Profits and principles : the operationalisation of corporate ethics in Australian enterprises

  • Lorraine E. Carey

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    This thesis investigated the operationalisation of corporate ethics programs in Australian based enterprises at the beginning of the new millennium. Three major research questions were identified for investigation. First, the study investigated the processes Australian-based enterprises use to formulate, communicate, monitor and enforce their written standards of ethical business conduct. Second, it benchmarked these processes against best practices identified in the literature as guidelines for effectiveness. Third, it investigated program processes associated with seven behavioural outcomes relevant to effective corporate ethics programs. The research used quantitative and qualitative methodologies. The quantitative component involved a survey of the top 1500 Australian enterprises by dollar value which yielded a useable response rate of 19.4 percent or 291 enterprises. The qualitative component involved 33 interviews with personnel across ten enterprises, as well as written standards from those enterprises. These were used to give meaning and nuance to the survey data. The research resulted in a comprehensive data set on the processes utilised by Australian based enterprises to operationalise their corporate ethics programs. It also provided data on the perceptions of managers in Australian-based enterprises regarding the effectiveness of their corporate ethics programs and the impact that corporate ethics program processes have on a given set of behavioural outcomes of organisational members. The analysis and discussion of the research findings led to the identification of ten key corporate ethics program processes associated with desirable outcomes of effective corporate ethics programs. The findings from this study show that Australian-based enterprises have in place the processes deemed necessary for an effective corporate ethics program, but that a number of processes still need to be developed. Processes requiring further development are ethics training, formal periodic auditing, anonymous reporting mechanisms and the linkage of performance management and reward systems to ethics compliance. On the positive side, not only do the majority of Australian enterprises have formal written standards of ethical business conduct, but these have been tailored to the needs, issues and challenges of the environments in which the enterprises operate. The study also found that senior management has high levels of responsibility for all aspects of corporate ethics programs in Australian enterprises. This research holds a range of implications relevant to 1) theory development in the field of business ethics,2) policy analysis and development in the areas of government and corporate self-regulation, and 3) management practice for operationalising corporate ethics programs, building ethical organisations and establishing a corporate ethos of acting with integrity. A model for operationalising corporate ethics program is presented.
    Date of Award2007
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorDoug Davies (Supervisor) & Alan Dunk (Supervisor)

    Cite this