Ethics Management Programs: An Overview

Sections of this topic

    What’s an Ethics Management Program?

    Organizations can manage ethics in their workplaces by establishing an ethics management program. Brian Schrag, Executive Secretary of the Association for Practical and Professional Ethics, clarifies. “Typically, ethics programs convey corporate values, often using codes and policies to guide decisions and behavior, and can include extensive training and evaluating, depending on the organization. They provide guidance in ethical dilemmas.” Rarely are two programs alike.

    “All organizations have ethics programs, but most do not know that they do,” wrote business ethics professor Stephen Brenner in the Journal of Business Ethics (1992, V11, pp. 391-399). “A corporate ethics program is made up of values, policies and activities which impact the propriety of organization behaviors.”

    Bob Dunn, President and CEO of San Francisco-based Business for Social Responsibility, adds: “Balancing competing values and reconciling them is a basic purpose of an ethics management program. Business people need more practical tools and information to understand their values and how to manage them.”

    Benefits of Managing Ethics as a Program

    There are numerous benefits in formally managing ethics as a program, rather than as a one-shot effort when it appears to be needed. Ethics programs:

    1. Establish organizational roles to manage ethics
    2. Schedule ongoing assessment of ethics requirements
    3. Establish required operating values and behaviors
    4. Align organizational behaviors with operating values
    5. Develop awareness and sensitivity to ethical issues
    6. Integrate ethical guidelines to decision making
    7. Structure mechanisms to resolving ethical dilemmas
    8. Facilitate ongoing evaluation and updates to the program
    9. Help convince employees that attention to ethics is not just a knee-jerk reaction done to get out of trouble or improve public image

    What do you think?


    Carter McNamara, MBA, PhD – Authenticity Consulting, LLC – 800-971-2250
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