Corporate Responsibility Officers Need an Ethics Code!

I posted this on the blog of the Corporate Responsibility Officers Association on October 4, 2010

Doctors have an ethics code. PR professionals, accountants, lawyers, ombudsman, engineers and ethics officers all have ethics codes.  In many ways, a well crafted ethics code defines a profession; it gives guidance to its practitioners to support the most taxing judgment calls they will have to make and articulates its defining values to those outside the profession.

Deciding between what is right and wrong can sometimes be difficult. Corporate Responsibility practitioners often have to go further and decide between two rights.  We also have occasion to stand between a legally permissible and commercially compelling course of action, but one that is morally wrong and will ultimately impact our business negatively.

Without an ethics code we are alone in tackling both of these defining challenges of our field.   Without an ethics code, we are in a job, not a practice and certainly not a profession.  Surrounded by peers from other business functions that have professional membership organizations and ethics codes, we will not be able to carry out our role without these things.

With this in mind, the professional development committee of the Corporate Responsibility Officers Association (CROA), together with an advisory support group has developed a draft ethics code to whet your appetite and stimulate discussion across the practice on what we are really all about. It doesn’t focus on philanthropy or sustainability or any other tool of corporate responsibility. Rather it attempts to define values and standards that the practitioner brings to their company and to their peers.

Do you think we need an ethics code?  Would you sign up to one?

In order for the approach to be successful we need to achieve two things.  The practitioner must be eager to sign up and stand by the code and more importantly, companies must be proud, perhaps even require, that their CRO abides by the code, in order to demonstrate their commitment to CR to their stakeholders.

Take a look at the draft online and add your comments. The discussion around the code here (and at CRO Summit in Chicago on Nov 4th) is as important a part of the process as the final code.

Over the next few weeks I will be describing some ethical dilemmas here in the CROA blog and seeking your input on them, and in particular on whether the code helps distinguish between right and wrong and in some cases, between right and more right.

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