Common Code Provisions

Code provisions are the specific standards of behavior and performance expectations that your organization chooses to highlight and address in your code. Code provisions can be brief or comprehensive depending on the objective. They address a wide variety of issues, ranging from
legal and regulatory concerns, to relations with the organization's stakeholders and the application of the organization's values. Importantly, code provisions tell employees which behaviors are not acceptable in your organization, so they can adhere to standards and are empowered to speak up if wrongdoing occurs.

The choice of topics to be included in your code will be influenced by three factors:

  • The code's purpose and objectives;
  • Your organization's overall purpose and objectives; and
  • The questions or concerns expressed by your intended users -- your employees and stakeholders.

In deciding which topics to address, you might ask: 

  • What are the principal laws and regulations applicable to our organization?
  • What has gone wrong in the past?
  • What else could go wrong?
  • What guidance do we need to offer our employees?
  • Where are there gray areas? What do we need to clarify or confirm?

Below are some common provisions found in organizational codes.

The list of provisions is not exhaustive, nor are the category headings definitive. Organizations tend to label and categorize their code provisions in many different ways depending on their unique characteristics, their goals for the code and so forth. Code content (i.e., provisions) can also vary substantially across organizations depending on their industry, regulations/requirements and goals for the code.

Compliance, Integrity and Anticorruption

  • Accuracy of corporate finances and financial reporting
  • Employee records and expense reports
  • Bribes
  • Political contributions

    Conflicts of Interest

    • Gifts and gratuities
    • Political activity
    • Outside employment
    • Family members
    • Disclosure of financial interests

    Employee, Client and Vendor Information

    • Maintaining records and information
    • Privacy and confidentiality
    • Disclosure of information

    Employment Practices

    • Workplace harassment
    • Equal opportunity
    • Diversity
    • Fair treatment of staff
    • Work-family balance
    • Discrimination
    • Fair labor practices
    • Illegal drugs and alcohol
    • Use of organization property and resources
    • Proper exercise of authority
    • Employee volunteer activities
    • Romantic relationships with coworkers
    • Incentives and recognition systems

    Environmental Issues

    • Commitment to the sustainability
    • Employee health and safety

    Ethics and Compliance Resources

    • Ethics advice helpline
    • Reporting procedures
    • Anonymous/confidential reporting hotline
    • Summary of investigations process
    • Anti-retaliation policy and protections for reporters
    • Accountability and discipline for violators
    • Ombuds program

    Internet, social networking and social media

    • Internet and social network use at work
    • Prohibited sites and content
    • Policies regarding posts about company, work products or coworkers
    • Online relationships between managers and their reports

    Relationships with third parties

    • Procurement
    • Negotiating contracts

    For information about writing code provisions, see pp. 34-5 and Appendix F (pp. 95-99) of Creating a Workable Company Code of Ethics.