How does the terminology difference between a "professional code of conduct," as for the medical or legal professions, and a "statement of ethics," such as issued by specific companies, make a difference to their meanings, use, impact, etc.?
Statement of Ethics
The major difference between these two, in terms of terminology, is that one is simply a statement, while the other is a code. What this implies is that the former merely sets forth ideas while the latter is more like an actual set of rules or regulations that formally governs the behavior of those who are covered by it.
Let us look at examples of these to see how this is so. In this statement of ethics, we have generic phrases. For example, we are told
As Marketers, we must:
- Do no harm. This means consciously avoiding harmful actions or omissions by embodying high ethical standards and adhering to all applicable laws and regulations in the choices we make.
This is a general statement. It does not commit the marketer to engage in or to avoid any specific action. By contrast, in this code of conduct, we have statements that tell exactly what teachers may not do. It says, for example, that teachers may never provide alcohol to any student. It does not simply say that teachers should do something like “acting to prevent students from becoming involved in the illegal use of alcohol.”
What this means in practical terms is that a code of conduct will be used in a much more formal way. Its meaning is the same as the meaning of a law. It is something that will be used to discipline people who fail to adhere to it. By contrast, a statement of ethics is used more for hortatory purposes. It is used to try to instill certain values in those to whom it applies and make values readily known to those who might be affected by an enty's ethics.