Opinion

Who Really Benefits from Voluntary Corporate Codes of Conduct?

PinnochioA recent investigation by BBC Television showed British American Tobacco (BAT) violating its own voluntary marketing and advertising codes in Malawi, Mauritius and Nigeria. Contrary to BAT's public pronouncements that it doesn't want children to smoke, the company was caught using marketing tactics in these countries that are known to appeal to young people, like advertising and selling single cigarettes, and sponsoring non-age-restricted, product branded musical entertainment.

As trading has become more global and corporations have become more multinational, countries started discovering that they have little recourse to rein in the harmful behavior of corporations. As public clamor to regulate multinationals has grown, companies have increasingly responded by adopting "voluntary codes of conduct." But what are the real purposes for these codes? Are they just window dressing, or worse?

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