Ethics statements on websites of Indian companies
This paper examines the corporate code of ethics of Indian companies as displayed on their websites. With the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) having made it mandatory for listed companies to frame a code of conduct and to place it on their websites, the question arises whether corporations are doing so merely as a requirement or whether they seem to be using it to make the best impact on the general public through the powerful mass medium of the internet. The official website of a company is its face to the wider world, including and beyond its various stakeholders, and it would thus be expected that companies would be keen to use this medium to present their formulated codes to project their image as ethically strong and transparent entities. The codes of 60 top Indian companies displayed on their websites were studied for location of ethics statements, and the readability of these was calculated using the Flesch reading ease and Flesch–Kincaid grade level scores. The implication from the findings is that companies have the opportunity to present their ethical position with greater care on readability so that the material is comprehensible to a larger set of the public. In terms of layout too, the ethics codes could be made more easily accessible. More care also needs to go into framing of ethics statements as values-based rather than rule-based. This would help not only fulfil a mandatory requirement but also in articulating a unique identity for internal stakeholders to embrace, and for building a distinct image among competitors, in the public mind.
- Working Papers