Philosophy 196 - 10.3.1 Codes of Ethics

A business is defined as an organization that engages in selling goods and services with the intent to make a profit. Governments generally restrict the activities of businesses through laws and regulations. To ensure that their members act in accordance with these laws and regulations and to meet additional goals that reflect the values of the societies in which they operate, businesses often create a code of ethics. These codes outline what actions are and are not permissible for an organization and for its individual employees. They address concrete matters, such as bribery, discrimination, and whistleblowing, while also laying out guidelines for how to accomplish environmental and social goals and how to build and maintain trust and goodwill.

Businesses are not the sole entities, however, that issue such codes of ethics. Professional organizations serving specific groups, such as nurses and teachers, also issue these codes, and members must study them and commit to abide by them in order to be qualified as members of these professional organizations. Within the fields of science and technology, for example, the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers Computer Society (IEEE-CS) provides a wealth of resources for computer science and engineering professionals, including education, certification, research, and career and solutions centers. In 2000, the IEEE-CS adopted the Software Engineering Code of Ethics and Professional Practice, which defines the ethical obligations of software engineers. These obligations include a commitment to approve software only if it meets certain specifications and passes appropriate tests, is deemed safe, and does not threaten to diminish the quality of human life, impinge on privacy, or harm the environment (IEEE-CS/ACM Joint Task Force 2001). Determining what would constitute outcomes such as diminishing the quality of life or impinging on privacy ties these concrete codes of ethics to larger questions that involve normative moral theories and political debate.

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