TOKYO - Nissan President Yoshikazu Hanawa shocked business executives across Japan when he banned gifts and corporate entertaining.
Nissan employees worldwide can neither accept gifts and entertainment nor offer them.
The company wrote to 300 major suppliers in Japan last month outlining the new policy.
Hanawa's code has two roots: Nissan's increasing globalization and a string of high-profile corruption scandals in Japan.
The code has sharpened the national debate over settai - the tradition of almost compulsory business entertaining and gift-giving.
Settai makes it rude to refuse a colleague's invitation to go drinking - and supports hundreds of thousands of bars, night clubs and restaurants across Japan.
Depending on one's point of view, Nissan's code will either tear apart Japan's social and business fabric or raise the country up to 'global standards' of business ethics.
'This is new in Japan, the idea that you can't do certain things,' said Stuart Picken, a professor of business at Nagoya University of Commerce and Business Administration and a specialist in Japanese business ethics.
'Most Western ethics are couched in negatives - Thou Shalt Not! But most Japanese codes are couched in terms of what a company should do to be socially responsible.'
'If gift-giving and settai cease to be a tool in doing business, then technology-based business transactions will take over from ties based on personal relationships,' said one supplier, who declined to be named.
Two auto industry suppliers, electronics company Hitachi and steelmaker NKK, have responded to Nissan's initiative by drafting codes of their own.
The Japanese public has been outraged by recent scandals, particularly one involving officials of Japan's Finance Ministry and the central bank.
Officials were entertained at expensive restaurants and strip clubs by the very company executives they were supposed to be regulating.
In return, the bureaucrats tipped off the banks when government inspections were about to occur.
'When the perception around the world is that Japan is corrupt, an action like this by someone as big as Nissan creates an image of cleaning house,' said Picken. 'That cannot do anything but good in terms of overall corporate image.'