Research Library

Legitimacy for Codes of Ethics

There are multiple factors and sources that impact on the legitimacy of codes of ethics - whether it is seen as morally binding. It is important for codes of ethics developers to harness legitimacy when developing codes of ethics to maximise impact and efficacy. 


Author(s): Hugh Breakey

This title develops a multidisciplinary legitimacy framework, outlining ten distinct sources of legitimacy or ten ways in which codes of ethics may come to be viewed by practitioners subject to the code (duty-bearers) as morally authoritative and enhance a code’s moral significance. This draws on a wide range of literature on legitimacy from multiple fields.  

The title applies the ten sources of legitimacy to six stages of code development and implementation, describing the activities and the main practical takeaway in terms of the relevance of legitimacy sources and how to harness these. For example: how legitimacy sources attach (secure) legitimacy or fail to attach (lose) legitimacy during each stage of code of ethics development. 

The multidimensional legitimacy framework aims to empower code developers to understand how their actions impact on a code’s resulting legitimacy and to proactively consider and act on the critical legitimacy challenges and opportunities that their unique context presents when developing codes of ethics. Acknowledging there are synergies, trade-offs and tensions that arise between multiple sources of legitimacy.  

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