NCVO publishes draft code of ethics for charity sector

The NCVO has today published a draft code of ethics, recommending charities operate with a ‘presumption of openness and appropriate transparency’.

The code, led by Dame Mary Marsh, is part of a major programme of work, which has been agreed by charities, umbrella bodies, the Charity Commission and the government, following a number of revelations about sexual abuse in international development.

NCVO has said it hopes the code will provide charities with "the sector’s equivalent of the Nolan Principles for public office". Charities will be encouraged to make clear to the public that they are committed to adhering to them.

The proposed principles also call on charities 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", NCVO said.

It also asks charities to consider their responsibility to the natural environment and the sustainability of their operations.

The code is a set of overarching principles and standards intended to provide guidance regardless of charity’s size, approach or purpose. It is aimed at supporting charities in recognising and dealing with ethical issues and conflicts. The code is divided into four key sections:

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

Commenting on the code, Dame Mary 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.”

NCVO chief executive Sir Stuart Etherington added: “I would like to thank Dame Mary Marsh for leading on this important work. Published today, 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 is now open to a 12-week consultation, with charities and other interested parties encouraged to submit their views.

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