The CIPS Professional Code of Conduct has been updated to reflect modern business environments. Professional bodies have a role to maintain public confidence in the professions they represent and in recent years the banking crisis and other scandals have damaged the reputation of some professions. There is increased public interest these days in how professionals and the organisations they work for behave, and a demand that professionals are held to account.
We benchmarked against other professional body codes and a number of corporate codes and concluded that while the principles of the CIPS Code were still valid, there were some areas where it was falling short of current best practice.
Why is it important?
Professional integrity is at the heart of the CIPS standard alongside technical competence. It is a key element of the CIPS ‘brand’ worldwide and enables us to speak with authority on procurement ethics. We want to be able to demonstrate that our members work to the highest ethical standards and that they are held to account if they don’t. We have to make sure our Code is rigorous enough, is enforced and thereby enhances the standing of our profession.
What has been added to the Code and why?
Our Global Board of Trustees has approved an addition to the Code of Conduct which gives CIPS members a duty to promote the eradication of unethical business practices from the supply chain, specifically human rights abuses, fraud and corruption.
The purpose of this new element of the Code is to raise awareness of these issues, highlight the role of procurement in tackling them, and hold members accountable for addressing them in their own professional practice. It also aligns with our Charter objective to promote ethical procurement for the benefit of society and will help us fulfil that obligation by showing that our members are committed to making a real difference. By strengthening the Code in this way we can demonstrate that our members work to the highest ethical standards and will be held to account if they don’t.
Why has the Code been amended now?
Professional Codes of Conduct should be expected to evolve over time to remain relevant as society changes, although the guiding principles that underpin them tend to remain constant. This amendment is the latest phase of that continuing process.
Professional bodies have a role to maintain public confidence in the professions they represent and increasing media focus on supply chain failures such as the horsemeat scandal and the labour abuses exposed by the Bangladesh factory collapse has made it even more evident that our profession must take the lead in driving unethical practice in all its forms from the supply chain.
By adding this requirement for CIPS members to actively address these issues we are increasing our authority to speak publicly on all aspects of ethical procurement, and more leverage to influence corporate and government policy.
The Code now covers personal conduct, why is this relevant?
How a person behaves in their private life can have a negative impact on their professional credibility, and that can have a knock-on effect on how the public perceives the profession. The Code asks members to think about how they conduct themselves outside work and consider how this might have a positive or negative impact on their status as a professional. A way for members to test whether their personal behaviour is appropriate or not is to ask themselves if they would be comfortable explaining it to someone whose good opinion they want to maintain.
Conduct that could lead to disciplinary action might include:
- a conviction for a serious non-work related crime, such as assault, which has been reported in the press
- offensive comments or images posted on social media
It is important to emphasise that it not the purpose of the CIPS disciplinary process to judge members’ private lives. The purpose is to protect the reputation of CIPS and the procurement and supply profession. The question the Disciplinary Committee has to answer is would an informed member of the public consider the behaviour likely to damage the reputation of the profession and of CIPS by association.
How will CIPS be supporting members?
We recognise that if we are holding members to account, we must also provide help and support for those facing ethical dilemmas in their professional practice. We also acknowledge that there are industries, and parts of the world, where CIPS members are up against particular challenges. We will therefore be providing practical help:
- a comprehensive Ethical Procurement Best Practice Guide
- guidance for members on the interpretation and application of the Code of Conduct
- a strengthened disciplinary process to protect the integrity of CIPS membership
In addition, from 2014 we will enable members to demonstrate their ethical awareness and competence by taking an online ethics test. Members who complete the test successfully will be able to display the CIPS ethical procurement logo and their names will be published in an online register which will be accessible to the public.
Who do I complain to about a CIPS member’s conduct?
In the first instance, address your complaint to CIPS Customer Services (firstname.lastname@example.org). Before you do, we recommend that you check if the person is in fact a current CIPS member at the grade they claim.
How do I find out if someone is a CIPS member?
The easiest way is to check the online member register. As long as you know their name and country of residence you will be able to establish if they are a current member or not and at what grade.
How are complaints about studying members handled?
If the complaint is in connection with malpractice in student activity, such as cheating in an examination, this will be handled by the Awarding Body. The Awarding Body is empowered to investigate and apply sanctions, which could result in suspension or permanent exclusion from CIPS examinations. If the complaint is in connection with the student’s conduct as a practitioner, this will be referred to the Disciplinary Committee.
What happens next?
Allegations of breaches of the Code of Conduct are referred to CIPS’ Disciplinary Committee. The Committee will review both your complaint and the member’s response, decide whether the complaint is upheld, and then decide whether or not to apply a sanction. Sanctions can range from a written reprimand to expulsion from membership.
Where can I find out more about procurement ethics?
Information on procurement ethics and relevant legislation such as the Bribery Act can be found on the CIPS website by clicking on the 'learn more' tab above and following the links that appear.