Skip to main content
Markkula Center for Applied Ethics

International Codes of Conduct for Businesses

Bibliography of codes

Lauren Hernandez


International Labor Organization founded


Synopsis: The ILO was formed with the purpose of "setting minimum standards of basic labour rights: freedom of association, the right to organize, collective bargaining, abolition of forced labour, equality of opportunity and treatment, and other standards regulating conditions across the entire spectrum of work related issues." The conventions and standards set through this body provide the basis for many of the international codes' principles.


Forced Labor Convention, ILO Convention 29


Synopsis: This convention prohibits all forms of forced labor. The principle advocates strict punishment on the national level for those who fail to adhere to this principle.

Oct 1946

International Standards Organization established


Synopsis: This standard setting organization is very active today. They are responsible for the ISO 9000 (international reference for quality requirements) and ISO 14000 (international reference for environmental requirements)


Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize, ILO Convention 87


Synopsis: Part of the ILO's "Fundamental Principles." This standard lays the groundwork for workers and employers to have the right to form and join unions of their own choosing without prior consent. Additionally, this standard has provisions that prevent public authorities from interfering with the free functioning of the organization.

Dec 1948

Universal Declaration of Human Rights


Synopsis: Bill of Rights for all people. Develops a set of minimum standards for treatment of people/workers. Recognizes the "inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family"


Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining Convention, ILO Convention 98


Synopsis: Part of the ILO's "Fundamental Principles." "Provides for protection against anti-union discrimination, for protection of workers' and employers' organizations against acts of interference by each other, and for measures to promote and encourage collective bargaining."


Equal Remuneration Convention, ILO Convention 100


Synopsis: Part of the ILO's "Fundamental Principles." This principle calls for the equal pay between men and women for the same job functions performed.


Abolition of Forced Labor Convention, ILO Convention 105


Synopsis: Part of the ILO's "Fundamental Principles." This principle prohibits forced labor as a means of coercion, punishment, and discrimination.


Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention, ILO Convention 111


Synopsis: Part of the ILO's "Fundamental Principles." This principle calls for the abolition of all forms of discrimination in the workplace.


Minimum Age Convention, ILO Convention 138


Synopsis: This standard sets the minimum age for employment as 15 years old. There are exceptions allowed depending on the nature of the work. If, for example, the country is significantly underdeveloped, the minimum age can stretch down to 14 and in some cases 12 years old. (Reich, 2)


OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises


Synopsis: Provides recommendations for corporations operating in different countries on what constitutes goods corporate behavior. These principles have been continuously revised.

Nov 1977

Tripartite Declaration of Principles concerning Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy


Synopsis: Recognizes the importance that multinational corporations play in the economies and well being of countries all over the world. This declaration is intended to keep companies from abusing their power abroad and encourage good, socially responsible business practices. Includes clauses for Employment Promotion, Equality of opportunity and treatment, Security of Employment, Training, Conditions of Work and Life, Industrial Relations, Collective Bargaining, Consultation, Examination of Grievances, Settlement of industrial disputes


US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (Florini, 6)


Synopsis: Act includes provisions prohibiting US persons from bribing foreign government officials. Additionally, the Act has provisions for corporate accounting and record keeping practices.

Mar 1977

Sullivan Principles


Synopsis: Developed by Reverend Leon Sullivan directly responding to apartheid in South Africa. The principles suggest that implementation will "achieve greater tolerance and better understanding among peoples, and advance the culture of peace"


MacBride Principles


Synopsis: A set of principles developed to ensure that US companies doing business in Northern Ireland do not participate in the discrimination troubles between Protestants and Catholics.


Slepak Principles


Synopsis: Designed for businesses conducting operations in the Soviet Union. The code was specifically geared toward eliminating forced labor and looking into military related industrial projects.


ISO 9000


Synopsis: ISO 9000 standards are concerned with managing the quality of the products produced by companies. The standards are voluntary and have an ultimate goal of enhancing product performance to maintain customer satisfaction.


Miller Principles


Synopsis: U.S. Congressman Rep. John Miller of Washington state developed this code with the hopes of eliminating forced labor and looking into military related industrial projects in China. He introduced this code in a 1991 bill.


Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies (CERES) Principles (formerly Valdez Principles)


Synopsis: Developed after the Exxon Valdez incident. They are meant to make companies make environmentally responsible decisions. Among the requirement to protect the environment, companies are required to inform customers and the public at large of the potential environmental hazards associated with use of the company products. There is a self regulation requirement to fill out an annual report and make this report available for public review.


International Chamber of Commerce: Business Charter for Sustainable Development (Florini, 6)


Synopsis: A set of codes that provide guidelines for environmental sustainability. Included in this body are 16 principles designed to better corporate practices with respect to the environment. Through accepting these set of principles management must commit itself to measuring company progress and reporting this progress both internally and externally.


Maquiladora Standards of Conduct


Synopsis: Provides guidelines for "fair employment, health and safety, environmental practice and community impact of U.S. companies operating in Mexico."


ICC International Code on Sponsorship


Synopsis: "The ICC Code on Sponsorship has the intention of setting down basic principles and guidelines for good practice and fairness in sponsorship so that sponsorship may play its proper role in the best interests of all concerned."

Jun 1992

Rio Declaration on Environment and Development


Synopsis: This declaration, adopted at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, provided environmental sustainability standards.


ICC/ESOMAR International Code of Marketing and Social Research Practice


Synopsis: This code develops basic principles for corporate use in conducting market research operations.

Jul 1994

Caux Principles (Goodpaster, 7)


Synopsis: The Caux Round Table, made up of a network of business leaders from the United States, Japan, and Europe, developed the Principles out of an understanding that corporations have both the responsibility and the power to affect global change. These principles examine labor rights, human rights, environmental concerns, as well as addressing such stakeholder interests from: customers, owners/investors, suppliers, competitors and communities.



Developed from the Minnesota Principles



Synopsis: The Minnesota Center for Corporate Responsibility generated these codes in 1992 as a means to a with which to compare corporate activity in the Minnesota area. The codes recognize that maintaining profitability is essential to the economic health of the company, however with profitability comes responsibility to act in an ethical manner that respects human dignity, the environment, and stakeholders.


The Natural Step Principles for Sustainability


Synopsis: A Swedish doctor noticed higher than usual levels of leukemia in children and traced the cause of the increase to toxins in the environment. He developed the Natural Step organization in 1989 and brought it to the United States in 1995. These principles are one part of the The Natural Step program which includes a training module for how to implement the suggested sustainability principles.


Model Business Principles


Synopsis: Clinton Administration requested corporations sign on to these principles as a voluntary measure to ensure corporate social responsibility. The intent is to set a minimum standard for US companies such that they will set a good example to those abroad. The codes provide measures for "(1) provision of a safe and healthy work place, (2) fair employment practices (which cover child labor, discrimination, and the right of workers to be represented by unions), (3) responsible environmental protection and practices, (4) compliance with laws governing good business practices and fair competition, and (5) maintenance of a corporate culture that respects its workers, adheres to standards of good citizenship, and promotes ethical conduct "

May 1996

European Social Charter


Synopsis: Voluntary convention that provides standards for use nationally and internationally for those countries who are members of the Council of Europe. The charter provides guidance on public policy however pay particularly close attention to corporate conduct. The charter includes provisions for both worker and human rights. (Wilson, 199 - 201)


International Chamber of Commerce: Rules of Conduct to Combat Extortion and Bribery


Synopsis: The ICC extended the concepts of the US Foreign Corrupt Services Act internationally.


SA8000 through Social Accountability International


Synopsis: Social Accountability 8000 was developed as a result of public outcry concerning factory working conditions imposed by large multi-national corporations abroad. These standards are based on ILO standards. Specifically, this code desires to develop a form of social auditing that will bring "consistency to labor and rights standards" ( paper, 214)


Sustainability Reporting Guidelines through the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI)


Synopsis: CERES in association with the United Nations Environment Programme developed the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI). The GRI released reporting guidelines, for global use and enforcement, that provide measures for reporting economic, corporate social responsibility, environmental, governmental, and non-governmental organization issues. This is a multi-stakeholder approach that hopes to distribute its guidelines through consultation and multi-stakeholder engagement.


ISO 14000


Synopsis: The ISO 14000 standards provide companies with guidelines to manage environmental effects from that companies activities.


ICC International Code of Advertising Practice


Synopsis: All advertising should be done in a socially responsible manner. In particular, all advertising must conform the principles of fair competition and be truthful and honest. Additionally, companies wishing to advertise to children must follow the laws as set forth in the particular country they are entering.

Dec 1997

ICFTU/ITS Basic Code of Conduct Covering Labor Practices


Synopsis: The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) and the International Trade Secretariats (ITS), developed a code of conduct limiting the worst forms of worker mistreatment/abuse. The code is highly connected with the ILO standards.


Ethical Trading Initiative Base Code


Synopsis: The Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) is a coalition of companies, non-governmental organizations, and trade union organizations that share a goal to synthesize methodologies for good labor practice abroad. This code is grounded in the ILO codes.


Code of Conduct for European Multinationals


Synopsis: Resolution passed in the European Parliament which called for the European Union to create a legally binding code of conduct for European Multinationals operating in developing countries. Additionally, this code calls for a monitoring systems to ensure the corporations have implemented and remain incompliance with the code.


ICC Guidelines on Advertising and Marketing on the Internet


Synopsis: The goals of these guidelines are as follows: "to enhance the confidence of the public at large in advertising and marketing provided over the new interactive systems; to safeguard an optimum of freedom of expression for advertisers and marketers; to minimize the need for governmental and/or inter-governmental legislation or regulations; and to meet reasonable consumer privacy expectations"

Jun 1998

Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work (ILO)


Synopsis: Establishes a minimum standard of conduct designed for corporations with regard to worker rights. This declaration draws upon the existing standards and consolidates them into a concise declaration. The United Nations used this declaration in the development of the Global Compact.


Worst Forms of Child Labor Convention, ILO Convention 99


Synopsis: Part of the ILO's "Fundamental Principles." This principle enhances the 1973 child labor convention to include the liberation of scores of children from "slavery and debt bondage, prostitution and pornography, dangerous work and forcible recruitment for armed conflict."


Social Venture Network: Standards of Corporate Responsibility


Synopsis: This standards developed recommend socially responsible behavior. This code highlights that in order to reach the social obligations each corporation inherently undertakes at the time of incorporation, highly informed decisions and good choices must be made. Each standard developed is organized into a principle, prescribed practices, performance measures, suggested resources.


ICC International Code of Direct Selling


Synopsis: All direct selling must be truthful and honest and carried out with a sense of corporate responsibility. Additionally, "Direct selling companies and direct sellers should voluntarily assume responsibility towards the consumer with respect to fair sales methods and product value, and should make every effort to ensure consumer satisfaction"

May 1999

OECD Principles of Corporate Governance (Kaen, 209-10)


Synopsis: Provides provisions to protect shareholders' rights, to treat all shareholders equitably, to determine the role of all stakeholders in corporate governance, to ascertain transparency in disclosure, and to understand the responsibilities of the board.

Jul 1999

International Corporate Governance Network (ICGN)


Synopsis: An amplification of the OECD guidelines. Successful stakeholder management will yield higher shareholder returns. California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS) has endorsed it.

Nov 1999

Global Sullivan Principles


Synopsis: The 1977 Sullivan Principles, designed for corporate ethical behavior specific in South Africa, are expanded into a new set of principles guiding socially responsible behavior for corporations everywhere. It is believed that they were not as successful as they could have been because companies were unwilling to permit public disclosure on their performance under the principles (Sethi, 109).

Jul 2000

UN Global Compact


Synopsis: 9 Principles developed in the areas of Human Rights, Labor and Environment to encourage corporate responsibility while doing business abroad. Background Documents:
o Rio Declaration
o Universal Declaration of Human Rights
o ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work

Oct 2000

Wolfsberg AML Principles


Synopsis: 12 leading international banks developed a set of codes for private banking addressing money laundering concerns. General purpose: "The bank will endeavor to accept only those clients whose source of wealth and funds can be reasonably established to be legitimate"

Dec 2000

Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights


Synopsis: Generated jointly by the United States and United Kingdom governments specifically for use in companies in the "extractive and energy sectors." Principles are designed to address concerns about human rights abuses inflicted from hired security forces. Companies are required to assess the level of risk and unrest in doing business abroad and provide the necessary protection for its workers.


International Code of Direct Marketing


Synopsis: "All direct marketing activities should be legal, decent, honest and truthful. Every direct marketing activity should be carried out with a due sense of social responsibility and should conform to principles of fair competition as generally accepted in business. Activities should not appear to condone or incite violence, nor to encourage unlawful or reprehensible behaviour. No activity should be such as to impair public confidence in direct marketing."

Mar 2003

AA1000 Assurance Standard


Synopsis: This code is designed to complement the Global Reporting Initiative in its sustainability guidelines. It generally seeks to strengthen the company's underlying processes with regard to how well it implements and monitors sustainability guidelines.

Apr 2003

Bench-Marks: Principles for Global Corporate Responsibility (3rd Edition)


Synopsis: This is a comprehensive set of principles developed through the Interfaith Center of Corporate Responsibility. The goal is "to hold companies accountable to high standards that are measurable in relation to international human and labor rights conventions."

Apr 2003

Compendium of ICC Rules on Children and Young People and Marketing


Synopsis: The International Chamber of Commerce, who has put together a large body of internationally accepted codes and standards, put together this compendium on relevant guidelines in an effort to assist companies in their self regulatory efforts. Specifically, the ICC is interested in limiting the potential harm done to children through product marketing.


This document was prepared under the direction of the Business and Organizational Ethic Partnership in July 2003 by Lauren Hernandez who can be contacted at


© Martin Calkins and Lauren Hernandez all rights reserved.

Oct 5, 2015