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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Principles, process, responsibility : exploring ethics as a meta-regulatory framework for evolving governance discourse Dempsey, Alison Louise


This thesis proposes a new paradigm for understanding, developing and maintaining standards of corporate governance and conduct based on ethics as a meta-regulatory framework for governance discourse. It explores the possibility that, within such a framework, the explicit recognition of fundamental norms of ethical conduct and decision making such as honesty, fairness, consideration of others, responsibility and trustworthiness would precede and inform policy decisions relating to the objectives, structure and regulatory approaches of particular governance systems and practical considerations of how to implement and operationalize governance practices. It suggests that, despite the complex legal, institutional, normative and social dimensions of corporate governance standards and practice, these ethical norms are already implicit, and more recently explicit, in the formal systems of laws, rules and standards that seek to regulate corporate conduct. Alongside these traditional governance regulatory mechanisms, informal and soft law governance standards − codes, guidelines, international and multi-partite commitments − have emerged as an influential source of explicitly ethical, values based beliefs and expectations of what constitutes responsible business. There is an opportunity to use these ethical norms as a common point of departure for future governance discourse that is broad enough to support multiple approaches to governance yet flexible enough to accommodate complexity, diversity and change. Such discourse has the potential to alleviate some of the inherent interpretive and practical challenges to reconciling culturally diverse and pluralistic regulatory approaches in the pursuit of effective global corporate governance standards.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International