The Advantages of a Professional Code of Ethics

Updated December 15, 2016

A professional code of ethics spells out what is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour in a given field. Trade associations often have code of ethics for their members, meant to ensure that everyone who belongs to the organisation abides by the same standards of conduct. They often address issues such as honesty, data privacy and professional accountability. Such codes of ethics have various advantages.

Sets Baseline of Conduct

Codes of ethics act as a baseline, explaining to those who must abide by it the minimum expected of them in the way of ethical conduct. This can be a useful guide for new professionals navigating common ethical dilemmas for the first time and improve consistency across many businesses operating in the same field. At the same time, it can be useful for people outside a profession governed by a code of ethics to know what they can expect from those within the field.

Elevates Profession

A code of ethics tells sends the message that the field as a whole wants to act in an ethical manner. That can create a positive view of the field as a whole so that people turning to someone governed by a code of ethics can do so in confidence. For instance, the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants states that members have the responsibility to "cooperate with each other to improve the art of accounting, maintain the public's confidence and carry out the profession's special responsibilities for self-governance."

Raise Awareness of Issues

Different professions have different ethical minefields to navigate. Codes of ethics name the common issues that those in a given profession may encounter, such as confidentiality or conflicts of interest. This creates awareness within individual businesses and those practicing in the fields about such issues. In turn, this awareness allows businesses and professionals to address these issues through policies and procedures.

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About the Author

Cynthia Gomez has been writing and editing professionally for more than a decade. She is currently an editor at a major publishing company, where she works on various trade journals. Gomez also spent many years working as a newspaper reporter. She holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Northeastern University.