Lesson 112: How and why to develop your own translation code of ethics?

Lesson 112: How and why to develop your own translation code of ethics?

Increasingly and among a larger variety of professions, companies and solo entrepreneurs alike adopt codes of ethics for their businesses. The partial reason for it is the overall dramatic increase in the ethical expectations of businesses and professions: customers, clients and employees expect commercial entities to act ethically.

But codes of ethics are not there just because companies are expected to put them in place. They actually help define acceptable behaviours and promote high standards of practice, and establish a framework for professional behaviour and responsibility. On a more pragmatic side, codes of ethics work as vehicles for professional identity and brand, and ultimately are perceived as a sign of maturity of a business.

You may or may not find developing your own translation code of ethics useful as a separate document, but there are some elements of the process that undoubtedly can contribute to the way you run and present your freelance business. In small businesses like ours, a code of ethics usually reflects our own morals or values and help communicate them across to the public and our clients. If you want to develop your own code of ethics, start with a statement of values first. Dedicate some time to brainstorming to answer the following questions:

  • What values are unique to your mission?
  • What values should every translation professional and any professional in general uphold?
  • What values should guide your operations?

Try to find value statements of other players in the industry, from associations to big translation agencies and see what they’ve included. Then, think about what’s most important for you and your business, and narrow all ideas down to the essential core values. Allocate some time to write it all up, leave it on a side and come back to your value statement a few days later. Using your value statement as a base, now you can develop your code of ethics to see how you can turn them into practice. Look into areas such as:

  • Personal and professional integrity
  • Mission
  • Management
  • Conflict of interest
  • Legal compliance
  • Openness Inclusiveness and diversity
  • Other areas of particular importance to your business

These points should contain practical actions that guide what you do and don’t do. Once again, allocate some time to write up your translation code of ethics. After you’ve written up your code, you can use it internally, meaning that you can refer to it and abide by it yourself, or you can put it up on your website to send signals out to other stakeholders and clients.

What do you think? Would you find a code of ethics useful? Internally or externally?


  1. Christina McGown , on Apr 29, 2015 at 15:04 Reply

    I think this is a great idea, Marta. I’d say I have about half of my code of ethics in my head and other times I’m having to think a lot about my actions in certain situations. However, you are right in that it needs to be written down for referral and consistency. This will be my next goal. Thanks, Marta.
    Kind regards,

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