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the development of an organization’s core skills and capabilities

Even among those who believe they know ethics, there is not total agreement on the meaning of the terms that are used.
Below are some ethics terms used on this website and in publications of the Ethics Research Center, the research arm of ECI. Many of the definitions come from our own files, but we have also tried to indicate where a definition is derived from another source.

ECI has also compiled a list of the definitions of values typically used in codes.

Agency
Belief that one has the power to enact change. Agency is a critical component in reporting decisions because most people will only report if they believe their action has the potential to make a difference.

Aspirational
A strong desire to achieve something high or great. An aspirational code would be intended to reach a higher standard of “doing what is right,” superseding mere compliance with what the law mandates.

Benchmarking
The process of comparing to established “best practices,” peer organizations or even past results in order to better understand strengths, challenges and progress made.

Capacity Building
The development of an organization’s core skills and capabilities, such as leadership, management, finance and fundraising, programs and evaluation, in order to build the organization’s effectiveness and sustainability. It is the process of assisting an individual or group to identify and address issues and gain the insights, knowledge and experience needed to solve problems and implement change. Capacity building is facilitated through the provision of technical support activities, including coaching, training, specific technical assistance and resource networking (from the California Wellness Foundation’s “Reflections on Capacity Building”).

Code of Conduct or Code of Ethics
A central guide and reference to assist day-to-day decision making. It is meant to clarify an organization’s mission, values and principles, linking them with standards of professional conduct. As a reference, it can be used to clarify standards, organizational values and policies; promote effective decision-making; and direct users to identify relevant ethics-related resources within the organization.

Code of Conduct
Can refer to a listing of required behaviors, the violation of which would result in disciplinary action. In practice, used interchangeably with Code of Ethics.

Code of Ethics
Often conveys organizational values, a commitment to standards and communicates a set of ideals. In practice, used interchangeably with Code of Conduct. In Section 406(c), the Sarbanes-Oxley Act defines “code of ethics” as such standards as are reasonably necessary to promote– (1) honest and ethical conduct, including the ethical handling of actual or apparent conflicts of interest between personal and professional relationships; (2) full, fair, accurate, timely, and understandable disclosure in the periodic reports required to be filed by the issuer; and (3) in compliance with applicable governmental rules and regulations.

Code Provisions
The specific standards of behavior and performance expectations that your organization chooses to highlight and address in your code.

Compliance
Conforming or adapting one’s actions to another’s wishes, to a rule or to necessity. A compliance code would be intended to meet all legal requirements.

Comprehensive Ethics and Compliance Program (as defined by ECI)
An ethics and compliance program should include six key elements : 1) written standards of ethical workplace conduct; 2) training on the standards; 3) company resources that provide advice about ethics issues; 4) a means to report potential violations confidentially or anonymously; 5) performance evaluations of ethical conduct; and 6) systems to discipline violators. A seventh element is a stated set of guiding values or principles.