|Developing an Effective Code of Ethics: Format of a Code of Ethics
Many codes fail because they suffer an identity crisis. It is not clear who or what they are for . They are often not designed or written with their reader in mind nor the context in which they are intended to be used.
The following will need to be considered in drawing up a format for a code of ethics:
Purpose and target audience – the style of the document should be influenced by its purpose. Above all, it should be helpful.
Accessibility – the language must be comprehensible and familiar to the target audience. Hard and soft copies must be available and accessible where they are likely to be needed.
Relevance - it needs to recognise issues relevant to staff and be material to the business’s activities and locations
Leadership and reach – it needs to convey the commitment of the board and that ethical standards are applicable to all staff
Compliance or principles based – a code will normally contain "must do’s”, aspirations and dilemmas aimed to raise ethical sensitivity and confidence of staff. It is important to point out that what is a right and wrong decision will not always be clear.
Stakeholder v Issues Format
There are two main formats for a code of ethics. The first is one that sets out organisational commitments and staff guidance based around relationships with different stakeholders. See FAQ: Who are a company's stakeholders?
The second one offers guidance framed around issues of concern to the organisation.
Examples of the codes of ethics of large businesses can be found here >>