Voluntary Codes Guide - Summary of Key Points

Summary of Key Points

  1. Codes may be initiated for a variety of reasons but should not delay needed laws. Research suggests that codes are typically developed in response to consumer and competitive pressures, the threat of a law or regulation, or an opportunity for social improvement. While voluntary codes can be useful supplements and forerunners to statutes and regulations, and may have significant legal implications, they should not delay needed laws.
  2. Look before leaping. Before initiating or participating in a code initiative, all parties should thoroughly investigate the advantages and disadvantages of involvement. They should explore, at a minimum, the likelihood of the code's success, financial and other benefits, costs, the time and energy required to make the code work, and the potential results if the code fails.
  3. Be clear about objectives and roles from the outset. To prevent problems arising later, proponents should articulate as early in the code development process as possible a clear statement of the code's objectives and the roles, rights and responsibilities of all parties.
  4. Involve all affected interests. Early, regular consultation with all potentially affected parties and the meaningful involvement of key stakeholders can increase the likelihood of a code's success. The credibility and legitimacy of a code may be enhanced by the meaningful participation of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the development, implementation and review stages. Proponents should be prepared for the possibility of having to pay NGOs for their expertise and time. Government agencies should also be consulted as early as possible, since codes frequently have regulatory implications (for example, in the areas of consumer, competition and corporate law, workplace health and safety, and the environment).
  5. Be sure the code addresses all aspects necessary to ensure compliance. The code should address monitoring and reporting requirements, dispute-resolution mechanisms, incentives for code compliance and sanctions for non-compliance, and review and amendment procedures.
  6. Emphasize fair, consistent and transparent implementation. A code must be implemented in a fair, consistent, transparent manner to achieve maximum buy-in from all parties, deliver maximum benefits and protect the reputations of everyone concerned. Each code adherent should designate officials within its ranks to be responsible for compliance, and train and educate field-level employees so that they can carry out their responsibilities. Industry associations, NGOs, affected parties, the general public and government agencies can all play important roles.
  7. Be patient and flexible. Rigorous terms, 100 percent buy-in and full compliance may not be feasible at the outset. Rather, an incremental approach may be necessary, which involves leading by example, transition periods and phased-in commitments over time.

Where Can I Get More Help?

This Guide is intended to be a source of information and encouragement for those interested in developing and implementing voluntary codes. To explore the subject in more depth, several source exist:

  • For more information on the Voluntary Codes Project, including summaries of research papers and case studies, interactive conferencing and an inventory of voluntary codes, visit the voluntary codes section, or phone 1-613-946-2576.
  • For further information on regulatory alternatives, visit the Treasury Board Secretariat's Web site or phone 613-957-2400.
  • For information regarding standards and standards organizations, visit the Standards Council of Canada Web site or phone 1-800-267-8220.
  • For information on the Competition Act, visit the Competition Bureau Web site or phone 1-800-348-5358.
  • For research studies on non-regulatory approaches, including voluntary codes prepared by non-governmental organizations, contact the Consumers' Association of Canada by telephone at 613-238-2533, visit the Web site of the Public Interest Advocacy Centre or phone the Centre at 613-562-4002.
  • For information on consumer attitudes to voluntary codes, and on partnerships between consumer groups and business, contact the Consumers' Council of Canada by telephone at 905-713-2740 or by e-mail: CCC@tvo.org.


If you have suggestions for improving this Guide, or any questions or comments, please send them to:

Office of Consumer Affairs
Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada
West Tower
235 Queen Street
Ottawa ON K1A 0H5
Tel.: 613‑946‑2576
Fax: 613‑952‑6927

Thank you. Your assistance is appreciated.

Previous Table of Contents Next

Date modified: