HONG KONG'S top anti-corruption watchdog hopes delegates will adopt its recommendations on corporate codes of conduct when drawing up guidelines on principled practices at today's business ethic conference. The Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) will be piloting its Corporate Code of Conduct to delegates as an example of the guidelines a company could apply to its business activities. Sandra Mak, regional officer at the ICAC and secretary to the conference organising committee, said the ICAC hoped the Corporate Code of Conduct would be applied to whole industrial sectors, as well as to individual companies. Ms Mak said the Corporate Code of Conduct was published in March and had been presented to a number of companies for their comments. She said: ''We are hoping new ideas and fresh points of view will be put forward by delegates at the conference, which will be incorporated in the Corporate Code of Conduct. '' After the conference, ICAC personnel will visit all the firms and industry associations which have participated to ask them for their views on the commission's document. She said the idea for a firm to have a code of conduct was relatively new to Hong Kong, but was already in vogue in the United States where the ICAC had consulted a number of American firms to help it draw up its own document. She said the ICAC hoped to raise awareness of the need for corporate codes of conduct, by introducing its own document on the subject at the conference. The Corporate Code of Conduct addresses the areas of business activity where ethical guidelines could be introduced and on how they could be formulated and implemented. The guide has been produced by the ICAC as a reference source for business organisations interested in formulating their own code of conduct. The guide is intended to present, in a practical way, the guiding principles in a code of conduct. The document also indicates the options and influences on the formulation of a code of conduct and to provide a variety of case histories for reference. For a code of conduct to be effective, the guide states there are a number of basic concepts which must be adhered to. It says a code should be unique to the needs and aspirations of the individual company concerned. The development of a code should be open to scrutiny and the values and the principles embodied within it should be consistent. A code should also be evolutionary and address present day issues, concerns and situations faced by a company. The published document should be clearly written. A firm must also have the will to enforce the rules it makes, if they are to serve any useful purpose. The ICAC guide identifies three main areas of business activity according to importance which should be tackled systematically by a code of conduct. In the first, a firm should address core legal and ethical questions faced by employees which the ICAC identify as the offering or acceptance of advantages, conflicts of interest, use of privileged company information, maintenance of true company records and channels of complaint. Once these primary ethical questions have been answered, the ICAC suggests other issues of concern which business organisations may decide to cover. These include insider trading, entertainment, outside employment, loans from suppliers and contractors, problems with gambling and the use of company property. However, the ICAC acknowledges that there are additional ethical issues which many firms, depending on the nature of their business, may wish to incorporate into their codes of conduct. These issues include commitment to offering quality and fair value products, safety and fitness for use of goods, expedient product recall and related practices, occupational health and safety, equality of employment opportunity, environmental policy and support for community activities. To help firms and associations develop a set of guidelines, the ICAC provides a sample code of conduct in its publication. This is divided into several categories related to different aspects of a firm's activities, including the personal conduct of directors and employees, relations with its suppliers and contractors, responsibilities to shareholders and the financial community, relations with customers, employment practices, responsibilities to the community and the monitoring of compliance and the means of enforcement. The ICAC guide also offers advice on how to formulate and implement a code of conduct. Although the ICAC recommends a code of conduct be drafted by chosen senior executives, it also suggests that employees at all levels be consulted during the process. Following final approval of the code by a firm's board of directors, its provisions should be clearly communicated to staff through, for example, special briefing sessions, the ICAC said. It also suggests there should be separate compliance and complaints officers to ensure adherence to the rules of conduct.