Switzerland’s ten best codes of conduct

Switzerland’s ten best codes of conduct

Now more so than ever, companies are required to provide their employees and investors with information on their sustainability practices and corporate culture. One way of doing so is via codes of conduct. KPMG’s study “Swiss Codes of Conduct” shows that most large Swiss companies do have a code of this kind. However, there is room for improvement in terms of the resources deployed on monitoring and ensuring compliance with their code and the use of anonymous reporting tools.

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A properly implemented code of conduct is becoming an increasingly important weapon in a company’s fight for strategic positioning. A typical set of guidelines will contain information on the firm’s philosophy, reputation, corporate culture, working environment and financial strength. Regulations are proliferating and growing more complex, making a comprehensive code of conduct more and more critical for companies, not least to help them prevent employee misconduct.

Codes more positively worded in Europe

KPMG’s latest study “Swiss Codes of Conduct” analyzes the codes of conduct of Switzerland’s 50 largest listed companies and compares them with those of the 200 biggest firms worldwide. The main difference lies in the form that the codes take: while US and Asian companies mainly make reference to current rule-based legislation and provisions, European companies take more of a principle-oriented approach. European codes are also worded more positively and are shaped more so by the companies’ own interests than by any regulations.

Key findings from the “Swiss Codes of Conduct” analysis

  • 84 percent of Switzerland’s 50 largest companies have a code of conduct in place.
  • 26 percent of the codes are based on rules, 36 percent on principles and 38 percent combine both approaches.
  • One-third of the codes contain examples and explanatory notes providing supplementary information on the principles and rules.
  • Over 80 percent of the codes cover the topics of non-competition, dealing with conflicts of interest, bribery and corruption, and handling confidential information.
  • 57 percent of the codes mention a reporting hotline or other equivalent anonymous reporting tools. 
  • Fewer than 15 percent of the companies have resources in their HR departments for monitoring and ensuring compliance with their code.
  • 70 percent of the codes contain information on sustainability and environmental protection.
  • Half of all the codes make reference to other guidelines and strategies devised by the company. 

“Codes of conduct are becoming increasingly important in business today,” says Martijn de Kiewit, Head of Ethics & Compliance Management at KPMG Switzerland. Setting up reporting hotlines and providing the necessary human resources can help create more extensive codes of conduct and monitor whether they are being complied with. However, staff training is key in order for a code to be as effective as possible. “The right combination of knowledge and the skills and motivation shown by employees forms the basis for successful learning,” stresses Martijn de Kiewit. “Participants should not only learn new things; they should also gain motivation and the ability to use what they have learned in their day-to-day work. This helps curb potential misconduct and even fraud.”

The ten best Swiss codes of conduct


KPMG evaluated the codes of conduct of Switzerland’s 50 largest listed companies based on a comprehensive list of criteria (see survey page 46 to 48) and the information published on their websites, whittling them down to the ten firms with the most informative codes.

Swiss Codes of Conduct

Swiss Codes of Conduct

White paper benchmarking the Swiss Codes with the Global 200 companies.

© 2016 KPMG Holding AG is a member of the KPMG network of independent firms affiliated with KPMG International Cooperative (“KPMG International”), a Swiss legal entity. All rights reserved.

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