Of the 23 developed countries analysed, Hong Kong and Singapore were found to have the fewest companies with high standards of corporate codes of ethics. Dutch companies scored highest on the quality of their over-all corporate codes of ethics – over 86% of companies have meaningful ethical codes, and almost 73% of companies based in the Netherlands have polices judged by EIRIS as ‘advanced’.

“More and more companies are operating in environments where political and economic systems are weak and the potential for corruption is great,” said report author and EIRIS research analyst Danielle Mallen. “Investors are increasingly interested in how companies respond to the challenges raised by operating in such places. EIRIS is pleased to provide a further dimension to the evaluation of corporate governance on behalf of investors.”

Other key findings in the paper include the following:

. After Singapore and Hong Kong, companies in Spain are least likely to have ethical codes, and Singapore, Hong Kong, Greece, Spain, Ireland and Portugal lag behind when it comes to governance ethics management systems

. Over half (54%) of the companies assessed have a meaningful governance ethics code or equivalent policy

. A higher percentage (67%) have a governance ethics management system, but overall management systems appear to be less developed than the policies

. Over 78% of UK larger cap companies have meaningful ethical codes, although this figure drops to around 31% once the sample is expanded to cover all medium and smaller cap companies (the FTSE All-Share index).

. The Netherlands and the UK are also ahead of other major economies in relation to the quality of their governance ethics management systems

. Others with relatively high percentages of their leading companies having ethical codes include the USA, Australia, New Zealand and the Nordic countries