How To Write a Code of Ethics:
5 Steps to Follow

Jump to Section

Need help with a Code of Ethics?

Post Project Now

Post Your Project (It's Free)

Get Bids to Compare

 Hire Your Lawyer

What is a Written Code of Ethics?

A Written Code of Ethics, also referred to as an ethical code, is a document that sets out the expectations and guiding principles of conduct in a professional workplace. It is a key component of human resource management because it reiterates employer commitment to staff welfare, communicates core values of the organization, and signals employees to more specific documents and resources related to ethics in your organization.

A code of ethics typically reaches beyond the limitations of the law and specifies activities not prohibited by law that are nonetheless prohibited within the specified group. For example, being dishonest with your employer isn’t necessarily illegal, but may be prohibited in the code of ethics for an organization.

Here is an article where you can read more about code of ethics .

How to Write a Code of Ethics – Step by Step

An effective Code of Ethics should clearly communicate professional conduct and acceptable behavior among stakeholders and employees. The preparation of this document should pay attention to goals, research, and presentation and involves the following steps.

  • Step 1: Establish your goals. Set out the broad goals of the Code and decide on how the success of your ethics program will be measured. The Code should introduce employees to broad values of the organization such as lawfulness and respectful behavior. It should use examples to allow them to address their own ethical concerns and signal them to more documents that address specific issues such as harassment, discrimination etc.
  • Step 2: Gain approval. Receive approval and commitment from leadership in your organization. The support from leadership will allow you to allocate necessary resources and build an effective team to draft the Code of Ethics.
  • Step 3 : Conduct research. Research and gather information from stakeholders to understand key issues that should be addressed in the Code of Ethics document. Effective research methods include interviews, focus groups, and informal discussions. It should also include a review of ethical concerns that have impacted your organization in the past.
  • Step 4: Draft the Code of Ethics. Draft the Code with the help of a dedicated Task force and interested stakeholders. Use simple language and seek feedback from employees and leadership on the content of the Code to ensure that the tone adopted in the document is sensitive and effective. You should also have the Code reviewed and finalized by an employment lawyer .
  • Step 5: Communicate with your organization. Share the finalized Written Code of Ethics using email, posters and other popular mediums with employees, independent contractors , and other stakeholders at your organization. Finally, formalize the review and updating of the Code at regular intervals.

Here is an article that goes further into writing a Code of Ethics.

Meet some lawyers on our platform

Jane C.

27 projects on CC
View Profile

Bryan B.

31 projects on CC
View Profile

Octavia P.

2 projects on CC
View Profile

Michael K.

7 projects on CC
View Profile

What’s Typically Included in a Code of Ethics?

The Code of Ethics should definitely be tailored to your organization’s history, experiences and needs. Broadly, it should address lawful behavior, respectful treatment of stakeholders, safety of company assets, and redressal mechanisms. Topics that can be addressed in the Code include but are not limited to:

  • Code’s Title : Your code of ethics should communicate the content clearly and grab attention of the reader. This could be something like, code of ethics, code of values or compliance code.
  • Leadership Letter : The leadership letter demonstrates the organization’s commitment from the top towards creating an ethical culture within the organization. It allows the top leadership to speak directly to the employees through the code of ethics document.
  • Information and Resources : Every code of ethics document will list or mention general resources available to employees to either familiarize themselves further with the values, complain about a breach, etc.
  • Work Environment and Lawfulness: Define professional conduct in the workplace as it applies to employees, independent contractors and other stakeholders. The section on work environment should briefly address the company’s stance on discrimination , equal opportunity , harassment and safety . It must also link to more detailed Code of Conduct documents on these issues.
  • Conflict of Interest: Lay out what topics are considered as conflict of interest for employees, independent contractors and other stakeholders. This may include insider trading and running for public office.
  • Company Assets: The Code of Ethics should involve the protection not only of employee welfare but also of employer interests and company assets. To ensure that stakeholders act to protect company assets, the document should address topics like use of company property, acceptable use policy to regulate internet use in the workplace, and intellectual property.
  • Redressal Mechanism : The Code of Ethics must also discuss how stakeholders can formally raise concerns at the workplace. Individual Code of Conduct documents can guide individuals through the detailed processes for different issues while the Code of Ethics document introduces them to redressal mechanisms in general. It should also discuss disciplinary action up to and including termination of contract for those who violate the Code of Ethics.

Here is an article that goes further into what should be included in your Code of Ethics.

Code of Ethics Examples

Most companies have their Written Code of Ethics documents available online for perusal. Some examples of effective Code of Ethics include but are not limited to:

  • Hershey : No matter what job you do or where you do it, you are Hershey. Think about that as you watch over every business relationship, every transaction, and every product, and make sure your actions always reflect our values.
  • Amazon : In performing their job duties, employees should always act lawfully, ethically, and in the best interests of
  • Starbucks: The Standards of Business Conduct apply to all partners, officers, and board of directors, as well as temporary service workers and independent contractors.

Here is an article that goes further into examples of Code of Ethics documents.

Get Free Bids to Compare

Leverage our network of lawyers, request free bids, and find the right lawyer for the job.

Get Bids Now

Who writes a Professional Code of Ethics?

If your organization is small, you can very well draft your own Code of Ethics with the input of all stakeholders and staff members. If your organization includes more than twenty individuals, then it is highly recommended that you consult an ethicist, employment lawyer, or human resources specialist with the process of legally drafting the Code. Even if you go via this route, the input of employees and stakeholders will still be invaluable to the process.

There are numerous benefits of writing a code of ethics. A code of ethics document can make a difference in your business or organization. It helps in clarifying gray areas and providing guidance on everything. It can help the organization to:

  • Build trust within the organization as well as externally
  • Increase awareness of key ethical issues important to the organization
  • Stimulate and legitimize ethical dialogue within the organization
  • Build consensus around vital issues around the organization
  • Guide decision-making in regard to important issues in the organization
  • Encourage staff to seek advice
  • Foster the reporting of misconduct and related concerns
  • Clarify where employees should go to seek advice and set up a redressal system

A code of ethics document can also help create positive public identity for the company or brand. This can lead to a more supportive environment internally. An improved public image would also lead to increased level of public confidence and trust among important stakeholders.

Here is a sample code of ethics for you to review.

Get Help Drafting a Professional Code of Ethics

Do you want help from a professional to draft your code of ethics document? Post a project in ContractsCounsel’s marketplace to get bids from employment lawyers that work on Code of Ethics documents routinely. All lawyers are vetted by our team and are peer-reviewed for previous work.

How ContractsCounsel Works
Hiring a lawyer on ContractsCounsel is easy, transparent and affordable.
1. Post a Free Project
Complete our 4-step process to provide info on what you need done.
2. Get Bids to Review
Receive flat-fee bids from lawyers in our marketplace to compare.
3. Start Your Project
Securely pay to start working with the lawyer you select.

Meet some of our Lawyers

ContractsCounsel verified
18 years practicing
Free Consultation

I am a New Jersey licensed attorney and I have been in practice for over seventeen years. My practice mainly consists of representing public entities (municipalities, school boards, etc) and businesses, both small and large. In that capacity, much of work consists of drafting, reviewing and revising contracts.

ContractsCounsel verified
Lead Attorney
9 years practicing
Free Consultation

Jennifer is an experienced business law attorney who has worked with many startups as well as established corporations. With a strong background in contract creation and review, she will be able to ensure you and your business interests are always protected.

ContractsCounsel verified
21 years practicing
Free Consultation

I am a corporate lawyer with expertise working with small businesses, venture capital and healthcare. Previously, I worked at large law firms, as well as head attorney for companies. I graduated from Harvard College and University of Pennsylvania Law School. I speak 5 languages (Spanish, French, Italian and Russian, plus English), visited over 60 countries, and used to compete in salsa dancing!

ContractsCounsel verified
Founder, Branch Legal LLC
9 years practicing
Free Consultation

Legal services cost too much, and are often of low quality. I have devoted my law practice to providing the best work at the most affordable price—in everything from defending small businesses against patent trolls to advising multinational corporations on regulatory compliance to steering couples through a divorce.

ContractsCounsel verified
3 years practicing
Free Consultation

I am a licensed attorney and a member of the California Bar. I graduated from the University of Dayton School of Law's Program in Law and Technology. I love IP, tech transfers, licensing, and how the internet and developing technology is changing the legal landscape. I've interned at both corporations and boutique firms, and I've taken extensive specialized classes in intellectual property and technology law.

ContractsCounsel verified
25 years practicing
Free Consultation

Jo Ann has been practicing for over 20 years, working primarily with high growth companies from inception through exit and all points in between. She is skilled in Mergers & Acquisitions, Contractual Agreements (including founders agreements, voting agreements, licensing agreements, terms of service, privacy policies, stockholder agreements, operating agreements, equity incentive plans, employment agreements, vendor agreements and other commercial agreements), Corporate Governance and Due Diligence.

ContractsCounsel verified
Attorney and Contract Guru
16 years practicing
Free Consultation

I am an unabashed contract law geek with a passion for delivering contracts that protect your business within your risk tolerance. Contracts should be clear, concise, and able to be understood by the end user. I promote Plain English contract drafting. I also pay close attention to the boilerplate traps that trip up many agreements. Some of my most frequent drafting projects are entity operating and shareholder agreements, bylaws, asset purchase agreements, commercial leases, EULA, Terms of Service, Privacy Policies, Confidentiality agreements, employment agreements, and more.

ContractsCounsel verified
Self-Employed Legal Consultant
7 years practicing
Free Consultation

I hold a B.S. in Accounting and a B.A. in Philosophy from Virginia Tech (2009). I received my J.D. from the University of Virginia School of Law in 2012. I am an associate member of the Virginia Bar and an active member of the DC bar. Currently, I am working as a self-employed legal consultant and attorney. Primarily my clients are start-up companies for which I perform various types of legal work, including negotiating and drafting settlement, preparing operating agreements and partnership agreements, assisting in moving companies to incorporate in new states and setting up companies to become registered in a state, assisting with employment matters, drafting non-disclosure agreements, assisting with private placement offerings, and researching issues on intellectual property, local regulations, privacy laws, corporate governance, and many other facets of the law, as the need arises. I have previously practiced as an attorney at a small DC securities law firm and worked at Deloitte Financial Advisory Services LLC. My work experience is dynamic and includes many short-term and long term experience that span across areas such as maintaining my own blog, freelance writing, and dog walking. My diverse background has provided me with a stong skill set that can be easily adapted for new areas of work and indicates my ability to quickly learn for a wide array of clients.

ContractsCounsel verified
Attorney at law
20 years practicing
Free Consultation

Texas licensed attorney specializing for 20 years in Business and Contract law. My services include General Business Law Advisement; Contract Review and Drafting; Legal Research and Writing, including Motion Practice; Business Formation; Article or Instructive Writing; and more. For more insight into my skills and experience, please feel free to visit my LinkedIn profile or contact me with any questions.

ContractsCounsel verified
Partner / Attorney at Law
13 years practicing
Free Consultation

Creative, results driven business & technology executive with 24 years of experience (13+ as a business/corporate lawyer). A problem solver with a passion for business, technology, and law. I bring a thorough understanding of the intersection of the law and business needs to any endeavor, having founded multiple startups myself with successful exits. I provide professional business and legal consulting. Throughout my career I've represented a number large corporations (including some of the top Fortune 500 companies) but the vast majority of my clients these days are startups and small businesses. Having represented hundreds of successful crowdfunded startups, I'm one of the most well known attorneys for startups seeking CF funds. My engagements often include legal consultation & advisory roles, drafting of NDAs, TOS & Privacy Policies, contracts and corporate law, business strategy advice & consulting, in-house counsel, Founder & entrepreneur guidance and other roles as needed by my clients. I hold a Juris Doctor degree with a focus on Business/Corporate Law, a Master of Business Administration degree in Entrepreneurship, A Master of Education degree and dual Bachelor of Science degrees. I look forward to working with any parties that have a need for my skill sets.

ContractsCounsel verified
Managing Partner
23 years practicing
Free Consultation

Seasoned technology lawyer with 22+ years of experience working with the hottest start-ups through IPO and Fortune 50. My focus is primarily technology transactions with an emphasis on SaaS and Privacy, but I also provide GC services for more active clients.

Find the best lawyer for your project

Browse Lawyers Now

Want to speak to someone?

Get in touch below and we will schedule a time to connect!

Request a call