Why Have a Code of Conduct

May 29, 2009
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A code of conduct is intended to be a central guide and reference for users in support of day-to-day decision making. It is meant to clarify an organization's mission, values and principles, linking them with standards of professional conduct. As a reference, it can be used to locate relevant documents, services and other resources related to ethics within the organization.

A code is an open disclosure of the way an organization operates. It provides visible guidelines for behavior. A well-written and thoughtful code also serves as an important communication vehicle that "reflects the covenant that an organization has made to uphold its most important values, dealing with such matters as its commitment to employees, its standards for doing business and its relationship with the community."1
A code is also a tool to encourage discussions of ethics and to improve how employees/members deal with the ethical dilemmas, prejudices and gray areas that are encountered in everyday work. A code is meant to complement relevant standards, policies and rules, not to substitute for them.

Codes of conduct offer an invaluable opportunity for responsible organizations to create a positive public identity for themselves which can lead to a more supportive political and regulatory environment and an increased level of public confidence and trust among important constituencies and stakeholders.2

1. Driscoll, Dawn-Marie and W. Michael Hoffman, Ethics Matters: How to Implement Values-Driven Management, 2000, p. 77.

2. Principles of Stakeholder Management, The Clarkson Centre for Business Ethics, 1999, p. 12.