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On eagles wings: Our recovery from Coronavirus (XLVII). Ethical codes resurrection.

Have a beautiful weekend.

Today we will proceed with our commitment to create awareness of the importance of ethical codes in our daily life. In my last post I was showing you examples of personal ethical codes, and examples of family ethical codes. Today we will proceed with the organizations.

One of the most difficult things that may happen in an organization is to sail without direction when it comes to ethical values. Particularly when there is confusion in relation to the concepts. With time people have confused ethical codes with codes of conduct, or with business principles or even with a mission statement.

Find the example with the process of the final details when I painted this agapanthus. The original photo (according to my google search) is from a photographer identified as Paintingsheep. (Ms Paintingsheep don´t be mad with me if I used your photo as a reference photo to make my aquarelle exercise from scratch, I thought your picture was beautiful to paint. I still have not monetized this blog which is for educational purposes. At the moment I can´t pay shutterstock or dreamstime or other photos companies, yet). The name of the photo is “Lily of The Nile”. As you may know I practice aquarelle by painting beautiful photos that I find on the Internet. Once I thought my work was finished (photo number 1 at your left), all the details were missing. Then petit a petit I started to finalize my exercise with fine brushes, filling here and there, removing shadows and adding sparkling glow. And now is done. Each of the images reflects a difference of my aquarelle details, non of the images is the same than the other one. And without a clever observation, we won´t recognize the differences. Well that happens with ethical codes. People confuse ethical codes, with codes of conducts, with values, with business principles and with mission or vision statements. Each is different.

If organizations do not define their ethical codes first, any other type of norms, rules or procedures will be simply done by obedience or because the employee is afraid or if by not complying he or she will be fired, but not because of the ethical purpose in their lives.. I believe that an ethical code in an organization should be aligned with your own moral values. To make it happen.

To make ethical codes in an organization is not a one day strategic conference, in which the CEO, board of directors and the top entity leaders, get together, and spend all day trying to filter which are the most pretty ethical virtues to hold.  It takes much effort than that.

How to make ethical codes in organizations? Each and all the employees from an organization must put their grain of sand into the exercise. It takes a lovely attempt from bottom-up, then a strategic formulation at the top, to then roll it down from up to bottom to get their feedback and validation.  In addition it is clever to include some random input from clients, suppliers and the community. Each employee and stakeholder is an active participant to create their own ethical code. When ethical codes are created as such, the whole organization thrives to implement them when it comes to decision making, to shuffle their activities, to implement the code of conduct, etc.

I also will demystify the notion that an ethical code is the same thing than a code of conduct or a code of honor or a mission statement or a collection of values listed on a website. Your organization values and virtues are expressed in ethical codes. These are eternal and public. Everyone around the corporation should know about them, from the janitor to the CEO, including suppliers, clients, bankers which serve them, etc. No matter what may happen into your organization (buyout, or changing products, or moving from one region to another one), your ethical values code will remain the same. An ethical code leads us to stand not just our behavior and actions, but our traits of character, our mental frameworks, our feelings, our intentions and the rest of our characteristics as human beings:  convictions, commitments, desires, knowledge, beliefs and emotions.

A code of conduct is a code of behaviors that rule the organization. “Codes of Conduct or Codes of Behavior are designed to anticipate and prevent certain specific types of behavior when you deal with the members and situations of the entity; e.g. conflict of interest, self-dealing, bribery, corruption, conflict resolutions and inappropriate actions”. The majority of conduct codes are long and detailed. Most conduct codes are written with the format “Do not…”, rather than on affirmative obligations. Codes of conduct need to be detailed to guide each and all specific actions in which employees are not to engage. In addition “Standards of Conduct do change over time, because our work methodologies are always evolving with the technology and the change of social circumstances”.

Many organizations have melted or mixed their mission statement with ethical codes, and that is not correct. A mission statement is usually tied to the products and services of the organizations. Meanwhile an ethical code, as explained above is tied to our attitudes, conduct, actions, mental frameworks, character, feelings. A code of honor is linked to the virtue of “high respect or distinction for achievement”, thus a code of honor is a way to connect the dots between the virtues found in the ethical code and the expected reward, which is the recognition or the honor earning for its application.

Now that we have differentiated the concepts. It is clear that we will have a lot of troubles trying to find ethical codes in organizations websites. The majority of enterprises do have a clear vision and mission statement, and then they proceed to list their values. Usually you can find them in their corporate governance or about us section, or under their ethics division. Nevertheless, companies usually go directly to codes of conduct, dismissing the ethical code first, and then these proceed with business principles in order to provide guidelines on how to make decisions. But please, believe me when I say that not even the most sophisticated enterprises have had the time to procure a clearly defined code of ethics in their organization.

Nevertheless, let´s try to go and find some examples of good ethical codes, or at least infer them from their websites. As an assignment, just randomly choose one name of an entity, then google “ethical code” or “statement of ethic”s, and you will be as myself, a bit lost of what you find. Anyway let´s try.

  1. Microsoft: It doesn´t have a clearly statement of ethics as such, because it goes directly to the code of conduct. The values listed are: Respect, Integrity, Accountability.
  2. Walmart: I found the following values in their respective “statement of ethics”: “Respect for the individual. Service our customers. Strive for excellence. Acting with integrity”.
  3. Lookheed Martin: Do What’s Right, Respect Others and Perform with Excellence.
  4. ABB: Courage – Care – Curiosity – Collaboration
  5. Morgan Stanley Bank:  Doing the Right Thing, Putting Clients First, Leading with Exceptional Ideas and Giving Back.
  6. Stanford University: This university has melted its purpose with the ethical code under a code of conduct. Additionally, it has a separate code of honor.  “ The University values integrity, diversity, respect, freedom of inquiry and expression, trust, honesty and fairness and strives to integrate these values into its education, research, health care and business practices” If you wish to read which is the Code of Honor from Stanford University click here (it was made in 1921)
  7. Alphabet (Google): I tried to find their code of ethics, but it turns out that they go directly to a code of conduct “Employees of Alphabet and its subsidiaries and controlled affiliates (“Alphabet”) should do the right thing – follow the law, act honorably, and treat co-workers with courtesy and respect”.
  8. Samsung: As Microsoft, this company has defined its code of ethics in the middle of their global code of conduct. Nevertheless if you read their sections of the business principles, we can perceive their values are Caring for People, Excellence, Change, Integrity, and Co-prosperity.
  9. Siemens: I tried to find their statement of ethics on their website, but only found a code of conduct with suppliers.
  10. GAP Inc. The values that they have defined as their ethical statement are: “Inclusion and belonging, gender equality and empowerment, and sustainability”. Are these ethical values, or business principles? What do you think?

We will stop here for the time being. On my next publication we will explore the education entities sector ethical codes and the NGOs most successful and poorest ethical codes. Next, we will also continue with the public services or government ethics codes. Some strategic reflection is coming. Stay tuned!

Thank you so much for reading to me. Try to do the homework, you will find out many interesting discoveries around this theme.  

Disclaimer: Illustrations in Watercolor are painted by Eleonora Escalante. Other types of illustrations or videos (which are not mine) are used for educational purposes ONLY.  Nevertheless, the majority of the pictures, images, or videos shown on this blog are not mine.  I do not own any of the lovely photos or images posted unless otherwise stated.

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