Toward a standardized supplier code of ethics: development of a design concept based on diffusion of innovation theory
First online: 11.10.2013
Cite this article as: Schleper, M.C. & Busse, C. Logist. Res. (2013) 6: 187. doi:10.1007/s12159-013-0109-1
Supplier codes of ethics have become important instruments for ethical supplier management. They capacitate firms to govern numerous supplier relationships simultaneously toward ethical business conduct. Since many actors nowadays pursue the goal of ethical supplier management, a cascade of codes has emerged. However, this plurality poses multiple problems on its own account, such as lacking effectiveness of some of these codes, restrictions on the development of universally accepted ethical standards, and greenwashing. It also creates operational difficulties and unnecessary procedural costs for firms and is thus inefficient. The aggregated amount of issues suggests the development of a standardized supplier code of ethics as a remedy. Based on diffusion of innovation theory as theoretical lense and as conceptual support, we employ a multi-method research design to develop a design concept for such a standard. We begin with a content analysis of relevant scientific literature on content, adoption, and effectiveness of codes of ethics, in which we also study numerous extant codes and initiatives. It leads to six propositions on key success factors of a standardized supplier code of ethics. We then amend a design science approach to develop a design concept for such a standard that complies with these requirements, with the support of corporate experts from Germany, China, and India. Our results are informative about the content of a standardized supplier code of ethics, and we propose multiple effectiveness- and diffusion-facilitating mechanisms as additional components in the overall design concept. With stakeholders’ further support, the envisioned standard is expected to foster businesses’ corporate social performances around the globe.
Code of ethics Corporate social responsibility Diffusion of innovation theory Multi-method research Content analysis Design science