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Code of Ethics vs. Code of Conduct: What's the Difference?

Edited by Harlon Moss || By Janet White || Published on November 22, 2023
Code of Ethics: principles guiding moral behavior; Code of Conduct: rules dictating specific actions.

Key Differences

A Code of Ethics refers to the principles that guide decision-making and behavior based on moral values and beliefs. In contrast, a Code of Conduct specifies expected actions and behaviors, typically in a professional context.
A Code of Ethics is generally broader, dealing with concepts such as fairness, integrity, and responsibility. On the other hand, a Code of Conduct is usually more specific, often outlining rules and procedures to be followed.
A Code of Ethics serves as a framework for ethical decision-making within an organization, often emphasizing a commitment to ethical business practices and social responsibility. Conversely, a Code of Conduct is a practical guide designed to instruct employees on the proper behavior, often addressing specific scenarios.
While both are tools for guiding behavior, a Code of Ethics focuses more on the rationale behind actions, encouraging individuals to embody certain ideals. A Code of Conduct, however, stipulates specific behaviors that are acceptable or prohibited.
A Code of Ethics and a Code of Conduct often work in tandem, with the former providing a moral compass and the latter offering a map of the specific paths to take or avoid.

Comparison Chart


Principles that guide decisions and behavior
Rules that dictate specific actions


Broader, value-based
Specific, action-based


Moral compass, ethical decision-making
Behavioral guidelines, compliance


Open to interpretation
Clearly defined, less subjective


Less stringent, more aspirational
More stringent, with defined repercussions

Code of Ethics and Code of Conduct Definitions

Code of Ethics

Set of moral principles guiding behavior.
Their Code of Ethics emphasizes honesty in all dealings.

Code of Conduct

Behavioral rules necessary for organizational order.
Adherence to the Code of Conduct is mandatory for all members.

Code of Ethics

Ideals that outline expected moral conduct.
Professionals adhere to a strict Code of Ethics to maintain integrity.

Code of Conduct

Standards determining allowable behavior.
The event has a strict Code of Conduct to ensure everyone's safety.

Code of Ethics

Moral guidelines influencing choices.
Following the Code of Ethics, she reported the incident.

Code of Conduct

Prescribed guidelines for behavior.
The school's Code of Conduct prohibits bullying.

Code of Ethics

Framework for ethical decision-making.
The Code of Ethics was designed to foster a culture of respect and trust.

Code of Conduct

Specific rules dictating professional behavior.
His breach of the Code of Conduct resulted in termination.

Code of Ethics

Documented beliefs governing an organization's actions.
The company's Code of Ethics required a commitment to sustainability.

Code of Conduct

Document outlining acceptable actions in an organization.
Employees must familiarize themselves with the Code of Conduct.


Who enforces the Code of Conduct?

Usually, an internal body or committee within the organization.

Are Code of Ethics legally binding?

Generally, it's moral guidance; legal accountability depends on context.

Are violations of the Code of Conduct punishable?

Yes, they often carry defined sanctions or consequences.

Who creates the Code of Ethics?

Typically, organizational leadership or a dedicated committee.

Is a Code of Ethics only for work scenarios?

Predominantly, but they also exist in non-professional communities.

Does every profession have a Code of Ethics?

Many do, especially those with professional associations.

Is the Code of Conduct the same in every company?

No, it's tailored to each company's operations and culture.

Does a Code of Conduct cover every possible scenario?

It aims to, but unexpected situations can arise.

Can a Code of Ethics change?

It can evolve to reflect societal shifts or organizational changes.

What happens if you break the Code of Conduct?

Consequences vary: reprimand, suspension, termination, etc.

Can individuals have a personal Code of Ethics?

Absolutely, many people live by their own moral principles.

Are contractors subject to the Code of Conduct?

Usually, if working on-site or representing the company.

How often is a Code of Ethics reviewed?

Best practice is regular review, but it varies.

Is a Code of Ethics different worldwide?

Core principles are similar, but cultural nuances exist.

Can you appeal against a Code of Conduct violation?

Most organizations have a process for this.

Why is a Code of Ethics important?

It fosters trust, fairness, and integrity in practices.

Who determines what goes into a Code of Conduct?

Leadership, often with employee input and legal advice.

What if the Code of Conduct conflicts with my beliefs?

You may discuss concerns with HR, but compliance is generally expected.

Are customers subject to a business's Code of Conduct?

Generally, when on premises or using services.

Do volunteers need to follow a Code of Ethics?

Often, especially in organized volunteer programs.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.

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