How Do I Develop a Business Ethics Code?

Laura M. Sands

You can develop a business ethics code by first clearly defining your core values and principles. Consider placing your code in a print format that can be referred to for clarity to help you remember it. Deciding early whether developing such a code will be for your personal use or whether it will be used to create ethical requirements for others to adhere to is also an important consideration, as is consulting an attorney if you will be using it to guide others. If you are a business leader, take time to revisit your mission statement and be sure that the business ethics code you create aligns with that statement. Asking others what business values are most important to them and how your current professional ethics are perceived can also help you develop a concrete business ethics code.

Businesswoman talking on a mobile phone
Businesswoman talking on a mobile phone

Drafting a printed version of your ethics code and adding to it or making adjustments where necessary also helps in creating a code that you, your co-workers and customers can all appreciate. Experts maintain that ethical principals should be an integral part of both small and large business environments. Creating a business ethics code booklet and distributing it to employees also helps build a sense of purpose and focus. Treat your draft with importance since most experts agree that, without a clear sense of acceptable corporate ethics, undesirable situations can occur which may be damaging to camaraderie as well as customer perception.

If developing a business ethics code that you expect employees or volunteers to strictly adhere to, consider consulting with an attorney. Doing so will help you determine which ethical concerns are legally enforceable and which ones are not. An attorney will also help you determine which ethics are legal for you to even suggest that others in an organization adhere to.

Take time to revisit your mission statement and consider what type of business ethics code is needed to best support that statement. As much as possible, let your mission statement and your overall vision for your business guide you in developing a sustainable code of ethics. You may also want to consider asking colleagues and others you do business with whether they feel your current professional ethics align with your mission statement. It may even be a good idea to ask these individuals to share with you areas where your business ethics might be improved. Determine how to best integrate your code into a business environment to help you strengthen your professional ethics, as well as help you and others discern what is appropriate business conduct and what is not.

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