Mirjan Oude Vrielink, Cor van Montfort, and Meike Bokhorst 35.1 INTRODUCTION Codes may be defined in terms of the function they perform in society, in terms of their core elements, or in terms of what they mean to different actors in daily practice (cf. Black 2002). There is no single definition, but most scholars agree on the observation that codes are written documents that lay down standards which communicate what behaviors are (morally) required (Schwartz 2001; Pater and Van Gils 2003). They are a prevalent regulatory instrument for ethical guidance or social responsibility to be found everywhere from single organizations to professional and trade associations and large multinationals (Wood and Rimmer 2003). Codes still grow in number as governments, associations, and special interest groups increasingly call for the establishment of such codes (Schwartz 2002: 27).1 Private organizations like multinationals and banks use codes as a particular instance of civil-to-business and business-to-business regulation. They may have different reasons for doing so, such as the wish to (re)gain the trust of the public, to express their corporate social responsibility, to discourage free riders or to prevent government from imposing too strict legislation. The corporate governance codes of private organizations have inspired several national corporate governance codes. At the international level a harmonization of codes can be observed, for instance through the OECD Principles of Corporate Governance. In a comparative study of corporate governance codes, codes are said to be beneficial in a number of ways: Codes stimulate discussion of corporate...
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