Writing a Code of Ethics

What is a code of ethics?

When you operate a business, then life is no longer just about yourself. You cannot only say, "I'm in business to make money." While that is partially true, there is so much more than that. If your only focus is making money, then it is easy to forget about our obligations to our clients. What we need to remember is that when we are in business, we are providing either a product or a service (or both) to people, who are just like us. We need to have guiding principles of how we treat others. For example, it could be summarized in a few simple words, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." This time honored principle is spoken of in many of the great religions. These principles should also be practiced by businesses, and especially our businesses.

When you have "just a one man business" it is easy to think "a small business like mine doesn't need a written Code of Ethics. It's too much trouble to think out and write one." However this is not the case.

Michael Connor, the editor and publisher of the online magazine Business Ethics, believes that that there's no such thing as a business being too small to benefit from a code of ethics. Having a code is "often viewed as a luxury or something that is an added cost," he says. "The reality these days is that the business that does not have a code of ethics subjects itself to a much greater risk in its day-to-day operations and if there is an unfortunate incident, they expose themselves to much greater risk [from] regulatory and prosecutorial authorities." Inc. How to Write a Code of Ethics for Business.

A Code of ethics is part of an unwritten, and often unspoken, contract with each client. We each operate by our own code of ethics, whether it is written or not. Our code of ethics governs our interactions with our clients. In a business sense it is an outline of business practices and a code of ethics.

"A code of ethics is a collection of principles and practices that a business believes in and aims to live by. A code of business ethics usually doesn't stand alone, it works in conjunction with a company's mission statement and more specific policies about conduct to give employees, partners, vendors, and outsiders an idea of what the company stands for and how it's members should conduct themselves.

The key in distinguishing a code of ethics from these other documents is to hit the right level of specificity. It should address both the particular nuances of the company's industry as well as its broader goals for social responsibility and should be concrete enough to serve as a guide for employees in a quandary without laying out rules for every situation that could arise." Inc., How to Write a Code of Ethics   See also: Inc., Code of Ethicks

Why we should write our own Code of Ethics

We are humans, who have both an immature selfish side, which always wants its own way and always thinks of itself as right. We also have a (for lack of a better word) spiritual side which calls us to a higher life of living for others, of living by ethical principles.

"Creating a written mission statement, business plan and code of ethics were completed long before we opened our doors a year ago," says Jim Boutin, vice president and general manager of the Longmont-based Colorado State Glass and Mirror Company. "As a new entity in a highly competitive market, we needed to be sure we were all on the same page from day one on how we would operate the business, build our customer base, conduct ourselves and clearly handle issues that come our way. With partners, we knew we needed standardized guidelines for behavior and manage our day-to-day business operations to ensure consistency when dealing with customers. It's made a difference in helping us to build solid relationships and bring in repeat customers." The USGlass News Network

What should it contain



Why have a Code of Ethics

Creating a Code of Ethics for Your Organization

Inc., How to Write a Code of Ethics

Inc., Code of Ethics

The US Glass News Network

Business Ethics, The Magazine of Corporate Responsibility