Is a Corporate Code of Ethics needed?

The "ugly face of capitalism":

As Edward Health said when he was Prime Minister of England, capitalism has an ugly face.  That face will always be with us while greed remains part of human nature.

While corporations are usually constrained by the laws of the nations in which they operate, their behaviour can, depending on the circumstances, be unethical in very important ways.   For example, the suppression of information on the health effects of asbestos by companies marketing asbestos products has been well documented.   Environmental activists protesting about the activities of corporations have (in recent years) been intimidated, and in some cases murdered (see "toolbox" site links for further information).  Some of the world's largest and most well-known corporations are involved.

As corporations grow in size and power, the ramifications of their unethical actions become increasingly significant.  People around the globe are concerned that this should change.  While the S11 protests in Melbourne in 2000 over the actions of multinational corporations were (in my opinion) naive and counter-productive, they are symptomatic of wider disquiet amongst the general public.

Planet earth faces regional and perhaps global environmental catastrophe within the lives of children now borne.  In spite of obvious limitations on natural resources and the environment's capacity to handle human waste, international trade agreements engineered by the largest and most powerful corporations are now making it difficult for nation States to impose any environmental standards which restrict trade.  These legally binding international agreements are not matched by international environmental agreements of comparable strength.  These trade agreements, and the corporate programs they support, are placing the viability of global ecosystems at serious risk.  

If anyone thinks that Australian corporations are by nature ethical, and that a code of ethics is somehow unnecessary in today's world, then I ask them to think again.  They should also read Garry Linnell's article: Hear no evil; in Goodweekend 16/12/2000, published by John Fairfax Publications Pty Ltd.  This article provides evidence that Australian corporations selling mobile phone services have suppressed both research, and the findings of research, into the health effects of mobile phones.

I hope to provide material on this site which will provide a model code of ethics for use by corporations which are genuinely trying to behave in ethical ways.  I would be most grateful of assistance.

Authors writing on corporate and government ethical issues.

Ingrid Barnsley's submission to the inquiry into the need for an Australian Corporate Code of Conduct Act (2001).

General web sites including some dealing with corporate ethical issues.

Fairwear code of practice (use of homeworkers in clothing manufacture, Australia)

Apparell Industry Partnership (USA) letter to Nike