Charities in the UK are consulting on a draft code of ethics for the sector.


The code is published by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO), and is part of a programme of work agreed by charities, umbrella bodies, the Charity Commission and the government. It follows this year’s revelations about sexual abuse in international aid organisations.


Intended to provide guidance regardless of a charity’s size, approach or purpose, the code aims to support charities in recognising and dealing with ethical issues and conflicts. Charities will be encouraged to make clear to the public that they are committed to adhering to the code.


Divided into four sections: putting beneficiaries first, acting with integrity, being open, and ensuring the right to be safe, it calls on charities to willingly and openly share information about how they work and operate.


It aims to promote a culture in the sector that does not tolerate harmful behaviour, and to put systems in place to ensure decisions can be made without any conflict of interest. In addition, it also asks charities to consider their responsibility to the natural environment and the sustainability of their operations.


The code’s development has been led by Dame Mary Marsh, who is chair of trustees at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, and a non-executive director of HSBC bank plc as well as former chief executive of the NSPCC, and founder and former chief executive of the Clore Social Leadership Programme.


She 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 NCVO, said:

"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 can be accessed online and responses or comments should be emailed to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. before the deadline of 26 September. Dame Marsh has also written a blog on the code, on the NCVO site.