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ethical policies are thin on the ground

September 1999

Less than one in 10 of the UK’s largest companies have an ethical policy, according to new research.

A survey of 98 of the FTSE 100 companies has shown that only eight have documents outlining ethical policies. They are BP Amoco, Rio Tinto, Shell, Thames Water, Allied Domecq, Glaxo Wellcome, BAA and Barclays.

However the study, by Pensions and Investment Research Consultants, the independent corporate responsibility advisers, found 31 of the companies had codes of conduct, and that four had both a code and an ethical policy.

PIRC defines codes of conduct as business ethics guidelines aimed at employees, while ethical policies cover issues such as human rights and child labour and are aimed at a wider audience, such as consumers and suppliers.

Companies in the utilities, consumer goods and resources sectors are more likely to have either an ethical policy or a code of conduct than those in general industrials or the financial and services sector, it found.

The survey revealed a ‘steadily rising trend’ in the amount of money donated by leading companies to charities, with a 35 per cent rise in the combined charitable donations of a selection of 75 FTSE 100 companies from 1992/3 to 1997/8. It also found a total of 23 companies were members of one or more organizations connected with the promotion of corporate responsibility, such as the London Benchmarking Group or the World Business Council for Sustainable Development.

The survey, Reporting on Corporate Responsibility, analysed company documents as they stood at January 1999.




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