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51 Int'l J.L. & Mgmt. 5 (2009)

handle is hein.journals/ijlm51 and id is 1 raw text is: The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at

The ethics of corporate
Crucial distinctions for global comparisons
G.j. Rossouw
Philosophy Department, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa
Purpose - The principles, regulations and directives associated with corporate governance
constitute a view of the role, responsibilities and obligations of corporations within a given society.
Identifying the ethics of a specific corporate governance regime entails making explicit the moral
responsibilities and obligations of corporations in society as well as the ethical values associated with
these responsibilities and obligations. In order to make meaningful global comparisons between the
ethics of corporate governance regimes, a number of vital distinctions need to be made. The purpose
of this paper is to introduce and discuss three such distinctions.
Design/methodology/approach - Conceptual clarifications and distinctions are considered with
regard to three pairs of related concepts: the ethics of governance and the governance of ethics;
external and internal corporate governance; and shareholder and stakeholder orientations in
corporate governance.
Findings - The conceptual distinctions that have been considered are vital for making useful
comparisons between the ethics of different corporate governance regimes around the world.
Neglecting these conceptual distinctions can lead to misunderstanding and confusion in the global
discourse on the ethics of corporate governance.
Practical implications - The paper provides a theoretical framework for comparing four regional
perspectives on the ethics of governance, namely from Africa, Asia, Continental Europe and North
America. It also provides a framework for any other global comparative study on the ethics of
corporate governance.
Originality/value - The paper provides a conceptual framework for making global comparisons
with regard to the ethical underpinnings of corporate governance regimes. It thus assists in creating a
framework for a global discourse on the ethics of corporate governance.
Keywords Corporate governance, Business ethics, Stakeholder analysis, Shareholders,
Paper type Conceptual paper
While comparative studies in corporate governance in general are quite common (cf.
Clark, 2007; Gedajlovic and Shapiro, 1998; Hopt et al., 1998; La Porta et al., 1999; Nestor
and Thompson, 2000; Shleifer and Vishny, 1997) similar comparative studies about the
ethics that underpin corporate governance regimes around the world are much rarer.
The book, Global Perspectives on Ethics of Corporate Governance (Rossouw and Sison,
2006) was an attempt to systematically compare the ethics that underpins corporate
governance regimes around the world. In the said publication it became clear that there
are vast differences around the world with regard to the ethics of corporate governance.
Not only are corporate governance regimes around the world shaped by different sets
of cultural values, but they are also divided with regard to question: For whose benefit
should corporations be governed? The answers to this ethical question split the world
of corporate governance into different camps of ethics.
This special issue is dedicated to the question, whether there is an underlying ethic
of corporate governance that is gaining the upper hand on a global scale, or whether
there is a global divergence in this regard. In order to address this question about

Ethics of


International Journal of Law and
Vol. 51 No. 1, 2009
pp. 5-9
© Emerald Group Publishing Limited
DOI 10.1108/17542430910936628

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