggregated contributions of individual choices were made about what could and what
employees contribute to collective results, even could not be achieved with this project. Some
on a sectoral or societal level, will the code conclusions can be drawn about the results pre-
adequately stimulate responsible behaviour. sented in this paper, in the light of those choices.
Examples of such aggregated contributions are A first conclusion focuses on the indicators
the impact of relatively small bribes on the func- developed within this project. According to the
tioning of a society or the connectedness within different participants in the best practice case
a chain of commerce (for example the textile studies, these indicators form a coherent and
industry) were problems like child labour and comprehensive set to measure to what extent a
poor working conditions can only be solved by code of conduct is embedded within a company.
a cooperation between all the participants. For this it turned out to be essential to take on
Fourth, one of the organisations which took a process approach. Stimulating corporate social
part in the case-studies scored lower on the responsibility and embedding a code of conduct
bottom-up process indicators. The respondents is always a dynamic process that should go on for
claimed that it was a conscious choice within years. Within this project the overall process of
their organisation to focus on top-down indica- embedding a code of conduct is split into six dif-
tors because some guidelines for individual ferent processes. This differentiation proved to
behaviour, e.g. in the case of bribing, should be stimulate reflection about the strengths and weak-
set top-down so that everyone would know what nesses of an organisation on managing corporate
the organisation stands for. Though this approach social responsibility.
may be justified on pragmatic or other grounds A second conclusion turns to the necessity of
in specific cases, it should not be the case that such an assessment method. The limited number
all the principles contained in the code of of cases proved sufficient to show that the
conduct would be developed in this way. At least, method can be used for different purposes. When
the employees should be allowed to participate an organisation has a code of conduct the assess-
in regular revisions of the code in order to ment method results in an overview of what kind
enhance the fit between the code and their prac- of actions were already taken and what actions
tical experience. would be valuable additions for the coming
Measuring the Implementation of Codes of Conduct 77

year(s). When different parts of an organisation Acknowledgements


have their own codes, the assessment method can
stimulate exchange of experiences about the This article is based on joint work by the authors
implementation of a code of conduct. We have as well as Rob van Tilburg (DHV, The
concentrated on codes of conduct as a means Netherlands), Prof. Luc Bouckaert (Catholic
for stimulating corporate social responsibility. University of Leuven, Centre for Economics
This choice implies that the assessment method and Ethics) and Dirk Ameel (Eurocadres) within
is only valuable for companies who already the context of the research project “Inclusive
have a code or are developing a code. At present, Innovation”. The authors gratefully acknowledge
this means that only a select group of frontrun- the financial support of the European Union
ners can use our method, because many organ- (under Budget Heading B3-4000 Industrial rela-
isations do not work with official codes of tions and social dialogue) and Shell, Océ, SBI,
conduct. municipality of Amsterdam and Q-Consult who
In addition to those comments about our made this research project possible.
findings, we can formulate the following remarks
about the choices we have made. A first remark
concerns the focus on codes of conduct. On the Notes
one hand, this focus relates to the empirical
1
observation that codes of conduct are currently This code is developed by the Municipality of
the most widely used instrument to manage cor- Amsterdam and communicated in 2002.
2
porate social responsibility. On the other hand, The Bureau of Integrity of Amsterdam developed
this focus on official codes ignores the fact that a quick scan based on twelve factors related to
many companies who are known to be socially breaches of integrity.
responsible do not have a code of conduct. In
those organisations, social responsibility is con-
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