Ethical Values and Codes


Organisations often have a set of values or principles which reflect the way they do business or to which they aspire to observe in carrying out their business. As well as business values such as innovation, customer service and reliability, they will usually include ethical values which guide the way business is done - what is acceptable, desirable and responsible behaviour, above and beyond compliance with laws and regulations.
The most common ethical values found in corporate literature include: integrity, fairness, honesty, trustworthiness, respect, openness. They are commonly expressed through an ethics policy and a code of ethics.

Ethics policy

An ethics policy sets out the organisation’s commitment to high ethical standards and the management of integrity risks. It would usually detail how this will be governed, implemented and monitored.

Code of ethics

The core element of an ethics programme will be a Code of Ethics (or similar document). Its main purpose is to provide guidance to staff.

It does this by translating the organisation’s values and its commitments to stakeholders into to the way it will operate. For employees (and other business partners) it will set out expected behaviours and provide guidance around the ethical challenges and issues material to the organisation.
Note that it is good practice to give a code of ethics a more accessible title – such as "The Way We Work Around Here”, or "The XP Way”. Also, consider that a ‘code of conduct’ usually has a different purpose and is different in tone – to inform about rules and regulations where employees have no discretion, i.e. ‘do this or else’.



How to ...

Ethical values & codes

The core element of an ethics programme will be a Code of Ethics.

Nine steps to preparing a code

The process for drawing up a code of ethics is critical in maximising its effectiveness.

Communicating ethical values

A communications strategy for the ethics programme aims to raise awareness of the organisation’s values.


Ethics training raises awareness around the code, what is acceptable business practice and where support can be found.

More elements of an effective ethics programme

Additional tools and mechanisms to keep the code alive and support staff to apply ethical values to the work they do.

Monitoring & accountability

The board needs to establish a programme of assurance to understand whether the organisation is living up to its ethical values.

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