Working with codes of ethics & codes of practice

Codes provide a steady reference when facing change.

They describe the heading to maintain and lines not to be crossed. Internally, they act as guardrails, increasing certainty no matter the volatility or unknowns ahead.

Externally, codes present a strong message: here’s what we stand for and here’s how we go about it. There may be an extra piece: here’s what you can do if you think we’ve fallen short, a means to raise concerns, along with a public record of previous inquiries.

The net effect reduces uncertainty and increases trust.

  • Codes of practice typically lay out specific do’s and don’ts. There may be codes for the whole company or specialized units, for example, the newsroom. There also may be codes for senior teams or participants in standing meetings or boards.

  • Codes of ethics express values and aspirations. Instead of specifics of what to do, a code of ethics describes how to approach what to do.

  • Some places have one or the other, others have both. For example, a code of practice may begin with underlying ethical principles.

Codes are dynamic. Expectations and standards may change, perhaps from recent events, or findings in law, or emerging possibilities. Another best practice is re-visiting existing provisions to see if they need to be refreshed.


  • Developing new codes of practice or codes of ethics
  • Refreshing legacy codes to reflect new practices or circumstances

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