This article examines the corpus of multinationals' codes of conduct on CSR issues which has been collated by the ILO. Through lexical software analysis we identify three main points of reference in CSR codes of conduct: respect for ILO norms, discussion of the company's relationship to society, and reinforcement of its internal discipline and organisation. Surprisingly, the issue of corporate responsibility itself constitutes a small part of the text of the codes. Their main targets are employees, who are charged with a dual task: to ensure the implementation of the principles stated in the codes, and to protect the assets of the company. In a reflexive dimension, codes of conduct help us to understand the key characteristics of the companies which made them. Copyright (c) 2007 The Authors; Journal compilation (c) 2007 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.