Code of Ethics Examples

Code of ethics examples can be found by looking several places. A company's or profession's code of ethics, also called code of conduct, refers to the areas of activities that can create ethical dilemmas and risks and is designed to provide employees guidance on how to act in unclear situations and make the right decisions. The code of ethics is closely related to the company's or professional's ethical principles, standards, mission, and vision.

Simply put, a code of ethics is a document that covers ethical dilemmas that might arise in the company's or professional's field to ensure that their conduct remains ethical and compliant with regulations and recommendations.

Why is the Code of Ethics Important?

The code of ethics is crucial for companies and managers, as it provides guidance specific to different situations and helps employees make difficult decisions. A supervisor cannot be available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to advise workers on making decisions. Instead, companies create their vision and mission and aligns their ethical principles with them, creating their own code of conduct that acts as a guide for employees.

Google's Code of Ethics

One of the best known code of ethics is developed by the internet giant, Google. It is easy to understand, and very comprehensive. High-school educated employees and higher education degree-bearing employees alike can understand the different codes that Google outlines.

Another strength of Google's code of conduct is that it is written in a conversational tone. It explains the codes through real life situations and is straight to the point. A code of ethics needs to be clear and concise, so employees find the exact code they are looking for fast.

Google's Code of Conduct is also made available through the internet, and this shows a great level of transparency. It is not only aimed at employees, but also informs customers about the ethical principles and values of Google. If you check out Google Code of Ethics online, you will see that the links are very easy to navigate, and you can get detailed, exact answers to all questions related to confidentiality, conflicts of interest, and equality.

Hershey's Code of Conduct

Another excellent example of a good code of conduct is Hershey's document, which uses a question and answer structure. It is very user-friendly and easy to navigate through. After providing a short answer, you can read further guidance and the explanation of the answer, so all points are clarified by the company. The PDF document is also easy to scroll through, thanks to the advanced contrasting color schemes. The company took full advantage of headings, subheadings, and contrast when designing the code of conduct that is used by thousands of emoloyees every day.

Pepsico's Code of Conduct

The strength of Pepsico's code of ethics is that it is very detailed to cover different scenarios. It provides employees with definitions and tells them exactly what is expected of them in every situation. As an example, the guide details how to report concerns and details the policies of reporting, explaining what happens if there is a complaint, and what Pepsico's responsibility is. The document encourages employees to speak up and be vigilant. In summary, Pepsico's code of conduct provides a clear guidance not only on how to act in case an ethical dilemma arises, but also how to report issues to the management.

Starbucks' Code of Ethics

The main focus of Starbuck's code of ethics is its strong environmental commitment and the focus on being involved in local community projects. The code of conduct is designed to go beyond prohibiting negative actions. It encourages the workforce to do more and go beyond compliance and ethical codes. The code of ethics designed by Starbucks is a great example of how to communicate the culture of the organization and engage with workers on an emotional level.

Another strength of Starbucks' code of conduct is the detailed frequently asked questions section. It lists the different help lines and advisory services set up by the company to aid employees in ethically challenging situations.

Lawyers' Code of Ethics

The professional code of ethics designed for lawyers is the American Bar Association's Code of Ethics. Its basic purpose is to address the subject of attorney competence (Rule 1.1), which makes legal knowledge, thoroughness, preparedness, and competency a requirement for representing clients.

Apart from establishing Rule 1.1, the code of ethics provides a detailed guide on how to treat witnesses and clients, how to establish practices to protect client confidentiality, and maintain professionalism. The code of ethics is an important document for lawyers. Adherence to the guidance is individual lawyers' responsibility, and it is a condition of practicing law. It also includes penalties and sanctions for non-compliance to encourage lawyers to take it seriously and adhere to its words. Those who are concerned about the integrity or quality of service they receive from an individual lawyer can report their concerns to the professional body and an investigation will start based on the American Bar Association's Code of Ethics.

Code of Ethics for Paralegals

Just like lawyers, paralegals also have a code of ethics based on a voluntary membership. The code is not the same as the American Bar Association's compulsory ethical guidance. The document states that paralegals should not perform duties or take action they are not qualified for. However, they can perform some legal tasks, provided that they are adequately supervised. They are not to be appointed as the representative of the client, but need to take professional responsibility for their work.

Going further, the code of ethics for paralegals states that they should not engage in unauthorized legal practice, establish relationships that are similar to those between clients and lawyers, provide legal advice or opinions, unless authorized by an agency or the court. They should not participate in the violation of the ethical code for lawyers.

Code of Ethical Conduct for Physicians

The code of ethics for physicians is developed by the American Medical Association, addressing different areas of practice, such as:

  • Interpersonal relationship with staff members
  • Responsibilities for patients
  • Conflict of interest
  • Confidentiality
  • Representing the interest of patients
  • Financial incentives
  • Conflict of interest
  • Equality and fairness, anti-discrimination

Corporation and Non-Profit Organization Codes

Different types of industry-specific and voluntary ethical codes exist for corporations. Non-profit organizations have codes of ethics to help workers determine if they're acting appropriately and acceptably during interactions with clients and outside agencies. The ethical codes govern different behaviors, such as:

  • Accepting or giving gifts of value
  • Making promises
  • Providing or profiting from insider information for financial gain

Companies usually set up their code of ethical and professional conducts to protect the interest of their shareholders and customers, while non profit organizers focus on the benefit of stakeholders and transparency. Companies often provide extensive training for staff on ethical responsibilities and make adherence compulsory.

Ethical guidelines are important for companies as they allow them to maintain their public image and prevent bad publicity. Recent events in the financial sector and lawsuits related to the unethical behavior of companies have highlighted several shortcomings of ethical guidance and principles within large organizations.

Non-profit organizations usually build their ethical codes around their vision and mission. They embrace diversity, fairness, and serving the interest of communities, instead of focusing on the interest of shareholders, like for-profit organizations do.

As an example, the Planned Parenthood non-profit organization has a detailed code of ethics designed for peer educators. They are related to following the program, accepting the organization's code of ethics as their own, and respecting the integrity and individuality of the person being served. Different clauses refer to providing the best possible professional help and rules regarding confidentiality.

Similarly, in the Breast Cancer Foundation, the code of Ethics is related to avoiding conflict of interest, confidentiality, and putting the interest of the population served ahead of the individual's or the organization's.

The Breast Cancer foundation, Susan G. Komen, has a specific code for the organization's affiliates.

Individual Codes of Ethics

These types of ethical codes are more common in religious organizations. However, they are also present in different membership-based groups as well. These codes are generally based on universal religious or other beliefs, and the person's code of ethics is influenced by their culture, upbringing, and community.

Social norms also determine and influence personal codes of ethics, independent of nationality or culture. These are generally based on commonly accepted ethical principles.

Ethical behaviors are not restricted by religion, geographic location or nationality, according to society at large. As an example, stealing from other people or adultery are considered to be unethical in most countries.

The Ten Commandments and the Code of Ethics

The ethics of the Western society are founded on Biblical principles, and the Ten Commandments are generally accepted in Europe and North America. The Ten Commandments seem to resonate with people from all religions and cultures and is one of the most famous codes of ethics that applies to individuals. Even if one does not believe in the teachings of the Bible, they could still agree with the reasoning behind the Ten Commandments and the need for ethical guidance.

Tips on Creating Your Code of Ethics

Before you start writing your organization's code of ethics, you need to consider that it has to:

  • Demonstrate to customers and stakeholders that the organization values fairness and integrity
  • Clearly define the principles that the company is using when making decisions
  • Show transparency and openness
  • Demonstrate the company's goals, vision, mission, and values
  • Be user-friendly and easy to navigate
  • Include the company's professional expectations of employees
  • Focus on issues relevant to your organization
  • Provide training provision for employees to understand the ethical expectations and learn to make good decisions
  • Try to appoint an ethical committee or representative

You will need to tailor the code of ethics to the values and culture of the organization. Offer examples of sustainable practices and initiatives, and tell the reader about the unethical practices the management disapproves of.

If you are unsure of where to start creating your professional or organizational code of ethics, you might want to consult with an Ethicist, company law professional, or human resource specialist.

If you need help with creating your code of ethics, you can post your question or concern on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.