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3. Establish a Code of Conduct

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Once you have developed guidelines and determined how your company intends to work with sustainability, you should establish a code of conduct. The code should contain the company’s policies and guidelines as to how the organisation and its employees should act and conduct business to a satisfactory standard from a sustainability perspective.

The objective of the code of conduct is to determine and communicate the company’s sustainability guidelines. It will serve as guidance for employees and, in communication with internal and external stakeholders, help to strengthen your company’s brand. The code of conduct is not legally binding, but if the company does not live up to its own code, the brand as well as confidence in the brand can be damaged. Most often, the code of conduct is contained in a special document that is easily communicated externally.

The content of the code of conduct may vary depending on, among other things, the industry and geographical area in which the company operates. Since the code is your way of communicating your company’s position on sustainability, it is important that its content is tailored to encompass the issues that are important to you. It is also important that you adapt the code of conduct to new export markets – what challenges are you facing and what are the stakeholders looking for? Even if the guidelines and code of conduct are adapted to a new market, it must nonetheless meet international guidelines and standards at the very least.

Important issues to keep in mind when establishing the code:

  • Only include statements that the company can live up to, but keep in mind that the code of conduct will also serve as the company's benchmark and outline the standards you are striving for
  • Be open to views from stakeholders. This will increase the chances of a more effective implementation of the Code
  • Write in simple, clear language so that all interested parties can easily understand the content
  • Be as specific as possible so that the code can be followed and results evaluated
  • Include information on how the company follows up and guarantees compliance with the code of conduct, including information on how to report suspected inconsistencies or direct violations of the code
  • Include information about the consequences for those who do not follow the code, both for employees and partners
  • If appropriate, have a supplier supplement where you separately describe the guidelines for your suppliers.

There are several tools available that you can use when establishing your code of conduct. Irrespective of whether or not your company has signed the UN Global Compact, you can, for example, include the ten principles as a starting point. You can also receive guidance through the industry-specific tools found in step 2.

It may also be encouraging to read other companies’ codes of conduct, which are usually found on corporate websites. Their scope may vary – some companies have only a few key points, while others write an entire report. Examples of two comprehensive and well-developed codes of conduct are TeliaSonera’s Code of Responsible Business Conduct  and Sandvik's Code of Conduct.