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Consultation open on draft code of ethics

Consultation open on draft code of ethics

A 12-week consultation has opened on a draft code of for the charity sector.

The draft code, led by Dame Mary Marsh and published by NCVO, is part of a major programme of work agreed by charities, umbrella bodies, the and the government, following revelations about sexual abuse in international development.

It calls on charities to willingly share information about how they work and to operate with ‘a presumption of openness and appropriate transparency’, as well as to promote a culture that does not tolerate harmful behaviour, and to put systems in place to ensure decisions are free from conflict of interest. It also asks charities to consider their responsibility to the natural environment and the sustainability of their operations.

The code is intended to provide guidance regardless of a charity’s size, approach or purpose, and to support charities in recognising and dealing with ethical issues and conflicts.

It is divided into four key sections:

  • Putting beneficiaries first
  • Acting with integrity
  • Being open
  • Ensuring the right to be safe 

A Chair of trustees at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, and a Non-Executive Director of HSBC Bank as well as former Chief Executive of the NSPCC, and founder and former Chief Executive of the Clore Social Leadership Programme, Dame Marsh said:

No one who has read recent revelations about safeguarding and behaviour at work within the charity sector could fail to be shocked. They have prompted a recognition from the sector that more needs to be done.

“This code of ethics is not just about safeguarding, its ambition is much bigger. It is designed to encourage charities to reflect on their current policies and practice, to fire further debate on key issues, to show the sector’s commitment to ethical principles, and most importantly to help prevent problems ever arising again.”

Sir Stuart Etherington, Chief Executive of , said:

“I would like to thank Dame Mary Marsh for leading on this important work. Published alongside an ACEVO report on leading safer cultures, the code of ethics is part of a wider piece of work that shows collaboration and commitment from across the sector to address head-on the issues that have arisen in recent months. I encourage organisations to take this opportunity to respond to the draft code, and be a part of this sector-wide push for safer practices.”

The draft code can be accessed online and responses or comments should be emailed to before the deadline of 26 September. Dame Marsh has also written a blog on the code, on the NCVO site.

Melanie May is a journalist and copywriter specialising in writing both for and about the charity and marketing services sectors since 2001. She can be reached via

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