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Developing Codes of Ethics

A code of ethics should serve as a living, breathing document that was created with the input from all levels of employment at an organization. There are four issues that should be taken into consideration when drafting a code of ethics:

  1. Determine the purpose and jurisdiction of the code. Is it created for regulatory or inspirational purposes? Who does the code apply to? Is it to be used in day-to-day decision-making?
  2. Determine the values most important to leaders, employees and other stakeholders. These values will provide direction in the absence of policies. They should be defined, not just listed. Examples: integrity, honesty, respect.
  3. Current challenges facing the organization along with legal context in which the firm operates should be addressed in the rules and guidelines of the code. Examples: discrimination, conflicts of interests, globalization.
  4. How the guidelines will be implemented and enforced is another consideration when drafting a code of ethics. How will employees be trained, monitored and evaluated in their ethical behavior? Will there be rewards and opportunities for feedback?

For examples of organizational codes of conduct, see the Resources page.

Potter Box Model
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Codes of Ethics
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