HR and Ethics Collaboration

The roles of a company’s Human Resources (HR) and Ethics functions often overlap, making it important that the two functions communicate and collaborate with each other.

So concludes the U.K.’s Institute of Business Ethics (IBE), in a recent report that also draws on earlier work by the U.S. Conference Board (2009) and the Ethics Resource Center (2008).

Here are some ways that HR and Ethics can work together, according to the IBE’s report “Collaboration between the Ethics Function and HR.”

The Code of Ethics:

Because a code of ethics draws on company policies and procedures, current employment and compliance laws and regulations, and employee concerns, HR and Ethics should work together to update the content.  HR can also assist with internal dissemination and communication.

Recruitment and Exit Interviews:

HR is often the first stop for job applicants and the last stop for employees who are leaving the company.  The first “Stop” provides an opportunity for HR to answer questions and provide information about the company’s ethics policies and practices; the second enables HR to monitor the effectiveness of the ethics program by asking related questions.  HR and Ethics should work together to create the right messages and questions.


HR often delivers or at least oversees new employee orientation (or induction, as IBE calls it.)  This is another opportunity to inform and educate new employees about the company’s culture, expectations, and related resources, such as an ethics hotline.  What a great opportunity for the Ethics function to participate.


As the IBE report says so well, “Ensuring all training sessions include a focus on expected behaviors is a key way to ensure that ethical values are understood and applied by employees and ethical conduct is not viewed as an ‘add on’.” This is an opportunity too often overlooked by both HR and Ethics.

Internal Communications:

HR is often the owner of internal communication channels (Newsletters, social media, the company intranet, etc.), and as such as work with Ethics function to plan and deliver ethics-related messages throughout the year.  The more these messages are coordinated with other work-related messages, the more effective they will be at influencing employee behavior.

These are some of the ways that HR and Ethics functions can work together to promote an ethical company culture. The IBE report provides other examples as well.

Ethical Advocate can also provide advice and guidance on ethics-related matters. Please contact us if you have questions.


“Are Ethics Officers and HR Professionals Kindred Spirits? An Interview with Paula Desio, ERC’s Chair for Ethics Policy,” HR Management, December 2008,

Berenbeim, Ronald E. Working at the Intersection of Human Resources, Ethics, and Compliance – The Need for Collaboration, Conference Board Report, October 2009.

Institute of Business Ethics. “Collaboration between the Ethics Function and HR,” Business Ethics Briefing, Issue 40, April 2014.