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VOLUNTARY CODES OF CONDUCT FOR MULTINATIONAL CORPORATIONS: COORDINATING DUTIES OF RESCUE AND JUSTICE Nien-he Hsieh Abstract: This paper examines the extent to which the voluntary adop- tion of codes of conduct by multinational corporations (MNCs) renders MNCs accountable for the performance of actions specified in a code of conduct. In particular, the paper examines the ways in which codes of conduct coordinate the expectations of relevant parties with regard to the provision of assistance by MNCs on grounds of rescue or justice. The paper argues that this coordinative role of codes of conduct renders MNCs more accountable for the performance of actions specified in a code of conduct than they would be without a code of conduct. This interpretation of the significance of codes of conduct is contrasted with the view that codes of conduct render MNCs accountable for perform- ing actions specified in a code of conduct by grounding contractual obligations for the performance of such actions. V oluntary codes of conduct, whether adopted at an industry-wide level or adopted at the level of individual corporations, are an increasingly prevalent feature of the landscape in which multinational corporations (MNCs) conduct business.' These codes specify the actions to be taken by an MNC in the event of a conflict between the corporation and society (Sethi 2003: 64) and "have become de rigueur for all MNCs that profess to be good corporate citizens and to conduct their operations in a professional and socially responsible manner" (Sethi 2003: 81). This paper is motivated by something of a puzzle in the way that voluntary codes of conduct appear to have become de rigueur. At first, these codes would appear to have become de rigueur because their adoption is considered to be mor- ally praiseworthy. On further reflection, however, there is reason to doubt that the adoption of such codes should count toward the praiseworthiness of MNCs as corporate citizens. For the adoption of a code of conduct to count as morally praiseworthy, the obligations enumerated in the code must be understood to apply already to MNCs. Otherwise, it is unclear on what basis to judge MNCs as praise- worthy for having made an explicit commitment to fulfill these obligations. If an act is morally prohibited or required of an agent, however, then making an explicit commitment to fulfill that obligation normally does not change our judgment of © 2006. Business Ethics Quarterly, Volume 16, Issue 2. ISSN 1052-150X. pp. 119-135 This document is authorized for use by Robert Fleishman , from 10/19/2010 to 1/19/20 BADM 053: Management, Organizations & Society - Radin (Fall-2 2010), George Wash Any unauthorized use or reproduction of this document is strictly prohibit
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120 BUSINESS ETHICS QUARTERLY the praiseworthiness of the agent. For example, if it is understood that there is a duty to tell the truth, then Maya is judged no more praiseworthy when she tells the truth after having made an explicit commitment to tell the truth than if she had told the truth without having made such a commitment. In turn, to the extent that
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