9 ethical code of conduct examples for the 2022 business professional

The code of conduct has undergone an evolution over the last 20 years. Once written as textbook-sized rule books, today’s best code of conduct examples are visually engaging, readable, and useful to employees as guides to help them make ethical decisions and do the right thing. Good codes of conduct provide a behavioral framework for individual business professionals, teams, leaders, and organizations regardless of affiliation, level, or geography. They also leverage advanced technology for easy access, better employee engagement, and just-in-time insights for navigating the grey areas that are inevitable in the new world of work. 

But what exactly is a “good” code of conduct example? To break the goals into more actionable practices and identify ethical code of conduct examples that were effective, LRN assessed nearly 150 codes of conduct from some of the top companies headquartered in Europe and the United States. The result of our research, the 2022 LRN Code of Conduct Report, looks at company codes from the top 40 organizations in the CAC (France), DAX (Germany), FTSE (UK), and S&P (USA) stock exchange listings.

Let's dive deeper into nine code of conduct examples that we came across in our analysis, each of which scored the highest on the dimensions our report identified as key to an effective code. 

LRN Code of Conduct Report definitions of code dimensions 

We used LRN’s proprietary Code of Conduct Assessment Tool to yield a concrete, objective, and comprehensive measurement of excellence based on 47 questions that map to eight dimensions of code of conduct effectiveness. The dimensions include: 

  • Tone from the Top: An inspiring message from senior leadership that demonstrates a commitment to ethical behavior and living the values of the organization. 
  • Purpose and Values Orientation: A clear statement of what the company values are and how they translate to behavioral expectations for how employees treat one another, customers, and the communities they serve. 
  • Applicability and Administration: Defining to whom the code applies and how it’s implemented and enforced. 
  • Speaking Up: A summary of the reporting channels available to employees and a description of the process for addressing concerns raised. 
  • Risk Topics: High-level guidance of the risks within the organization and wider industry, along with principles and standards employees can follow to help avoid or manage these risks. 
  • Knowledge Reinforcement: Integrated learning aids—e.g., real-life scenarios, ethical decision-making models, links to policies, and links to resources such as training and videos—that are easy to refer back to in the code. 
  • Usability: Making the code accessible to all employees through easy navigation, readability, and content structure. 
  • Look and Feel: Making the code a visually engaging reflection of the organization’s brand, including use of imagery and graphics to enhance readers’ comprehension of material. 

 

9 ethical codes of conduct that scored highest on each dimension of effectiveness 

Below are the company codes of conduct that scored highest on each dimension, plus examples of codes that exemplified a great mix of all dimensions and were considered effective overall.

Note: Some companies have made adjustments to their code since LRN's initial analysis.

Tone from the Top: 3M 

Tone from the Top - 3M

Why this code works 

  • The leadership message is inspiring for the employees.
  • Readability rating is high, which means that the language is accessible for all employees and generally avoids legalistic or technical terms.
  • The code references the organizational purpose of the company, connects to the company values, and emphasizes company values throughout. 
  • Images and graphics enhance the reader’s experience.   

What could be improved 

  • The code could add an explanation of how it heightens sensitivity to ethics and compliance risks, enhances decision making, and helps strengthen culture. It could also have an ethical decision-making model that incorporates organizational values in a meaningful way.   
  • The code could add an explanation of the code’s role in the greater E&C program.  
  • The code could give a more detailed explanation for the procedure of the investigation of alleged misconduct.   

 

Purpose and Values Orientation: Barclays 

Purpose and Values Orientation - Barclays

Why this code works 

  • The leadership message is inspiring for the employees. 
  • The code references the organizational purpose of the company, connects to the company values, and emphasizes company values throughout. 
  • The code has a distinct theme that connects specifically to the organization’s purpose, brand identity, and business activities. The theme is carried throughout the code. 
  • The code’s content is structured according to clear and logical organizing principles, with images and graphics that enhance the reader’s experience. 

What could be improved 

  • The code could make a more detailed reference to leaders' and supervisors' having additional responsibilities related to E&C—e.g., being the first point of contact for raising issues, listening up, leading by example—with an emphasis on their role as "carriers" of the culture and values.  
  • The code could identify additional resources for seeking guidance, raising concerns, and reporting violations. It could also provide additional helpline details including more information regarding confidentiality and anonymity.
  • The code could add more risk topics consistent with the organization’s industry and sphere of operations. Also, it could more clearly state the business rationale for giving guidance regarding risk topics.
  • Individual code provisions could follow a more consistent structure to aid clarity and readability for the user.  

 

Applicability and Administration: Coca Cola 

Applicability and Administration - Coke

Why this code works 

  • Readability rating is high, which means that the language is accessible for all employees and generally avoids legalistic or technical terms. Tone of voice is also inclusive, using words “we,” “us,” and “our.” 
  • The code is expressly applicable to all employees, officers, directors, and contractors. It makes specific reference to employees’ responsibility for following the code and to leaders’ and supervisors’ additional E&C responsibilities.   
  • There are multiple resources for seeking guidance, raising concerns, and reporting violations. There are helpline details along with steps to address issues of confidentiality and anonymity. The code also indicates that proven retaliation will result in disciplinary action.   
  • The code has a distinct theme that connects specifically to the organization’s purpose, brand identity, and business activities. The theme is carried throughout the code.
  • The code’s content is structured according to clear and logical organizing principles, with images and graphics that enhance the reader’s experience.
  • The code has navigation and highlights behavioral expectations, important resources, and the essential principle of each provision.
  • The code has scenario-based Q&A’s.   

What could be improved 

  • The code could have a leadership message that is concise and addresses unique aspects of the organization, inspiring employees and connecting to values and business performance.   
  • The code could better highlight organizational values, explain their significance, articulate them in behavioral terms, and integrate them throughout. 

 

Speaking Up: Amgen 

Speaking Up - Amgen

Why this code works 

  • The code references the organizational purpose of the company, connects to the company values, and emphasizes company values throughout. 
  • The code is expressly applicable to all employees, officers, directors, and contractors. It makes specific reference to employees’ responsibility for following the code and to leaders’ and supervisors’ additional E&C responsibilities.
  • There are multiple resources for seeking guidance, raising concerns, and reporting violations. There are helpline details along with steps to address issues of confidentiality and anonymity. The code also indicates that proven retaliation will result in disciplinary action.
  • The code’s content is structured according to clear and logical organizing principles. Individual provisions also have a consistent structure designed for readability and clarity of guidance.
  • The code has scenario-based Q&A’s and contains an ethical based decision-making model that incorporates organizational values in a meaningful way. 

What could be improved 

  • The code could better highlight organizational values, explain their significance, articulate them in behavioral terms, and integrate them throughout.  
  • The code could have a more distinct theme that connects specifically to the organization’s purpose, brand identity, and business activities.  
  • The code could have a more comprehensive range of risk topics, consistent with the organization’s industry and sphere of operations.   
  • The code could use more graphic design and imagery to enhance visual impact, use more call-out boxes to emphasize key content, reduce large blocks of text, and improve layout and formatting for a more consistent visual style with the organization's brand identity. 

 

Risk Topics: Imperial Brands 

Risk Topics - Imperial Brands

Why this code works 

  • The code references the organizational purpose of the company and connects to the company values. In addition, the code explains the significance of the values, articulates them in behavioral terms, and integrates them throughout.  
  • The code makes specific reference to leaders’ and supervisors’ additional E&C responsibilities.
  • The code addresses a wide range of risk topics and the business rationale for giving guidance is clearly stated.
  • The code’s content is structured according to clear and logical organizing principles, with important resources displayed prominently. Individual provisions also have a consistent structure designed for readability and clarity of guidance.
  • The code’s visual style is consistent with the organization’s brand. Images and graphics enhance the reader’s experience, text call-out boxes emphasize key content, and content layout avoids large blocks of text which could hinder reading.
  • Readability rating is high, which means that the language is accessible for all employees and generally avoids legalistic or technical terms. Tone of voice is also inclusive, using words “we,” “us,” and “our.” 

What could be improved 

  • The code could be more expressly applicable to all employees, officers, directors and contractors.  
  • The code could explain how it heightens sensitivity to ethics and compliance risks, enhances decision-making, and helps strengthen culture.   
  • The code could identify additional resources for seeking guidance, raising concerns, and reporting potential violations. It could also provide more helpline details and steps to address issues of confidentiality and anonymity. 

 

Knowledge Reinforcement: Air Liquide 

Knowledge Reinforcement - Air Liquide

Why this code works 

  • The leadership message is inspiring for the employees. 
  • The code references the organizational purpose of the company and its relationship to day-to-day business operations.
  • The code identifies resources for seeking guidance, raising concerns, and reporting potential violations. It also addresses a comprehensive range of risk topics consistent with the organization’s industry. 
  • The code’s content is structured according to clear and logical organizing principles. Individual provisions also have a consistent structure designed for readability and clarity of guidance.
  • The code highlights behavioral expectations, important resources, and the essential principle of each provision.
  • Images and graphics enhance the reader’s experience, text call-out boxes emphasize key content, and content layout avoids large blocks of text which could hinder reading. 

What could be improved 

  • The code could better highlight organizational values, explain their significance, articulate them in behavioral terms, and integrate them throughout. 
  • The code could make specific reference to leaders' and supervisors' additional E&C responsibilities. 
  • The code could provide more detail into the investigation process of alleged misconduct. 
  • The business rationale for giving risk-related guidance could be more clearly stated. 

Usability: Glencore 

Usability - Glencore

Why this code works 

  • The leadership message is inspiring for the employees.
  • The code references the organizational purpose of the company and its relationship to day-to-day business operations.
  • Readability rating is high, which means that the language is accessible for all employees and generally avoids legalistic or technical terms. Tone of voice is also inclusive, using words “we,” “us,” and “our.”
  • The code is expressly applicable to all employees and makes specific reference to leaders’ and supervisors’ additional E&C responsibilities. 
  • The code contains an ethical based decision-making model that incorporates organizational values in a meaningful way and directs employees to company policies. 
  • The code identifies resources for seeking guidance, raising concerns, and reporting violations. It also provides helpline details and addresses a comprehensive range of risk topics. 
  • The code’s content is structured according to clear and logical organizing principles, with important resources displayed prominently. Individual provisions also have a consistent structure designed for readability and clarity of guidance.
  • The code highlights behavioral expectations, important resources, and the essential principle of each provision.
  • The code’s visual style is consistent with the organization’s brand. Images and graphics enhance the reader’s experience, text call-out boxes emphasize key content, and content layout avoids large blocks of text which could hinder reading.  

What could be improved 

  • The code could have a more distinct theme that connects specifically to the organization’s purpose, brand identity, and business activities and carry it throughout. 
  • The business rationale for giving risk-related guidance could be stated more consistently across code provisions.
  • There could be more scenario-based Q&A’s.   

 

Look and Feel: Bristol Myers Squibb 

Look and Feel - BMS

Why this code works 

  • The leadership message is inspiring for the employees. 
  • The code references the organizational purpose of the company and its relationship to day-to-day business operations. It also references organizational values and integrates them throughout the code. 
  • The code has a distinct theme that connects specifically to the organization’s purpose and brand identity. The theme is carried throughout the code. 
  • The code’s visual style is consistent with the organization’s brand. Images and graphics enhance the reader’s experience, text call-out boxes emphasize key content, and content layout avoids large blocks of text which could hinder reading. 
  • The code highlights behavioral expectations, important resources, and the essential principle of each provision. 
  • Individual code provisions have a consistent structure designed for readability and clarity of guidance. 

 What could be improved 

  • The code could better highlight organizational values, explain their significance, articulate them in behavioral terms. 
  • The code could provide more detail into the investigation process of alleged misconduct.  
  • The code could provide more helpline details and steps to address issues of confidentiality and anonymity. It could also clearly state that retaliation could lead to disciplinary action.
  • The code could have a more comprehensive range of risk topics that are consistent with the organization’s industry and sphere of operations.   
 

Overall effectiveness: General Motors, 3M, Imperial Brands 

Overall effective - GM

Each company code of conduct exemplified a great mix of all eight dimensions of code effectiveness.  

  • General Motors: The visual display of the General Motors Code is very consistent with the brand identity. Their distinct theme, “Winning with Integrity,” connects specifically to the organization’s purpose and brand. The values are prominently displayed and explained in detail. The risk provisions have a consistent structure that is designed for clarity of guidance. The code also highlights the behavioral expectations and other key points in each provision. The readability rating is high, which means that the language is accessible for all employees and generally avoids legalistic or technical terms. There is a high usage of graphics and imagery to enhance the reader’s experience and make the visual stye consistent with the organization’s brand.   
  • 3M: Beginning with the cover, the 3M Code visually jumps out at you. The theme “Be 3M” is in large bold letters, making it the first thing the reader sees. The cover also features the values, which expand on the theme: Be Good; Be Honest; Be Fair; Be Loyal; Be Accurate; Be Respectful. The language of the code is crisp and clear throughout, reflecting the unique voice of 3M. The code is organized according to the values, and the subtopics under each value bring additional clarity and detail to what it means to live each value. The layout is very clean, with an abundance of white space making it easier to read. The code also highlights key principles and uses brand colors and iconography to not only make it easy to find information, but make it feel like 3M. 
  • Imperial Brands: Imperial Brands has a distinct theme, “Stronger, Better, Together: How You Do It,” that they carry throughout their code. The code prominently displays the company values and integrates them throughout. There is clear messaging that explains the importance of the code and how employees can use it. The code contains a highly effective ethical decision-making model that incorporates values and has a gateway in which decisions should be made. The code’s content is structured according to clear and logical organizing principles, and individual provisions have a consistent structure designed for readability and clarity of guidance. The code avoids large blocks of text and uses imagery, graphics, and call-out boxes to highlight key content and enhance the reader’s experience. Overall, the code is consistent with the organization’s brand. 

 

The key takeaway 

These are just some examples of a code of conduct that effectively communicates company values, ethical standards, and professional expectations. Using a mix of clear messaging, engaging visuals, simple content structure, and easy navigation can make a significant impact on how an organization’s code performs against each dimension of code effectiveness. To learn how you can enhance your own company code of conduct, download a copy of the 2022 LRN Code of Conduct Report and explore our collection of code resources.