How can you show people who your company is (beyond a traditional mission/diversity statement)? A business “code of ethics” statement is a great start. Many job candidates look for your code of ethics to see where you stand on diversity, inclusion, and anti-discrimination.
What is a Business Code of Ethics Statement?
A business code of ethics outlines a company’s ethical principles that govern all employee decisions and behavior. They provide employees with guidelines for their actions and how to manage conflicts of interest, safety, and harassment.
Why Does a Business Code of Ethics Statement Matter?
A company ethics statement is key to promoting an inclusive and fair workforce. These statements encourage discussions around ethics and compliance — empowering employees to handle ethical dilemmas in a way that aligns with the company’s mission and values.
Tips for a Great Ethics Statement
A great ethics statement doesn’t have to follow the same format — and the layout might be different in a private biz versus public co.s or professional orgs. Here are 5 tips to guide you for any type of organization:
- Be concise (Apple and Costco do this…and get their message across)
- Be specific (Uber’s code of conduct is much longer, but easy to understand)
- Make it personal (Google has a “dog policy”…you can’t get much more personal than pets)
- Offer simple, actionable steps (Walmart outlining their 4 values does this)
- Include attention-grabbing graphics (Uber’s slick PDF style uses high-quality images)
Sections to use in a Code of Ethics
Whether you go long or short, here are 10 sections you might include in your code of ethics statement:
- Our Mission
- Purpose Statement
- Privacy and Security
- Fairness & Consistency
- Health & Safety
- Harassment, Discrimination & Bullying
- Key Values (or pillars of ethics)
- Professionalism & Office Conduct
- Intellectual Property & Inventions
- Supplier Responsibility
Examples of Corporate Ethics Statements
Here are 6 examples of a code of ethics (or code of conduct) from big brands — with some highlights on each:
Costco Code of Ethics
Costco’s code of ethics statement is the clearest and simple one we’ve seen.
“Here at Costco, we have a very straightforward, but important mission: to continually provide our members with quality goods and services at the lowest possible prices.”
In order to achieve our mission, we will conduct our business with the following Code of Ethics in mind:
- Obey the law
- Take care of our members
- Take care of our employees
- Respect our suppliers
If we do these four things throughout our organization, then we will achieve our ultimate goal, which is to reward our shareholders.”
Wow. In just a couple of paragraphs, Costco clearly communicates how their employees should act and why.
Sometimes less IS more.
Uber Code of Conduct
I was very curious about what Uber’s code of conduct would look like — especially because they created it after a bunch of self-admitted toxic culture mishaps.
I’m guessing their new leadership spent $1 million+ in consulting and leadership time coming up with this new code of conduct.
Uber ethics code is a slick 33-page PDF style with images AND a framework to help employees make the right decision. Its code of conduct asks employees simple questions like:
“Why am I doing this?”
“Is it legal? Is it the right thing to do?”
“Did I follow the right steps?”
“How does this look to riders, drivers, regulators, employees, media?”
They break their Ethics Code down to easy-to-read parts like:
- Competing fairly
- Making the right decision
- Speaking up
- Being yourself and treating each other well
- Giving back
Simple principles with easy-to-answer questions make it easy for employees to abide by the code of conduct.
Google Code of Ethics
Google’s Code of Conduct prohibits discrimination based:
- veteran status
- national origin
- gender identity
- marital status
- medical condition
- sexual orientation
- any other characteristics that are protected by law
It also condones bullying and harassment and encourages employees who have been victims or witnesses to bullying, discrimination, or harassment to come forward.
This code of ethics is more modern than others because it lists things like:
- what to do if you want to report the CEO, a direct report to the CEO, or SVP (especially important in light of #MeToo)
- a policy on bringing dogs (and cats) to work
- what to do if faced with bullying — either verbal, physical, or visual
Walmart Code of Conduct Ethics Statement
The Walmart Statement of Ethics, or what they call a “Code of Conduct,” is unique. This ethics statement is about trust:
“The trust of our customers, communities, associates, and business partners is our competitive advantage. It’s important to think about our behaviors and make sure that we are creating a culture that inspires trust.”
And Walmart uses images to highlight its 4 key values:
- respect the indivdual
- service to the customer
- strive for excellence
- act with integrity
Apple Ethics Statement
Apple’s ethics mission statement is called “Ethics and Compliance.” It is short and to the point:
“Apple conducts business ethically, honestly, and in full compliance with the law. We believe that how we conduct ourselves is as critical to Apple’s success as making the best products in the world. Our Business Conduct and Compliance policies are foundational to how we do business and how we put our values into practice every day.”
This code of ethics also ends with a great quote from CEO Tim Cook:
“We do the right thing, even when it’s not easy.”
Tesla Code of Ethics
Tesla’s mission to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy is its guiding principle for governing itself as a company. The company says its code of ethics statements are the:
“foundation for ensuring social, environmental, responsibility, and ethical conduct throughout every step of the supply chain.”
Since Tesla is at the forefront of all things’ green’ and sustainable, it’s critical that its code of ethics aligns with that mission and ensures its suppliers use sustainable practices.
Ethics Statement Examples for Associations
Corporations and organizations should have a code of ethics statement– so should professional associations. Here are 4 examples of code of ethics statements used by professional associations:
ACM Code of Ethics
The code of ethics for the Association for Computing Machinery covers how computing professionals should act, including:
- “Contribute to society and to human well-being, acknowledging that all people are stakeholders in computing.
- Avoid harm
- Be honest and trustworthy
- Be fair and take action not to discriminate
- Honor confidentiality
- Perform work only in areas of competence”
This is another business ethics statement example that lays out actionable steps. The code of ethics statement goes a step further than promoting diversity or condoning discrimination; it urges employees to take the actions to NOT discriminate.
NASW Code of Ethics
We noticed right away with the National Association of Social Workers’ code of ethics statement that it’s available in English and Spanish. This is key to promoting a diverse and inclusive workforce and recruiting more diverse candidates. What good will it be if an employee can’t read or fully understand your code of ethics statement? Make sure it’s available in all languages relating to your workforce.
ASCE Code of Ethnics
ASCE’s code of ethics statement is an excellent example of an association promoting a diverse and inclusive workforce through its ethics statement. It touches on things like discrimination, harassment, cultural backgrounds, and capabilities and states that members must:
“f. Treat all persons with respect, dignity, and fairness, and reject all forms of discrimination and harassment;
g. acknowledge the diverse historical, social, and cultural needs of the community, and incorporate these considerations in their work;
h. consider the capabilities, limitations, and implications of current and emerging technologies when part of their work; and
i. report misconduct to the appropriate authorities where necessary to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the public.”
AAMFT Code of Ethics
The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy Code of ethics touches on confidentiality to ethical decision-making, sexual intimacy and relationships with clients, harassment, and discrimination. The non-discrimination clause says that marriage and family therapists must give professional help to people without discrimination based on their:
- Socioeconomic status
- Health status
- National origin
- Sexual orientation
- Gender identity
- Relationship status
Need More Ethics Statements Examples?
You can read other code of ethics statements here:
- American Marketing Association Statement of Ethics
- APTA Code of Ethics
- ASHA Code of Ethics
- Best Buy Code of Ethics
- Disney Code of Ethics
- Realtor Code of Ethics
- SHRM Code of Ethics
- Target Code of Ethics
Note: Sometimes, a code of ethics statement fits into a company’s HR Mission Statement. Here’s a post on 5 Great HR Mission Statements you might enjoy reading.
Why I Wrote This?
It’s vital that all business communications are unbiased to promote diversity and inclusion. This includes job postings to mission statements…and a code of ethics Ongig’s mission is to eliminate boring and biased job descriptions. We can help you do that through our Text Analyzer software that scans JDs for bias (Age, race, gender, sexual orientation, disability & more).