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 organizations 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 organization 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. 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 organizations, as well as smaller local businesses. The need for higher ethical standards in business is obvious.
3. 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 behaviors.
4. 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 organiz- ation, but key staff discussions will focus on values. Don’t assume that people share common values; identify- ing 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.
5. Focus on your organization.
Try this three-step approach: • Identify and collect descriptions of major issues in your workplace. • Select those issues considered to be ethical in nature—dishonesty, discrimination, unfairness, etc. • Identify behaviors needed to eliminate the causes of those issues and which values would generate your preferred behaviors. To minimize dishonesty, for example, you might promote the value ‘respecting the property of others.’
6. Consider a social audit.
A social audit involves asking employees, customers, suppliers, and other stakeholders whether they believe the organization meets its stated aims on key issues such as customer service, honesty, integrity, etc. The audit could be conducted as a survey or involve focus groups. Ideally, the skills of an independent expert would be used with a brief to provide a snapshot of the organization’s performance and areas for possible improvement. This information will assist your next step.
7. Assemble high-priority ethical values.
From your various forms of data collection, compile a top-ten list of ethical values. Your list will probably resemble existing values lists, such as the Josephson Institute of Ethics’ ‘Pillars of Character’ (see panel, left).
8. Compose and circulate a draft code.
Having arrived at your top-ten ethical values, align key behaviors with each of them. In addition to your top-ten, you could document requirements in relation to, for example, dress codes, substance abuse, promptness, adhering to instructions from superiors, conflict of interest, reliability, confidentiality, acceptance of gifts from stakeholders, use of the organization’s property for personal purposes, reporting illegal or questionable activity. It is likely that this list will result from your consultative process. Your completed draft will probably include: 1. an introduction 2. a clear definition of mission, objectives, and values 3. guidance on dealings with colleagues, shareholders, stakeholders, suppliers, and the community 4. clear expectations of acceptable conduct 5. operating principles and realistic examples 6. a formal mechanism for resolving issues. Invite feedback from as many people in the organization as possible.
9. Adopt the final code.
Provide everyone in the organization with a copy of the code, and include it in induction programs, staff training, and performance appraisals.
10. Institute a procedure for dealing with issues.
Appoint an internal ethics management committee, which will, among other things, elect an ethics officer who is ideally a member of executive (international company Raytheon has a Director of Ethics Compliance). Additional training for this person is desirable, on ways to deal with issues that may arise and how to mediate in grievances raised by employees. If anonymity needs to be protected, you may decide to use the services of an ethics counselor.
11. Review biannually.
To review ethical issues too frequently will risk alienating staff. Indeed, the review process must be quick, to the point, involve representatives of all areas of the organization, and acknowledge examples of outstanding ethical conduct.