How to develop an ethics code of conduct

Codes of ethics have long been associated with professional bodies and groups. In fact, members of those associations must abide by their codes of ethics. More recently, business organisations have become aware that they need their own codes of ethical conduct. So you may have to develop your own code, providing an ideal opportunity to tailor one that fits the specific needs of your organisation and its people. Here are some important steps to follow...

1. Get started on your code of ethical conduct.

Following recent global corporate events and scandals, we have become increasingly aware of the need for ethical business conduct. The print and electronic media continue to reveal examples of unethical conduct by global and emerging corporate organisations, as well as smaller local businesses. The need for higher ethical standards in business is obvious.

2. Conduct initial research.

As a first step, check for two important ingredients:

  • Investigate any current legislative requirements guiding ethical conduct in your field, and be prepared to take immediate action if any anomalies are uncovered.
  • Check the top-five traits or values espoused by your own professional association. Those, for example, could be ‘honesty’, ‘integrity’, ‘objectivity’, ‘confidentiality’, and ‘accuracy’. Aligned with those values should be desirable behaviours.

3. Secure commitment.

Staff need to see that management is serious about ethical conduct and not just protecting itself and its interests. The type of consultative process will depend on the size of your organisation, but key staff discussions will focus on values. Don’t assume that people share common values; identifying those beliefs can’t be rushed. Provide opportunities for people to discuss in practical terms how a code of ethical conduct will fit into, and enhance, their day-to-day operations.

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