Fantastic Codes of Ethics and Where to Find Them

Don Quixote Attacking The Windmill

If every organization, association, company, guild, union, club and institution created, adopted and lived by a Code of Ethics; perhaps the world would be a far better place in which to live and do bidness.

Am I dreaming? Perhaps. A little.

Though, I don’t believe it is out of the question for such organizations to consider and adopt such a code; to embrace a set of standards of conduct that are espoused, held as respectable examples and voluntarily exemplified by leadership and members of such a group.

In response to last week’s post, some have pointed out that “…we don’t have a Code of Ethics, and our Mission Statement says nothing about having the backs of one another…,” as though such absences – these failures to outline and stand up for doing business with honor and integrity – somehow justify looking the other way as members fall victim to inappropriate and generally unacceptable business practices.

Seeming to assert that, as these things aren’t covered in the organizational documents, said organization is absolved from any responsibility or blame. We can’t be bound by what we haven’t written and included.

Consider: perhaps the absence of such codes of recommended conduct and the ongoing voluntary, active support of them are a large part of the problem…

“We aren’t in a position to police our industries!”

Actually, “policing our industries” has not been suggested.

On the other hand, it may be accurate to suggest that a laissez-faire attitude toward irregular and sometimes dishonorable practices in the name of “doing business” over the past few decades has contributed to the proliferation of such conduct.

Perhaps transforming or evolving through example is a realistic, and potentially a compelling and effective, logical approach.

The association of which I am a proud member was founded, in part, under an implied umbrella of collective bargaining. The little independents who made up the core of this then-new and now-worldwide leader in the industries were often put in exceedingly exposed positions – and sometimes put out of business – due to accepted and standard practices of the Big Boys of the Industry. Not by intent, perhaps; but by [perhaps unintentional or careless] de facto design.

As the industries have grown and become more and more global, diversified, expanded, sophisticated; perhaps some of the spirit of those founding, aspirational moments have been lost… dissipated.

Those companies that have been able to afford the losses so often inherent in some contexts and cultures could slough those losses off; building protections against them into contracts in such a way as to protect profit even without the occasional failure to pay at the end of a project.

The shape and form of the industries have, however, changed.

Now, more so than ever before, a far greater segment of the work done worldwide is by and through ad hoc or to-the-project collaboration of small businesses and independent contractors – organized and managed under the purview of a pivotal entity, perhaps, but contracted directly with a much larger entity as Client.

Thus, financial dealings are not always equal within a given project; such that some companies and groups might be fully paid while other, smaller companies and individuals might be made to wait…or even never receive their full due.

This can seriously compromise the stability of the smaller businesses and individuals, or simply put them out of business.

With that, and harking back to broad and often ambiguous language found in Mission Statements and Statements of Purpose that speak of healthy growth of industries and quality of experience for audiences and customers; we are again confronted with the vital importance of advocating honorable business practice among colleagues, clients and contractors, worldwide.

To eschew such responsibilities – in my opinion pretty much inherent in the DNA of any such association – directly imperils the depth of the talent pool, the breadth of skills and talent at hand, indeed the very quality of skilled, contractable, collaborative expertise available to all of us as future projects materialize and future teams are assembled.

If they’re no longer in business, we have lost access to those assets and the quality of work achievable is at risk, overall.

So, Why Not…?

To be clear:

Having A Code of Ethics does NOT imply…

  • Judgement
  • “Policing”
  • Arbitration
  • Bureaucracy
  • Administration
  • Legal Issues

However… Having A Code of Ethics DOES imply…

  • Ethics, and
  • Offers the opportunity to live by them, and
  • Lead by Example

So, why not create and adopt a Code of Ethics? Not something to be “enforced;” rather, one to be embraced and exemplified voluntarily?

Such a code; proudly held and lived by membership, stands to contribute to transformation by example; colleague-to-colleague, encouraging one another to take the high road of honor and respect when conflicts or obstacles occur.

As George W. Bush said at the opening of the African American Museum on September 16, 2016 (and I surprise even myself by quoting GWB, but here it is…);

“A great nation does not hide its history,

it faces its flaws, and corrects them.” 

Sweeping these problems under the rug is no small part of what got us here. Perhaps we can work toward correcting our own failings by facing them, acknowledging them and exemplifying what is Right.

’Tis possible; n’est-çe pas?

Perhaps a task force created to study and recommend…



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1 thought on “Fantastic Codes of Ethics and Where to Find Them

  1. In case it helps…We have an internal code of conduct, which sets out the business’s expectations of how colleagues treat each other, suppliers and clients; what is acceptable conduct; and what happens if that code (which everyone signs) is not adhered to. We don’t have a code of ethics as such, but I believe that the implication is that if we expect the team’s conduct to be of a certain standard then the businesses conduct will be of the same if not higher standard…at least it is what we intend. We also are a member of an industry body, and at the time of joining we signed a simple code of ethics. I must say that although we have done this, it’s more for others than the business owners. We expect a lot of those we work with, and more of ourselves, but we felt that if we did not state it then no one knows what we expect or what can be expected of us.

    I am interested to learn what others do!

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