Ethical values provide the moral compass by which we live our lives and make decisions – 'doing the right thing' because it’s the right thing to do.

The way we make decisions is important for organisations because the wrong decisions – or decisions which have been implemented badly – can have a significant impact on people’s lives and the reputation of organisations. So when we make decisions based on good principles, and live by good values, we can improve the lives of others and the experiences they have at work.

Even when a decision isn’t going to have positive outcomes for everyone, we can manage it in the best way possible by behaving ethically in the way we carry out that decision, and in the way we treat people.

We can do this by considering different ethical perspectives in our decision-making, challenging others on their decisions, being transparent about what we’re doing and why, and role-modelling our professional values, principles and integrity.

In an era of increased transparency, perceptions are that unethical behaviour is increasing. As well as role modelling ethical behaviour individually, the people profession is often tasked with being the ethical conscience of an organisation. As a professional, habitual ethical practice is intrinsic in decision making and navigating dilemmas.

Internally, establishing a culture of ethical practice improves morale and reduces risks that arise from unethical practice. On a macro level, reputable ethical practice not only contributes towards good relations with customers, but has proven to impact financial performance."

Tina Russell, Professional Conduct Manager, CIPD

Ethical practice standards

Each standard progresses through four levels of impact. Which level do you most embody in your day-to-day work?

Foundation level Associate level Chartered Member level Chartered Fellow level
At this level you will: At this level you will: At this level you will: At this level you will:
Ethical decisions Consider how professional principles and values inform your approach Make responsible choices about your work, applying professional principles and values Make responsible decisions by considering different ethical perspectives, and finding the best possible way forward for all stakeholders Make responsible decisions by balancing different ethical perspectives, and shape how ethics inform wider decision-making and governance
Impact of decisions Take responsibility for your actions Consider the purpose and implications of actions, decisions and people practices for all stakeholders Coach and influence managers and leaders to consider the implications of their decisions on stakeholders Coach and influence senior leaders to consider the ethical impact of their decisions in the short and long term
Ethics and law Act consistently with relevant regulation and law Raise concerns about people practices and policies which are not consistent with values or legislation Challenge decisions and actions which are not ethical, explaining the organisation risks Take a visible lead in solving ethical dilemmas, considering how they will play out beyond the organisation
Transparency Handle personal data and information in a professional manner Provide explanations and reasons for the choices you make and the advice you provide Encourage transparency in decision-making and communication where possible Surface the unsaid in leadership discussions to enable transparency and improved decision-making
Integrity Demonstrate honesty in dealings with others Demonstrate professionalism and consistency in what you say and do in order to build trust Visibly and consistently role-model professional principles, values and personal integrity to build trust Role-model and promote ethical leadership and professional principles and values in organisations and the wider profession

Learning Hub

Ethical
practice course

This course explains the importance of ethical practice. It will help you to develop this key behaviour to achieve positive outcomes in your role.

Callout Image

Tools and resources to help you develop

Assess your level, choose
your learning

Use our self-assessment tool to assess yourself against any area of the Profession Map. We’ll recommend relevant learning and resources to help you create your own professional development pathway. 

Callout Image

Next: Professional courage and influence

Showing courage to speak up and influencing skillfully to gain buy-in

Continue to Professional courage and influence

The Profession Map

Download the full set of standards
PDF document 491.5 KB

Explore our related content

Guides
Ethics at work: An employer’s guide

Red flags, practical resources and action points for employers looking to foster ethical values in their organisations

A thumbnail image of a woman and man in conversation
Guides
Supporting your workforce through a crisis event

Key considerations and resources to help you support your people in exceptional times

Thought leadership
Responsible business: Leading the way

A thought leadership and podcast series exploring how responsible business and leadership have changed since the pandemic

Thought leadership
Building responsible leadership for the future

We discuss how leading through crisis has shaped the way we address new challenges

See our Ethical Practice hub
The Profession Map

Make the most of the Profession Map

The Profession Map is for everyone in our profession – individuals and teams, members and non-members. Learn more about the Profession Map and how you can use it. 

Explore the Profession Map

Explore the purpose, values, knowledge and behaviours at the heart of our profession

How to use the Profession Map

How the international standard works for all people professionals

Find your level with the Profession Map

Find your current level of knowledge and experience and the next step in your career

Profession Map FAQs

Check out our FAQs on the Profession Map, membership, and qualifications

The Profession Map overview