European codes of conduct

August 5, 2014

Each country has its own set of standards for ethics and compliance. While laws may not drastically differ from one country to the next, there can be important differences to consider regarding ethical business practices. For example, gifts and entertainment may be a normal and natural part of doing business with the government in one country but illegal in another. These differences are often reflected in a company’s code of conduct as the code houses the standards and ethical guidelines for employees to follow. These cultural and legal differences affect the topics covered, writing style, length and design of the code for a particular constituency.

A company’s code of conduct can be called the cornerstone of its ethics and compliance programme. A code that is attentively crafted and thoughtfully written is beneficial to the company and its employees, consumers, shareholders and communities. Codes are an invaluable resource for employees who are facing ethical dilemmas or considering making a report about misconduct. For companies that operate in multiple regions, the goal should be to have one code document to cover all the regions of operation. Having multiple distinct versions of the code for different regions is not recommended; companies should have a single, unifying employee code with appropriate translations as needed. 

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