Questioning corporate codes of ethics



This paper argues that corporate Codes of Ethics lose their ability to further moral responsiveness because of the narrow instrumental purposes that inform their adoption and use. It draws on Jacques Derrida's reading of Emmanuel Levinas to argue that, despite the fact that all philosophical language entails a certain violence, corporate Codes of Ethics could potentially play a more meaningful role in furthering ethical questioning within corporations. The paper argues that Derrida's reading of Levinas' notion of ‘the third’ could precipitate the emergence of a broader sense of ethical responsibility towards multiple others within corporations. Codes may also present the opportunity for corporations to engage in the reconsideration of their own purposes in the light of questions of justice towards multiple others. How these changes in the establishment and use of Codes may be accomplished is explored towards the end of the paper.