Ethics Statements

posted in: People, Policies 0

What are Ethics Statements? They are attempts by companies to spell out the ethical standards that they expect their employees to live by. Sometimes they are confused with Values Statements, but a list of values tends to include characteristics such as excellence, compassion, and good humor, in addition to integrity, stewardship or honesty.

Ethics Statements tend to be lengthy, as a company tries to spell out exactly what it means by ethical, beyond compliance with applicable laws and regulations. For instance, Lockheed Martin‘s Values Statement includes this:

Do What’s Right
We are committed to the highest standards of ethical conduct in all that we do. We believe that honesty and integrity engender trust, which is the cornerstone of our business. We abide by the laws of the United States and other countries in which we do business, we strive to be good citizens and we take responsibility for our actions.

and then refers the reader to their Code of Ethics and Business Conduct, which is 44 pages long.

One thing that Ethics Statement have in common is that they all refer to “high” or “the highest” standards, but very few of them seem clear about what that means; they seldom include any indications of accountability or enforcement mechanisms. That may be why there is always an example in the news demonstrating that they don’t work the way they are supposed to.

Businesses are encouraged to have Ethics Statements, but the value probably comes in the discussion that goes into creating one, as the company defines what ethics mean in context. There certainly isn’t much value in drafting a generic one and simply filing it away to show auditors someday.

Thanks to Thomas Singer of Axilon Law Group PLLC for a great presentation.