Stakeholders are individuals or organizations with an interest in the success or failure of a project or entity. Internal stakeholders include employees, managers, and owners/shareholders – essentially, people who are affected by wages and job stability. Figure 1
Increasingly, corporations are motivated to become more socially responsible because their internal stakeholders expect them to understand and address the relevant social and community issue. Understanding what causes are important to employees should be a priority because of the many interrelated business benefits that can be derived from increased employee engagement (e.g., loyalty, increased retention, higher productivity).
As part of more comprehensive compliance and ethics programs, many companies have formulated internal policies pertaining to the ethical conduct of employees. These policies can be simple exhortations in broad, highly generalized language (typically called a corporate ethics statement), or they can be more detailed policies, containing specific behavioral requirements (typically called corporate ethics codes). They are generally meant to identify the company's expectations of workers and to offer guidance on handling some of the more common ethical problems that might arise in the course of doing business. It is hoped that having such a policy will lead to greater ethical awareness, consistency in application, and the avoidance of ethical disasters. An increasing number of companies also require employees to attend seminars regarding business conduct, which often include discussion of the company's policies, specific case studies, and legal requirements. Some companies even require their employees to sign agreements stating that they will abide by the company's rules of conduct.
Not everyone supports corporate policies that govern ethical conduct. Some claim that ethical problems are better dealt with by depending on employees to use their own judgment. Others believe that corporate ethics policies are primarily rooted in utilitarian concerns, and that they are mainly to limit the company's legal liability, or to curry public favor by giving the appearance of being a good corporate citizen. Ideally, the company will avoid a lawsuit because its employees will follow the rules. Should a lawsuit occur, the company can claim that the problem would not have arisen if the employee had only followed the code properly.
Sometimes there is disconnect between the company's code of ethics and the company's actual practices. Thus, whether or not such conduct is explicitly sanctioned by management, at worst, this makes the policy duplicitous, and, at best, it is merely a marketing tool.