What Is an Ethical Statement?

An ethical statement is a declaration of one’s values, morals, or principles. It can either be an official or personal statement of what you believe to be right and proper. 

According to an article by the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, ethics is the field that studies the promotion and advancement of human welfare or what is considered good for humanity. Business ethics applies the same logic of how a company or organization can aim to promote good within their organization and in their business practices.   

Examples of Ethical Principles

There are hundreds of virtues that have been the subject of countless books and discussions. Just as there are hundreds of vices, there are also a lot of highly-prized virtues and values that many people strive to attain. Some examples include the following:   

Integrity: Integrity is a core value of many individuals and organizations. But it is one of the most difficult and rare attributes that a lot of people struggle with. The very foundation of character is integrity. People who have high integrity are not known for their relentless pursuit of excellence in what they do or their outward portrayal; but instead they strive for excellence in their internal life. People with integrity are considered trustworthy, credible, and their words seem to match their deeds and actions. In other words, they practice what they preach and walk their talk. Honesty: Honesty is very closely linked to integrity. You could say they are close cousins, or even siblings. A dishonest person cannot be a person with integrity. It is pretty evident that a lot of problems come from telling lies. Telling just one lie will make it easier and likelier to give birth to another lie. Because in order to cover up the first lie, you would need to mask it with another lie. And the cycle just continues on and on. History’s great philosophers and religious leaders knew what they were talking about when they said the truth will set you free. It will free you from the exhausting and distressing prison of having to maintain lies and secrets. Honesty is perhaps one of the most basic ethical principles; and that’s why it is among the first values taught to children growing up. Sincerity: Authenticity is an elusive trait nowadays. People tend to admire genuine people or someone who does not put on any pretenses or mask their true self. False advertising, misleading statements, and fake news continue to abound everywhere. It is getting harder for people to discern what’s real from the fake, especially in the digital space. Sincerity is a highly coveted value and genuine people are fast becoming an endangered species. Insincere or “fake” people tend to put on airs and mask their true intentions. It is safe to say that the world today needs more authentic and genuine-hearted people. Confidentiality: In business, confidentiality statement is a common ethical practice. The ethical use of confidentiality is not only for security reasons but stems from the need to respect each person and their right to privacy. To further illustrate, if someone confides in you and trusts you to keep their secret, the respectable thing to do is to honor that person’s wishes. If you choose to take it lightly and treat the information like it is yours, then that suggests that you do not really respect the person who has confided in you. It all boils down to treating people the right way and learning to extend the same courtesy to all people you encounter. Punctuality: A common pet peeve for a lot of people is chronic tardiness. This ethical principle goes beyond just not being late. Again, this speaks of respect or the lack of it. When people fail to honor the agreed time, it is essentially saying “I don’t respect your time” or “My time is more important than yours”. Time is a scarce resource and some would even consider it a gift. If you want to be more courteous and respectful to others, the simplest way to start is by showing up on time. Transparency: Transparency is closely related to honesty. In the public realm, civil servants and government leaders are expected to be transparent with their constituents when it comes to their policies, especially when it concerns the common good. Even in a business environment, transparency is important because it helps foster a reliable and credible system or process. Different institutions and companies have to answer to their shareholders and clients. For instance, banks and other financial institutions need transparency in their dealings to discourage fraud and other deceitful practices from perpetuating. Leaders of any field need to be forthright and transparent with their constituents and subordinates. This does not only protect their collective interests, but it helps promote other ethical values like teamwork and solidarity.

Types of Ethical Statements

As stated above, there can be official or personal ethical statements. Both encapsulate the values and principles of either an individual or an organization. There are different types of ethical statements and the following listed below are common examples:  

Business Ethical Statement: Most businesses have core values or a mission-vision statement. However, not all have ethical statements. Although some industries have little choice but to come up with one because of the nature of their business. For instance, many cosmetics and beauty companies publish ethical standards to help inform their consumers. Many makeup products are labeled cruelty-free, meaning it was not tested on animals. This is considered an ethical decision and practice in the industry. For decades, products were usually tested on animals prior to clinical or human trials. And questions of ethical standards are not just limited to the beauty industry. Another example would be regarding treatment of employees and how ethical a company’s labor code is. Despite societal progress and the advancement of technology, there are still millions of workers around the world suffering from poor working conditions and unlivable wages. Unethical business practices are a persistent societal and economical problem because of the way it breeds inequality and poverty that consequently reduces the quality of life for millions of underprivileged people. Personal Ethical Statement: Anyone can have a personal ethical statement or a moral code to live by. But in order for it to work, you must allow your ethical statement to seep into every aspect of your life. Ethics is not something you can simply compartmentalize and bring out only when you need it or when it is convenient for you. Ethics does not work that way. It is an all-encompassing process and lifelong journey. If your personal commitment to yourself is to practice honesty and compassion, then it should be applied to everything- your relationships, career, family, etc. It is not easy to keep a strict moral code. But if practiced enough, it can bring you fulfillment, meaning, and inner peace. Research Ethical Statement: Research and development is an important department in many industries. Medicine, technology, health sciences, computer science, and other relevant fields all conduct research to seek knowledge and advance their field. For anyone in the business of furthering knowledge, an ethical code is needed to guide the processes and decision-making. Data collection and research methods require a certain level of ethical behavior. For example, the scientific method of experimenting and data gathering is practiced in many laboratories. Without an ethical code, it is possible that a scientist’s methods may not be properly regulated and this could lead to multiple abuses and harmful practices. In the case of a scientist and an experiment participant, ethical boundaries must be in place in order to preserve the dignity and free will of the volunteer or participant. Marketing Ethical Statement: Today, false advertising and fraudulent selling practices are rampant. It is so widespread that consumers nowadays have difficulty distinguishing the real from the fake. The perpetuation of falsehoods to mislead customers and consumers for the sake of profit is an ethical problem at its core. Establishing an ethical statement could help mitigate any opportunity for market exploitation and manipulation. Values like trust, safety, and even consent must be promoted in the fields of marketing and branding proposals.

How to Create an Ethical Statement

Creating an ethical statement demands internal dialogue. It requires a certain amount of self-reflection. Even for businesses, business owners and managers need to use not just reason to uncover their values, but a solid sense of right and wrong. The following steps will help you create a statement that truly reflects your principles: 

Step 1: Take Time to Reflect 

Perhaps the most important step is to ask yourself what principles and values you are willing to live by. Don’t just write an ethical statement for the sake of having one. It must be born out of the genuine desire to do good by others. It is easy to be self-serving and look out only for your interests and your family’s. But the very essence of ethical statements is to challenge people to go beyond themselves, see the bigger picture, and promote the common good.  

Step 2: Be Specific 

Your ethical statement should be grounded in reality and it must be within the context of your own situation. Since ethical principles and values are abstract in nature, you can complement these with concrete situations and scenarios. For example, if your ethical statement on customer service speaks of openness and constant improvement, you can briefly explain that your business is dedicated to taking in all feedback from clients and customers- even the negative ones.      

Step 3: Be Bold

Ethical statements should not shy away from the truth. Being bold in your statements will show your drive and conviction. If you feel strongly about a principle, there is no reason for you to hide it. Just make sure to use the proper language and tone. You still want to keep it professional-sounding, especially if your ethical statement is for business-related reasons.    

Step 4: Keep it Brief

You want to avoid overly long statements. Keep your ethical declaration brief and straightforward. Practice clarity and precision in phrasing your ethical statement. You want to identify and enumerate no more than a couple of values, then you can proceed to explain each value with the right supporting ideas and examples.   


What should an ethical statement include?

An ethical statement should include your convictions and moral code. It must describe your highest values and how you intend to apply these to your situation and context. But before you can write any ethical statement, you must first have a firm grip on what your values and principles are.

What are some examples of ethics?

Some of the more common examples of ethics are selflessness, responsibility, integrity, loyalty, compassion, empathy, honesty, trustworthiness, and fairness.

What is an ethics statement in research?

It outlines the ethical practices in conducting research. Every stage in research from data analysis collection to experimentation needs to meet humane standards and a certain ethical criteria. This is especially applicable in scenarios where the scientific method or process is used.

Knowing what is right from wrong may seem basic on the surface, but nothing can be harder. It is easy for people to say “Do the right thing.”. But in reality, doing the right thing can be quite challenging. Ethical statements can serve as a person’s North Star, especially when the sky is dark. It can be that light guiding you to make the right decisions. Create your own ethical statement by downloading and customizing a sample template above!