How to Write a Code of Ethics or Conduct
Make your code authentic.
The Code of Ethics should be customised for your profession. Reflect on: what makes your Code specific to your profession? What differentiates it from other similar documents developed for other professions? If there is nothing that differentiates it, what makes it your Code, other than the fact that your logo is at the top?
Involve the professionals.
Who is the code written for? Involve those people! If your professional body is too big, then constitute a working group of professional members to do most of the development of the code. Your Code will be more meaningful if professionals are part of the process.
Talk to key stakeholders.
It is always a good idea to consult key stakeholders (the broader public). This may include, for example, beneficiaries of your professional services, community groups, government entities and policy-makers - what they think should be in your Code. This will help reveal what important external constituencies see as your key obligations, and will help make sure that the Code you write deals with the full range of issues that might confront your profession.
When outsourcing the job, do so carefully.
Procuring the services of a consultant to help write your Code can be useful – but do not let them take over. The wealth of knowledge and experience that a consultant offers can help you avoid a whole range of pitfalls, from lack of clarity through to the inclusion of too little – or too much – detail. Remember, at the end of the day, this Code is still yours: it should reflect your profession’s values, principles, and aspirations.
Search around for good examples.
If you are writing your own code, begin by looking at relevant examples. A lot of good Codes are out there (google is a good place to start). Be careful to not simply copy a Code from another professional body as this will likely fail to provide either effective guidance or inspiration. However, you do not have to reinvent the wheel.
Let your scope be clear!
Your Code should make clear who will be governed by it. Does it cover every category of the professional body? How is commitment to the Code ensured? Everyone signing off on it?
Implement with specificity.
How will the Code be implemented? Once the Code is written, will it gather dust, or will it influence policy and practice? What procedures are in place to make sure that writing a Code is more than just professional navel-gazing? An effective implementation scheme (perhaps as an appendix to the Code) will explain to all concerned how the values embodied in your Code will be put into practice.
Make education central.
A key aspect of implementation has to be training and education of professionals. How will professional members be educated about the Code? Will new professional members receive training regarding the Code’s requirements? Will current professional members receive refresher courses? Especially for large professional bodies, the steps required to train professional members on the requirements of a Code deserve special attention.
Enforcement cannot be ambiguous.
How, if at all, will the Code be enforced? Are there specific sanctions/penalties for violating the Code, or is the Code merely there to provide guidance? Who will decide when a professional member has violated the Code – is there a Committee of the Board and does your governance processes also provide for appeals?
Set a sunset date.
When will the code be reviewed and updated? Times change, and new issues emerge, so consider specifying a date for revising and refreshing your Code.
- Kindly contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org should you require our ombud services which include managing and resolving complaints received from the public as well as internal disciplinary matters against members alleged to have behaved unprofessionally. See the attached article detailing the top ten causes of unprofessional conduct.