|An Ethics Policy and Programme - What Are They For?
The IBE was established in 1986 to encourage high standards of business behaviour based on ethical values.
Organisations often have a set of ethical as well as operational or business values which they aspire to observe in carrying out their business. These values guide ideas of acceptable, desirable and responsible behaviour, above and beyond compliance with laws and regulations.
An ethics policy:
sets out an organisation’s ethical values, standards and commitments to stakeholders that will underpin the way that it does business
confirms leadership commitment to the above
describes how this will be achieved and monitored through an ethics programme
identifies the main ethical issues faced by the organisation/sector
identifies other policies and documents that support and detail aspects of the ethics policy – such as a code of ethics, a speak up policy, a bullying and harassment policy, a gifts and hospitality policy, an environment policy etc. Click here for a sample list of related policies
A policy is usually a public declaration of the above, and can often be found on corporate websites.
This consists of the activities and resources used to support, implement and embed the ethics policy, and so ensure that business practices and decisions are in line with ethical values and standards.
An effective ethics programme will typically be made up of the following elements:
A code of ethics
A central element of the ethics programme will be a code of ethics (or similar title). Its main purpose is to provide guidance to staff. Unlike a code of conduct which is generally "do this or else” in tone, a code of ethics will usually be predominantly aspirational and supportive. The code illustrates how a company's values translate into concrete policies, procedures and standards.
The main aims of an ethics policy, code and programme
Values – to embed a set of ethical values into the organisation’s goals and strategies and the way it seeks to do what it does
Ethical behaviour - to provide guidance and support to staff for making decisions and carrying out their work in a way that is compatible with the organisation’s ethical values and standards
Corporate Culture – to consolidate and strengthen a culture of integrity and openness so as to facilitate a sustainable business
Risk – to minimise operational and integrity risks
Reputation – to enhance trust among stakeholders so as to facilitate business success
Sustainability – to minimise the organisation’s negative impacts on and maximise its positive contribution to the social, economic and environmental wellbeing of wider society
Making an ethics policy work
Most large businesses have a code of ethics (c.85% of the FTSE100), yet reports of ethical lapses continue. To realise the aims of policy described above it is not sufficient to draw up an ethics policy and post it on the intranet. An effective ethics code and programme are required.
In 2011 the IBE's Research Director Simon Webley, was involved in a panel discussion on 'Ethics in the workplace'. A summary report is available to download here>>
To view a recording of the discussion please click here
(you will be directed to an external site)