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Introducing The WSCAI Business Partners’ Code Of Ethics: Raising The Bar
Last year, the WSCAI Business Partners Committee took up the subject of a Business Partners’ Code of Ethics. The subject was complex and the discussion spirited. The Committee’s engagement on the topic was prompted by the experiences of several committee members that raised ethical issues—in particular, concern that possible “pay-to-play” arrangements by some companies were preventing business partners from being fairly considered for projects. As part of its process, the Committee reviewed ethical rules applicable to CAI designations (e.g., PCAM, RS, CIRMS), practices in other CAI Chapters, and laws across the country regulating association managers and other service providers.
At the conclusion of the process, which spanned six months, the Committee unanimously concluded that a Business Partners’ Code of Ethics for the Washington State Chapter would be beneficial, and developed a Code that the Committee unanimously endorsed. The Code was later presented to the Chapter’s Board of Directors, which approved it.
Code of Ethics Features
Several features of the Code deserve mention. First, the Code is entirely voluntary. While the Committee and the Board of Directors urge business partners to adhere to it, there is no sanction for violations, and no disciplinary authority is created. Discipline for violations of ethical standards is left to the professional organizations (such as CAI National) and licensing authorities that govern particular trades and professions of CAI Business Partners.
Second, the Code applies to all types of WSCAI Business Partners and does not single out any particular service provider groups. It articulates standards which the Committee and the Board consider universal in application, based on concepts of fair competition.
The Business Partners Committee and the Board believe that the Code will serve the interests of the Chapter by providing guidance and standards for Business Partners seeking to do business with community associations. It is also hoped that the Code may provide a marketing tool, allowing WSCAI Business Partners who have pledged to follow it to distinguish themselves from non-WSCAI competitors. Most importantly, coupled with educational components, the Code is intended to help Chapter members understand what they can expect from their Business Partners and assist them in making informed choices among vendors
WSCAI Business Partners’ Code of Ethics
The WSCAI Business Partners’ Code of Ethics (“Code”) was adopted by WSCAI’s Business Partners Committee to provide guidance and standards for Business Partners in conducting business with community associations. The Code is intended to help WSCAI’s Business Partners distinguish themselves from non-WSCAI competitors by virtue of their high ethical standards and assist association members by providing standards that they may expect from WSCAI Business Partners with whom they deal. The Code is not mandatory. Rather, it is entirely voluntary for those Business Partners who agree to subscribe to its tenets. Nor are there any penalties for failure to adhere to the Code
- A business partner shall at all times conduct him/her/itself in a professional and competent manner, acting truthfully, fairly, diligently, promptly, and for a fair price.
- A business partner shall only take on as much business as he/she/it can reasonably expect to perform with professional competence and diligence.
- A business partner shall refrain from criticizing competitors or their business practices and shall refrain from making any untrue statements about the goods or services provided by competitors.
- A business partner shall not engage in any form of price-fixing, anti-trust, or anticompetitive behavior. This includes “pay-to-play” arrangements whereby a Business Partner provides valuable consideration of any kind to obtain business or a favorable position as against another Business Partner. Client or prospective client requests for such consideration shall be politely declined with reference to this Code.
- A business partner may accept from or give de minimus gifts to a client so long as such gifts are not given or accepted for the primary purpose of influencing that client’s decision to renew a contract with a Business Partner, to do business with the Business Partner, or to win business over a competing Business Partner. Business Partners should honor any limits on gift giving set by their employer or by clients to whom any gifts are given. Money should never be accepted or given as a gift.
- A business partner may pay or accept a referral fee so long as the referral fee is ethical under the standards applicable to that Business Partner’s business or profession and is disclosed to the client and the client does not object.
- A business partner shall timely disclose all actual, potential, or perceived conflicts of interest to prospective clients.
- A business partner shall not use the use the work of competitors that is considered proprietary without the express, written permission of the owner.