Codes of Ethics and Codes of Conduct

Codes of Ethics and Codes of Conduct

  • Codes of ethics and conduct have proliferated in part because of increasing public concern about the way Governments, organizations or companies do business and engage with public or customer.
  • Codes of ethics, which govern decision-making, and codes of conduct, which govern actions, represent two of the most common ways that companies/Gov./Org. self-regulate. These codes provide direction to employees and establish a public image of good behavior, which is beneficiary for all.
  • Code of ethics and code of conduct specify the ethical standards that a group (e.g., staff or a professional group) should follow in order to continue as a member of the group. They are generally formally stated and members are required to accept them as part of their membership of the group while accepting employment/membership.

A/C to Resolution of UN Convention against Corruption states, Codes of conduct for public officials:

  1. In order to fight corruption, each State Party shall promote integrity, honesty and responsibility among its public officials, in accordance with the fundamental principles of its legal system.
  2. In particular, each State Party shall endeavour to apply, within its own institutional and legal systems, codes of conduct for the correct, honourable and proper performance of public functions.
  3. For the purposes of implementing the provisions of this article, each State Party shall take note of the relevant initiatives of regional, interregional and multilateral organizations, such as the International Code of Conduct for Public Officials contained in the annex to General Assembly resolution, 1996.
  4. Each State Party shall also consider establishing measures and systems to facilitate the reporting by public officials of acts of corruption to appropriate authorities, when such acts come to their notice in the performance of their functions.
  5. Each State Party shall endeavour to establish measures and systems requiring public officials to make declarations to appropriate authorities regarding their outside activities, employment, investments, assets and substantial gifts or benefits from which a conflict of interest may result with respect to their functions as public officials.
  6. Each State Party shall consider taking disciplinary or other measures against public officials who violate the codes established in accordance with this article.

Code of Ethics:

  • A code of ethics is a document that outlines a set of principles that affect decision-making. For example, a code of ethics might stipulate that XYZ Corporation is committed to environmental protection and green initiatives. The expectation is that individual employees, when faced with the option, will select the greenest solution.

Code of Conduct:

  • A code of conduct outlines specific behaviors that are required or prohibited as a condition of ongoing employment. A code of conduct ‘outlines a fundamental set of principles’. It helps to explain why members of an organization should behave in a certain way, what actions are prohibited and also how to determine which action is ethical or unethical.
  • A code of conduct might forbid sexual harassment, racial intimidation or viewing inappropriate or unauthorized content on organization computers. These are rigorous standards that usually are tightly enforced by leaders.
  • There is considerable information that codes, along with other measures, have helped pull some organizations out of the morass of scandal, and have helped many organizations build a healthier work climate and reputation.
  • For Indian Civil Services, there is Central Civil Services (Conduct) Rules, 1964.
  • The Narendra Modi government has issued a revised code of conduct for bureaucrats that requires them to be politically neutral, honest, impartial and maintain high ethical standards. The amended rules state that every member of the All India Services, which includes the IAS and IPS, shall be courteous and responsive to the public, particularly the weaker sections, and ensure accountability and transparency in discharge of his duties.

Amended code of conduct for bureaucrats by Modi Government [All India Services (Conduct) Amendment Rules, 2014]:

  • The Centre, based on consultations with the state governments issued the All India Services (Conduct) Amendment Rules, 2014, stating, among other things, that every member of the service shall take decisions solely based on merit and in public interest and use public resources efficiently, effectively and economically.
  • The new commandments prevent a bureaucrat from misusing his position to take decisions that seek to derive financial or material benefit for himself, his family or friends. “Every member of the service shall make choices, take decisions and make recommendations on merit alone,” say the rules.
  • Another rule cautions civil servants against placing themselves under any financial or other obligations to any individual or organisation which may influence the performance of their official duties.
  • Importantly, babus will now be required to declare any private interests relating to their public duties and take steps to resolve any conflicts in a way that protects the public interest.
  • Stressing on the need for confidentiality in key government matters, the rules make civil servants liable to maintain confidentiality in performance of their duties as required by the laws, particularly where the information or disclosure may prejudicially affect the security of the State, strategic, scientific or economic interests of the State, friendly relations with foreign countries or lead to incitement of an offence or illegal or unlawful gains to any person.
  • Other amendments require babus to perform their duties with a high degree of professionalism; uphold supremacy of the Constitution; uphold sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, public order, decency and morality; maintain integrity in public service; act with fairness and impartiality and not discriminate against anyone, particularly the poor and under-privileged sections; and maintain discipline in discharge of duties and be liable to implement lawful orders duly communicated to them.

Similarities  between Codes of Ethics and Codes of Conduct:

  • Both codes are similar insofar as they attempt to encourage specific forms of behavior by employees. Ethics guidelines attempt to provide guidance about values and choices to influence decision-making, whereas conduct regulations assert that some specific actions are appropriate or inappropriate. In both cases, the organization’s desire is to obtain a narrow range of acceptable behaviors from employees.

Differences between Codes of Ethics and Codes of Conduct:

  • The codes attempt to regulate behavior in very different ways. Code of Ethics generally are wide-ranging and non-specific, designed to provide a set of values or decision-making approaches that enable employees to make independent judgments about the most appropriate course of action.
  • Code of Conduct generally require little judgment; you obey or incur a penalty, and the code provides a fairly clear set of expectations about which actions are required, acceptable or prohibited.
  • The code of ethics for an organization or for a profession are developed more in the form of statement of values and beliefs that defines an organization or a group. Value statements are aspirational, while rules or principles are the beliefs that individual members of an organization should subscribe to in order to continue as members of the organization.
  • The code of conduct, on the other hand, translates the values (documented in the code of ethics) into specific behavioural standards, keeping in mind the possible reflection on the stakeholders’ interest.
  • Therefore, the codes of ethics are general guides to operational values and decisions, while codes of conduct are more specific or formal statements of the values and practices. Codes of conduct for any organization are better understood through the mission statement of the organization.

Codes in Harmony:

  • Organizations often have both types of behavior code, or they are combined into a general ethics document that mixes principles for the right action with a list of actions that are required or prohibited.
  • Occasionally, large companies such as hospitals experience tension when the corporate compliance leadership issues a “code of ethics” that essentially is a code of conduct and another business unit (such as the medical staff) issues a genuine code of ethics. This tension lessens for small businesses, because it is easier for all employees to share the same basic expectations.

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