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Implementing codes of conduct

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All organisations have a responsibility to their stakeholders. These are individuals and groups who have a stake in the running of the organisation and in the consequences of its activities. Stakeholders may include shareholders, suppliers, customers, employees and managers, as well as society as a whole. Increasingly, stakeholders are demanding a high level of ethical standards from the organisations with whom they are involved. In recent years, the media have exposed organisations which have fallen short of the standards expected of them by their stakeholders. One example of unacceptable ethical standards is the exploitation of child labour in South East Asia, Africa, Latin America and other emerging markets.

Organisations have to heed their stakeholders. Customers are increasingly discerning and choose whether to give their custom to a particular organisation or to go elsewhere. An organisation with unacceptable ethical standards will quickly lose business. Similarly, employees can choose whether or not to work for a certain organisation, and shareholders carefully select organisations in which to invest their money. Therefore, to satisfy stakeholders, an organisation needs to develop Codes of Conduct which state clearly the way in which that organisation will carry out its business, i.e. how it will behave in a given circumstance.

This case study examines how C&A has created Codes of Conduct, not only for dealing with suppliers but also for the conduct of its own executives. These Codes of Conduct have been clearly researched to achieve a clear focus on specific ethical standards.