Encyclopedia of Law and Economics

2019 Edition
| Editors: Alain Marciano, Giovanni Battista Ramello

Codes of Ethics

  • Luc Van Liedekerke
  • Peter-Jan EngelenEmail author
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-7753-2_116


A written set of guidelines issued by an organization to its stakeholders (primarily its employees) to help them conduct their actions in accordance with the primary values of the organization.


The term “code of ethics” is often used interchangeably with other terms like code of conduct, deontic code, compliance code, integrity code, business code, etc. It is possible to range all these codes along a continuum with at the one end compliance-directed codes and at the other end ethics-directed codes. Compliance-directed codes are mainly focused on guaranteeing that its users stick to certain legal rules, while ethics codes start out from the values and norms of the organization. While this distinction is useful in order to characterize a code, almost all business codes today are a mixture of compliance and ethics. As will become clear in the historical section, there is also a clear legislative reason why most codes today are a combination of ethics and compliance.

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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Applied EconomicsUniversity of AntwerpAntwerpenBelgium
  2. 2.Utrecht School of Economics (USE)Utrecht UniversityUtrechtThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Faculty of Business and EconomicsUniversity of AntwerpAntwerpenBelgium