Writing a code of ethics

Crack the code

If you want your business to embody a sustainable approach, a good place to start is by outlining a code of ethics. Here’s how to go about it.

A code of ethics is essentially a statement of values which a company believes in and aims to embody in its business. It can be tailored to a variety of organisations and industries, including specifics such as approaches to marketing or trading online, and can also contain broader goals and policies around social responsibility.

Your code doesn’t necessarily need to be written down, but it might help if you do decide to put the concepts on paper. You can refer to your code when certain situations arise, and give copies to new employees – it can become part of your company culture.

Your code of ethics will display to your employees, your customers and your suppliers that you have clear views on the type of business you want to run. It will help you to gain their trust and pride in being associated with you. It can also provide a baseline for your company’s regulatory compliance.

Where to start

  1. Write down what values are important to you, and the values you are unwilling to compromise on, even to win business.
  2. Consult with your employees – involving them in the process will not only generate ideas, but make the people who work for you feel valued.
  3. Start with general statements and fill in the detail later on as scenarios arise, otherwise you risk stifling your business.
  4. Get some help – if your business is large and it seems appropriate to make your ethics code a formal document, consult a lawyer or HR consultant.
  5. Assign someone in your company the role of updating your code and to check how well you are doing in keeping to it.

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John Carroll - Helping businesses achieve International success. Head of Product Management & International Business, Santander UK