Q. Discuss the difference between the code of ethics and the code of conduct.

Approach:

  • Briefly discuss about the code of ethics and the code of conduct.
  • Differentiate between the given terms.
  • Substantiate your answer with relevant examples.

Model Answer

Code of ethics and code of conduct specify the ethical standards that a group (e.g., staff or a professional group) should follow in order to continue as a member of the group. They are generally formally stated and members are required to accept them as part of their membership of the group while accepting employment/membership.  It is generally adopted by organizations to assist members in developing an understanding of right and wrong. Thus, the Code is built on three levels namely:

  • Values and ethical standards 
  • Principles based on these values and ethics (Code of Ethics) 
  • Code of Behaviour which is based on professional ethics (Code of Conduct)

Difference between the code of ethics and the code of conduct:

Code of ethics: 

  • Code of Ethics refers to a set of guidelines to bring about acceptable behaviours in members of a particular group, association or profession. 
  • It is essential to build professional standards by ensuring ethical practices are followed. It boosts confidence in the organization in the public eye. 
  • The Code stands for fundamental values and principles of public service. It sets out general principles that guide behaviour. 
  • The codes focus on broader issues and are often framed as a belief statement regarding the organization’s mission, its values and expectations for its members. 
  • These codes are idealistic, non-punishable, general and implicit. Eg. Helping the needy, respecting co-workers, avoiding conflict of interest etc.

Code of conduct: 

  • It refers to a framework for public officials for carrying out their duties. 
  • It serves as a tool for public officials in making right decisions especially in cases when they are tempted or confused in keeping the public interest. 
  • These are designed to prevent certain types of behaviours like conflict of interest, self-dealing, bribery and inappropriate actions. It is essential to protect the employees and the reputation of the organization.
  • It sets out specific rules designed to outline specific practices and behaviours that are to be encouraged or prohibited under an organization. 
  • The codes lay out guidelines and procedures to be used to determine whether violations of the code have occurred and delineate consequences for such violations. 
  • These are in form of Dos and Don’ts for all employees of the organization and are usually supplemented with a Code of Ethics. 
  • These codes are specific, and explicit and often amount to punishment upon violation. Eg. Model Code of Conduct by Election Commission, not divulging internal company matters to the media, following the orders of seniors etc.
  • The Code can have a legislative or administrative basis and are in line with constitutional conventions. It is thus regularly updated. 

Thus, although both the Codes are different from each other, yet they are important for a public servant. The Codes make sure that the public official should uphold public interest over any personal motive or interest. 

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