Skip to content
Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton August 3, 2018

The codes of ethics of Chilean corporations: An investigation of the functions they serve

  • Millaray Salas

    Millaray Salas earned her PhD in Linguistics from the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso in Chile where she is currently Associate Professor at the Linguistics Department. She teaches Discourse Analysis and Genre Analysis at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Her research interests include Critical Discourse Analysis, Corpus Linguistics, and Second Language Acquisition. Her current research focuses on corporate discourse in Chile. Her publications have appeared in Discourse and Communication and Journal of Pragmatics.

    EMAIL logo
From the journal Text & Talk


In the last seven years, several corporate scandals have shaken public confidence in Chilean corporations. Considering this scenario and the fact that business ethics is an under-researched area in Chile, this study set out to examine one corporate genre, namely, codes of ethics. The codes of ethics from eight Chilean companies were analyzed. This sample offers both typicality and systematic variety as the eight texts have been produced by large-sized companies, five of which have been involved in media scandals. Each sentence was analyzed in order to determine what function it serves. The functions that exhibit the highest occurrence frequency in the corpus are educational (35.8% of sentences) and regulatory (33.9%). The other functions which emerge from the data are self-promotional (8.8%), inspirational (8.5%), commissive (7.8%), and aspirational (4.9%). The predominance of educational and regulatory functions evidences a deontological, compliance-based approach, while the striking salience of the self-promotional function, which ranks third, suggests the strong sense of pride which, according to some Chilean scholars, characterizes the Chilean entrepreneurial class. A critical analysis of the quantitative results and the language used in these documents points to some rhetorical flaws, which may render these texts ineffective.

About the author

Millaray Salas

Millaray Salas earned her PhD in Linguistics from the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso in Chile where she is currently Associate Professor at the Linguistics Department. She teaches Discourse Analysis and Genre Analysis at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Her research interests include Critical Discourse Analysis, Corpus Linguistics, and Second Language Acquisition. Her current research focuses on corporate discourse in Chile. Her publications have appeared in Discourse and Communication and Journal of Pragmatics.

A Appendix

As mentioned in the Methods section, the unit of analysis was the sentence, but here I offer more detailed information about the procedure followed in counting sentences. With that purpose in mind, I will use excerpts from the examined texts that are not cited in the current article (except for Excerpt [2]).

In all of the cases, the three coders read one sentence at a time with the aim of identifying the function of that statement. Thus, in the case of Excerpt [1], the function of the sentence is to regulate the action of employees.



Los contratos y los encargos de trabajo deberán llevarse a cabo conforme a lo establecido conscientemente por las partes.

‘Contracts and work assignments must be carried out in accordance with what has been agreed upon by the parties.’

In the case of long sentences, with one main clause and several embedded clauses, the procedure was as follows. We set out to determine if the embedded clauses were paratactic (independent) or hypotactic (subordinate). In the case of hypotaxis, the whole sentence – with all its embedded subordinate clauses – was counted as one unit, as the example below illustrates. Excerpt (2) has a regulatory function. The subordinate clauses serve the purpose of clarifying the extent of the prohibition regarding the action of giving and accepting gifts from public and private officials:



Se prohíbe al Personal de Arauco el ofrecer o dar regalos a funcionarios públicos y/o privados, así como recibirlos por parte de los mismos, cuando dichos regalos pudieran ser razonablemente percibidos como incentivos, cuando tal acción represente una violación a las leyes, regulaciones y políticas de Arauco y sus filiales, o cuando tal acción pudiera incomodar o afectar la buena imagen y reputación de la Compañía.

‘Arauco staff members are forbidden from requesting, offering or giving gifts to public and/or private officials, nor may they receive such gifts or payment, when such gifts could reasonably be perceived as incentives, when such action represents a violation of the laws, regulations and policies upheld by Arauco and its subsidiaries, or when such action could negatively affect the image and reputation of the Company.’

Turning now to the case of parataxis, the coders found that in some cases, within a sentence, different clauses served different functions. In this case, each individual clause was counted separately. The following example shows how this (run-on) sentence had to be broken down into segments as the first clause serves an educational function, while the second and third one serve a commissive function.



La dependencia de drogas, sustancias tóxicas y el alcoholismo, son absolutamente contrarios a los valores y principios éticos de la compañía, la que se preocupará de lograr una mejor calidad de vida del trabajador y de su familia, para lo cual, en caso de ser requerido por algún colaborador, buscará entregarles apoyo, capacitación, asistencia y control en esta materia.

‘Dependence on drugs, toxic substances and alcohol is absolutely contrary to the values and ethical principles of the company [educational function], which will strive to provide a better quality of life for the worker and his/her family [commissive function]. So, if required by a collaborator, the company will seek to offer support, training, assistance and monitoring in this area [commissive function].’

The only exception to this procedure was hypothetical case scenarios. We counted the whole scenario as one sentence. I argue that the whole segment performs the same educational/didactic function, namely, illustrating an ethical dilemma, and so the whole paragraph should count as one unit.



En un evento social, conocí a un amigable vendedor de la competencia, quien luego de compartir experiencias y anécdotas de la profesión, sugirió que adelantándonos a los desafíos de la próxima temporada, acordáramos distribuir los segmentos de mercado en los cuales nos enfocaríamos, para cumplir con nuestras metas de forma más holgada y eficiente. ¿Debería aprovechar esta oportunidad? No. Acordar por adelantado la distribución de clientes, mercados, cuotas de producción, licitaciones o límites de producción, va contra los valores de CENCOSUD e infringe las leyes de defensa de la competencia.

‘At a social function, I met a friendly sales rep from the competition, who, after sharing experiences and anecdotes of the profession, suggested that we got a headstart on next season’s challenges, that we divide the market segments on which we would each focus in order to meet our goals more efficiently and effortlessly. Should I take this opportunity? No. Agreeing in advance to the distribution of customers, markets, production quotas, procurement or production limits goes against the values of CENCOSUD and violates the laws of competition.’

Appendix B: Distribution of functions across the eight texts (% of total)


Anderson, Ronald E. 1992. Social impacts of computing: Codes of professional ethics. Social Science Computer Review 10(4). 453–469.10.1177/089443939201000402Search in Google Scholar

Audi, Robert. 2009. Business ethics and ethical business. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Search in Google Scholar

Austin, John L. 1962. How to do things with words. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Search in Google Scholar

Banks, Sarah. 2003. From oaths to rulebooks: A critical examination of codes of ethics for the social professions. European Journal of Social Work 6(2). 133–144.10.1080/1369145032000144403Search in Google Scholar

Bateman, Connie R. 2012. Professional ethical standards: The journey toward effective codes of ethics. In Nora P. Reilly, M. Joseph Sirgy & C.Allen Gorman (eds.), Work and quality of life: Ethical practices in organizations, 21–34. Dordrecht, Netherlands: Springer.10.1007/978-94-007-4059-4_2Search in Google Scholar

Beckman, Terry, Alison Colwell & Peggy H Cunningham. 2009. The emergence of corporate social responsibility in Chile: The importance of authenticity and social networks. Journal of Business Ethics 86. 191–206.10.1007/s10551-009-0190-1Search in Google Scholar

Bello. 2015. December 5, Volume 417 Number 8967, page 37. I did not find the guidelines for how to cite a magazine article, so I include all the relevant information The toilet-paper tangle. The Economist. Retrieved from (accessed ∎).Search in Google Scholar

Beyerstein, Dale. 1993. The functions and limitations of professional codes of ethics. In Earl R Winkler & Jerrold R Coombs (eds.), Applied ethics: A reader, 416–425. London: Blackwell.Search in Google Scholar

Bhatia, Vijay. K. 2008. Towards critical genre analysis. In Vijay K Bhatia, John Flowerdew & Rodney H Jones (eds.), Advances in discourse studies, 166–177. New York: Routledge.10.4324/9780203892299Search in Google Scholar

Bullock, Merry & Sangeeta Panicker. 2003. Ethics for all: Differences across scientific society codes. Science and Engineering Ethics 9. 159–170.10.1007/s11948-003-0003-3Search in Google Scholar

Bustamante, Fabián. 2014. The formation of a new religious mentality of the business elite during the military dictatorship, 1974-1990. The Opus Dei Catholicism employer. Revista Cultura y Religión 4(1). 105–124.Search in Google Scholar

Cottone, R. Rocco & Vilia M Tarvydas. 2003. Ethical and professional issues in counseling. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.Search in Google Scholar

Donoho, Casey & Timothy Heinze. 2011. The personal selling ethics scale: Revisions and expansions for teaching sales ethics. Journal of Marketing Education 33(1). 107–122.10.1177/0273475310392546Search in Google Scholar

Dragga, Sam. 2011. Cooperation or compliance: Building dialogic codes of conduct. Technical Communication 58(1). 4–18.Search in Google Scholar

Farrell, Brian J & Deirdre M Cobbin. 2000. A content analysis of codes of ethics from fifty-seven national accounting organizations. Business Ethics: A European Review 9(3). 180–190.10.1111/1467-8608.00189Search in Google Scholar

Farrell, Brian J., Deirdre M Cobbin & Hellen Farrell. 2002. Codes of ethics: Their evolution, development and other controversies. Journal of Management Development 21(2). 152–163.10.1108/02621710210417448Search in Google Scholar

Farrell, Hellen & Brian J Farrell. 1998. The language of business codes of ethics: Implications of knowledge and power. Journal of Business Ethics 17. 587–601.Search in Google Scholar

Ferrell, O. C., John Fraedrich & Linda Ferrell. 2014. Business ethics: Ethical decision making and cases. 8th edn, Mason, Ohio: Cengage learning.Search in Google Scholar

Fisher, Colin. 2003. Managers’ perceptions of ethical codes: Dialectics and dynamics. Business Ethics: A European Review 10(2). 145–156.10.1111/1467-8608.00225Search in Google Scholar

Frankel, Mark S. 1989. Professional codes: Why, how, and with what impact?. Journal of Business Ethics 8. 109–115.10.1007/BF00382575Search in Google Scholar

Gorbaneff, Yuri, Elsa Uribe & Guillermo Hoyos. 2012. Forma y contenido de los códigos de ética de empresas petroleras en Colombia. Investigación & Desarrollo 20(2). 366–389.Search in Google Scholar

Harris, Nigel. 1994. Professional codes and Kantian duties. In Ruth F Chadwick (ed.), Ethics and the professions, 104–115. Surrey, UK: Avebury Ashgate Publishing Limited.Search in Google Scholar

Kaptein, Muel. 2013. Workplace morality: Behavior ethics in organizations. Bingley, UK: Emerald.Search in Google Scholar

Kaptein, Muel. 2015. The effectiveness of ethics programs: The role of scope, composition, and sequence. Journal of Business Ethics 132. 415–431.10.1007/s10551-014-2296-3Search in Google Scholar

Kaptein, Muel & Johan Wempe. 1998. Twelve Gordian knots when developing an organizational code of ethics. Journal of Business Ethics 17(8). 853–869.10.1023/A:1005792522046Search in Google Scholar

Koljatic, Mladen & Mónica Silva. 2014. Do business schools influence students’ awareness of social issues? Evidence from two of Chile’s leading MBA programs. Journal of Business Ethics 131(3). 595–604.10.1007/s10551-014-2295-4Search in Google Scholar

Krippendorff, Klaus. 2004. Content Analysis: An Introduction to Its Methodology. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Search in Google Scholar

Lee, Seow Ting. 2015. Media business. In Henk Ten Have (ed.), Encyclopedia of Global Bioethics, 1–8. Dordrecht, Netherlands: Springer.Search in Google Scholar

Llorente-Galera, Francisco & Martos-Calpena Ramón. 2014. La cultura corporativa en la gestión de las empresas automovilísticas en España. Dirección y Organización 53. 19–44.10.37610/dyo.v0i53.450Search in Google Scholar

Lozano, J. Félix. 2004. Códigos Éticos para el Mundo Empresarial. Madrid: Trotta.Search in Google Scholar

Lozano, J. Félix. 2006. Developing an ethical code for engineers: The discursive approach. Science and Engineering Ethics 12(2). 245–256.10.1007/s11948-006-0024-9Search in Google Scholar

Majluf, Nicolás S & Carolina M Navarrete. 2011. A two-component compliance and ethics program model: An empirical application to Chilean corporations. Journal of Business Ethics 100. 567–579.10.1007/s10551-010-0696-6Search in Google Scholar

Mamic, Ivanka. 2004. Implementing codes of conduct: How businesses manage social performance in global supply chain. Geneva: International Labour Organization.Search in Google Scholar

Monckeberg, María Olivia. 2003. El imperio del Opus Dei. Santiago: Ediciones B.Search in Google Scholar

Munter, Dan. 2013. Codes of ethics in the light of fairness and harm. Business Ethics: A European Review 22(2). 174–188.10.1111/beer.12017Search in Google Scholar

Norberg, Peter. 2009. “I don’t care that people don’t like what I do” – Business codes viewed as invisible or visible restrictions. Journal of Business Ethics 86. 211–225.10.1007/s10551-008-9844-7Search in Google Scholar

Pezoa, Álvaro & María Paz Riumalló. 2011. Survey of teaching, training, and research in the field of economic and business ethics in Latin America. Journal of Business Ethics 104. 43–50.10.1007/s10551-012-1261-2Search in Google Scholar

Pollach, Irene. 2003. Communicating corporate ethics on the World Wide Web. A discourse analysis of selected company web sites. Business & Society 42(2). 277–287.10.1177/0007650303042002006Search in Google Scholar

Rodríguez‐Domínguez, Luis, Isabel García‐Sánchez & Isabel Gallego‐Álvarez. 2009. Codes of ethics in Spanish corporations: an exploratory content analysis. International Journal of Law and Management 51(5). 291–309.10.1108/17542430910988892Search in Google Scholar

Salas, Millaray. 2013. Image repair discourse of Chilean companies facing a scandal. Discourse & Communication 7(1). 95–115.10.1177/1750481312466474Search in Google Scholar

Salas, Millaray. 2016. Análisis crítico del manejo de la carga de la prueba en declaraciones públicas de empresas chilenas involucradas en escándalos. Logos: Revista de Lingüística, Filosofía y Literatura 26(2). 260–277.10.15443/RL26020Search in Google Scholar

Schultz, Joseph J., Douglas A Johnson, Deigan Morris & Sverre Dyrnes. 1993. An investigation of the reporting of questionable acts in an international setting. Journal of Accounting Research. 31. 75–103.10.2307/2491165Search in Google Scholar

Thumala, María Angélica. 2007. Riqueza y piedad. El catolicismo de la elite económica chilena. Santiago: Editorial Debate.Search in Google Scholar

Treviño, Linda Keble & Gary R. Weaver. 2001. Organizational justice and ethics program “follow-through”: Influences on employees’ harmful and helpful behavior. Business Ethics Quarterly 11(4). 651–671.10.2307/3857765Search in Google Scholar

Vinten, Gerald. 1990. Business ethics: Busybody or corporate conscience?. Managerial Auditing Journal 5(2). 4–11.10.1108/02686909010138052Search in Google Scholar

Weaver, Gary R & Linda Klebe Treviño. 1999. Compliance and values oriented ethics programs: Influences on employees’ attitudes and behavior. Business Ethics Quarterly 9. 315–335.10.2307/3857477Search in Google Scholar

Wilding, Paul. 1982. Professional Power and Social Welfare. London: Routledge.Search in Google Scholar

Winkler, Ingo. 2011. The representation of social actors in corporate codes of ethics. How code language positions internal actors. Journal of Business Ethics 101. 653–665.10.1007/s10551-011-0762-8Search in Google Scholar

Winkler, Ingo. 2012. Employee Identities in Corporate Codes of Ethics: The Equal, Responsible, Subordinating, and Self‐Monitoring Employee. Canadian Journal of Administrative Sciences/Revue canadienne des sciences de l’administration 29. 191–202.10.1002/cjas.215Search in Google Scholar

Wood, Greg. 2000. A Cross cultural comparison of the contents of codes of ethics: USA, Canada and Australia. Journal of Business Ethics 25. 287–298.10.1023/A:1006034209956Search in Google Scholar

Wood, Greg & Malcolm Rimmer. 2003. Codes of ethics: What are they really and what should they be?. International Journal of Value-Based Management 16. 181–195.10.1023/A:1024089509424Search in Google Scholar

Zakaria, Mohamad, Zanda Garanca & Abdallah Sobeih. 2012. Cultural and legal challenges in implementing code of conduct in supply chain management of mobile phone industries: Sony Ericsson case study. Social Responsibility Journal 8(2). 227–241.10.1108/17471111211234851Search in Google Scholar

Published Online: 2018-08-03
Published in Print: 2018-08-28

© 2018 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston

Downloaded on 29.5.2023 from
Scroll to top button