Friday, October 29, 2010

Keeping it Ethical

A company’s code of ethics can give you a glimpse inside of their desire to serve their customers. The tone and language of the ethics statement is a good way to judge how in tune with your own ethical outlook a business may be. A company’s code of ethics also establishes how the business will handle acts of misconduct, or grievances with consumers. It is an often overlooked document that should be a first step in any decision to do business with another company, or use their services and products. Code of ethics documents contain a lot of language that can be confusing. There are steps anyone can take to help determine if a company’s policies are fair and upfront.

Check for easy to understand language. Statements of a code of ethics that is obscure or difficult to understand may imply an attempt to sidestep important information about how they will handle issues with clients, customers or the public. Using difficult language may also be an attempt to make a code of ethics difficult to determine if a company is just being political, or if it really means to stand by its services or products.

Check for inconsistencies in actual practice as opposed to the company’s proposed code of ethics. One of the biggest drawbacks to such a statement of purpose is there is no real policing body to govern how companies actually adhere to their ethical practices. A code of ethics policy is only as good as the company’s desire to follow through with it.

Look for inconsistencies between other statements of business such as a “Mission Statement,” or “Terms of Service” to see if other documents of policy agree with the code of ethics and each other.

See if the steps in the code of ethics make logical sense in coming to a conclusion on how to deal with discrepancies in service, breakdown of communication or behavior. A good code of ethics should have a clear and reasonable declaration of process to report bad service, product or behavior, and a reference of who to contact to make a report.