Code of Responsible Conduct for Business Intiative

In 2008, the Wittenberg Center teamed up with leading corporations and organisations in the German economy to start the “Code of Responsible Conduct for Business” Initiative.

The initiative has the goal of increasing the general level of trust that people have in ‘the economy’, i.e. to enhance the public trust in the competitive market system, corporations and corporate decision makers.

Reliable studies show that public trust in business has continually declined in the past few years. This has negative consequences for society and for corporations. On the one hand, corporations have an instrumental role to play in solving the major challenges which society is currently facing – be it fighting poverty on a global scale or successfully implementing the reformation of the energy sector in Germany.

The Code of Responsible Conduct is a pioneer initiative whereby more than 50 corporations and organisations have defined their understanding of responsibility and declared their commitment to it. The Code is not relevant across all industries and for firms of all sizes and was developed in direct collaboration with the signee corporations. A further point of distinction for the initiative is that the signees do not only declare their commitment to ethical values, they also take a clear position regarding how they will act with respect to certain omnipresent issues such as profit-making, mass layoffs and manager salaries.

The WCGE supports the initiative on three levels:

  • An internal learning and dialogue platform is provided so that economy-wide issues of current relevance can be dealt with under the impartial guidance of acclaimed business ethics scholars. From this basis, new impulses for specific projects are generated, such as in 2013 when the WCGE worked with five major banks to develop the paper on the “Ethical Foundation of Management Remuneration in the Credit Sector”.
  • The WCGE’s external engagement also has a strong focus on dialogue. The goal of our numerous discussions with the EU-Commission, in the European Parliament, with the major parties in the German Federal Parliament, as well as with the Federal President’s Office, Verbände, Unions, religious organisations and NGOs, is to develop a shared understanding of the responsibility of economic actors and the limits thereof. In cooperation with the Federal Ministries for Economic Affairs and Technology and for Economic Cooperation and Development, the WCGE has already organized conferences with several hundred participants.
  • In addition, the center accompanies the Code of Responsible Conduct initiative via research projects, which are managed by the associated university departments and professors as well as the students in the PhD Program “Ethics and Responsible Leadership” which is based at the WCGE.