Ethical codes are adopted by organizations to assist members in understanding the difference between right and wrong and in applying that understanding to their decisions. An ethical code generally implies documents at three levels: codes of business ethics, codes of conduct for employees, and codes of professional practice.
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Code of ethics or code of conduct? (Corporate or business ethics)
Many organizations use the phrases ethical code and code of conduct interchangeably but it may be useful to make a distinction. A code of ethics will start by setting out the values that underpin the code and will describe an organization's obligation to its stakeholders. The code is publicly available and addressed to anyone with an interest in that organization's activities and the way it operates. It will include details of how the organization plans to implement its values and vision, as well as guidance to staff on ethical standards and how to achieve them. However, a code of conduct is generally addressed to and intended for the organization's leaders and staff. It usually sets out restrictions on behavior, and will be far more focused on compliance or rules than on values or principles.
Code of practice (professional ethics)
A code of practice is adopted by a profession (or by a governmental or non-governmental organization) to regulate that profession. A code of practice may be styled as a code of professional responsibility, which will discuss difficult issues, difficult decisions that will often need to be made, and provide a clear account of what behavior is considered "ethical" or "correct" or "right" in the circumstances. In a membership context, failure to comply with a code of practice can result in expulsion from the professional organization. In its 2007 International Good Practice Guidance, Defining and Developing an Effective Code of Conduct for Organizations, the International Federation of Accountants provided the following working definition: "Principles, values, standards, or rules of behavior that guide the decisions, procedures and systems of an organization in a way that (a) contributes to the welfare of its key stakeholders, and (b) respects the rights of all constituents affected by its operations."[page needed]
Listed below are a few example statements from the professional codes of the Fourth Estate Public Benefit Corporation (Fourth Estate), Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), and the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ):
- Fourth Estate's Journalism Code of Practice
- "Accuracy: Accuracy, more-so than exclusivity or timeliness, is the overriding value of journalism."
- "Independence: Independence from state control, business interests, market forces, or any other vested interest or outside pressure is a hallmark of dispassionate, critical, and reliable journalism. It bolsters legitimacy and credibility in the eyes of the public."
- "Impartiality: Impartiality means not being prejudiced towards or against any particular ideology, idea, or preconception. Impartiality requires fairness and balance that follows the weight of evidence: it allows the journalist to make sense of events through dispassionate analysis of all relevant facts and perspectives."
- "Integrity: Integrity in journalism ensures that people and organizations uphold the values of journalism, always strive to do the right thing in all situations, even to their personal or organizational detriment, and put their obligations to the public first."
- "Harm Minimization: Journalists must always remember that they are dealing with human lives. The potential for public good must sufficiently outweigh the potential for harm that may come from the activity of journalism."
- "Engagement: Engagement with the public ensures that journalism remains open, accessible, collaborative, and participatory while keeping the journalist accountable to the highest standards of accuracy, independence, impartiality, and integrity."
- "Accountability: Accountability is essential to the ethical practice of journalism and the maintenance of the public trust. Being accountable for news-gathering practices and reporting means making firm commitments and taking responsibility for your journalism and the journalism of your peers."
- PRSA Code of Ethics
- "Loyalty: We are faithful to those we represent, while honoring our obligation to serve the public interest."
- "Fairness: We deal fairly with clients, employers, competitors, peers, vendors, the media, and the general public. We respect all opinions and support the right of free expression."
- SPJ Code of Ethics
- "Minimize Harm … Balance the public’s need for information against potential harm or discomfort. Pursuit of the news is not a license for arrogance or undue intrusiveness. … Balance a suspect’s right to a fair trial with the public’s right to know. Consider the implications of identifying criminal suspects before they face legal charges. …"
- "Act Independently … Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived. Disclose unavoidable conflicts."
Ethical codes are often adopted by management and also employers, not to promote a particular moral theory, but rather because they are seen as pragmatic necessities for running an organization in a complex society in which moral concepts play an important part.
They are distinct from moral codes that may apply to the culture, education, and religion of a whole society. It is debated whether the politicians should apply a code of ethics, or whether it is a profession entirely discretionary, just subject to compliance with the law: however, recently codes of practice have been approved in this field.
Often, acts that violate ethical codes may also violate a law or regulation and can be punishable at law or by government agency remedies.
Even organizations and communities that may be considered criminal in nature may have ethical codes of conduct, official or unofficial. Examples could include hacker communities, bands of thieves, and street gangs.
Codes seek to define and delineate the difference between conduct and behavior that is malum in se, malum prohibitum, and good practice. Sometimes ethical codes include sections that are meant to give firm rules, but some offer general guidance, and sometimes the words are merely aspirational.
- Medical workers and physicians
- Code of Conduct for the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and NGOs in Disaster Relief
- Declaration of Geneva
- Hippocratic Oath
- Percival's Medical Ethics
- Madrid Declaration on Ethical Standards for Psychiatric Practice
- Military, warfare, and other armed conflict
- Bushidō (Japanese samurai)
- Code of the U.S. Fighting Force
- International Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation ("ICOC" or "Hague Code of Conduct")
- Israel Defense Forces Code of Conduct
- Pirate code
- Uniform Code of Military Justice (United States)
- Warrior code
- Code of Ma'at (Ancient Egypt)
- Eight Precepts (Buddhism)
- Five Precepts (Buddhism)
- Golden Rule / Ethic of reciprocity (various)
- Seven Laws of Noah (Judaism)
- Patimokkha (Buddhism)
- Quran (Islam)
- Rule of St. Benedict (Christian monasticism)
- Ten Commandments (Abrahamic religions)
- Ten Precepts (Buddhism)
- Ten Precepts (Taoism)
- Yamas and niyama (Hindu scriptures)
- Applied ethics
- Aviators Model Code of Conduct
- Global civics
- ICC Cricket Code of Conduct
- Institute of Internal Auditors, Code of Ethics
- Journalist's Creed
- Moral Code of the Builder of Communism
- PAIB Committee (31 May 2007). Defining and Developing an Effective Code of Conduct for Organizations. International Good Practice Guidance. The International Federation of Accountants (IFAC). ISBN 978-1-931949-81-1.
- "The Journalism Code of Practice". Fourth Estate. Fourth Estate. Retrieved 23 December 2019.
- "PRSA Code of Ethics". Public Relations Society of America. Retrieved 19 August 2017.
- "SPJ Code of Ethics". Society of Professional Journalists. 6 September 2014.
- Buonomo, Giampiero (April–September 2000). "Elementi di deontologia politica". Nuovi studi politici (in Italian): 3–66.
- Assemblée Nationale (2 August 2017). "Déontologie à l'Assemblée nationale". Assemblée Nationale (in French). Archived from the original on 27 March 2014. Retrieved 3 April 2017.
- "Code of Ethics". Merriam Webster Dictionary. Retrieved March 23, 2017.
- "Madrid Declaration on Ethical Standards for Psychiatric Practice". World Psychiatric Association. 21 September 2011. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 28 February 2013.
- Ladd, John (1991). "The Quest for a Code of Professional Ethics: An Intellectual and Moral Confusion". In Johnson, Deborah G. (ed.). Ethical Issues in Engineering. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall. ISBN 978-0-13-290578-7. OCLC 851033915.[pages needed]
- Flores, Albert (1998). "The Philosophical Basis of Engineering Codes of Ethics". In Vesilind, P. Aarne; Gunn, Alastair S. (eds.). Engineering Ethics and the Environment. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 201–209. ISBN 978-0-521-58112-7. OCLC 300458305.