Growing interest in worldwide ethical business standards

Several Japanese companies are beginning to follow the ethics compliance management system standard named ECS2000. It and other additions to the rapidly expanding area of ethical corporate behavior, such as the draft Israeli standard SI 10000 for social responsibility and community involvement, are fueling broader efforts to investigate the practicality of a common, worldwide business ethics guideline. The idea is to mimic the approach used for existing environmental and quality management by the International Organization for Standardization, the voluntary, global federation of standards-writing experts from 141 countries.

ECS2000 is based on a model called PDCA, which stands for plan-do-check-act. Like all PDCA-type standards, ECS2000 does not lay down very many specific requirements. Instead, organizations must develop an ethics policy statement of their own design and disclose it to the public. They must produce documents related to the policy, such as a code of ethics, a compliance manual, and internal rules to ensure that the management system functions well. They need implementation plans covering training, auditing, reporting, and various means to resolve inconsistencies turned up by internal audits. Companies adhering to ECS2000 are asked to allocate appropriate resources sufficient to administer the ethics management system effectively.

In addition to requirements for continuous improvement similar to those in ECS2000, SI 10000 has some unique features. For example, it requires top management to be involved in community activity, and employees must be evaluated according to their involvement in such affairs.

The wisdom of giving ISO a green light to start drafting a voluntary international ethical business management standard is under debate. The Office of Consumer Affairs of the government of Canada is facilitating the discussion forum on behalf of an ISO working group on consumer protection in the global market.

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