Code of Ethics

The IECA Code of Ethics reflects the understanding that ethical and effective oral, written and visual communication is essential to all efforts to sustain and improve local, regional and global environments. Because existing and potential environmental issues are by definition communal, they must be engaged through honest and open debate inclusive of all global participants. Ethical communication in the public sphere requires high standards of conduct. The IECA Code of Ethics seeks to identify these standards in broad terms and reinforce the need for environmental communicators to recognize the broad social and ideological implications of their actions on human and other constituents of the natural world.

Core Ethical Values:

  1. Openness
    1. Freedom of expression
      1. All communication that conforms to the core values of ethical environmental communication should be encouraged and welcomed.
      2. Informed decision-making requires that all voices and ideas can be heard.
      3. Barriers to the free flow of information should be actively discouraged.
    2. Transparency
      1. Ethical environmental communication requires the explicit identification of all sponsors and/or interests that support that communication.
      2. The uses of euphemism, front groups or other methods of false representation run counter to the values of transparency and honesty (see item 2.a.) and should be actively avoided.
      3. The methods, tactics and measures used in the development of environmental communication should be clearly explained within the communication when practical, or made available promptly upon request.
      4. Withholding of relevant information violates the value of transparency. All the contextual information required for a full and reasonable interpretation of the communication should be included in the communication.
      5. Evidence provided to support arguments within a communication should be specific and verifiable, with attribution and citation pursuant to Item 3.c. below.
    3. Disclosure/conflicts of interest
      1. Environmental communicators should disclose any direct personal, professional or financial interests that relate directly to their communication activities.
      2. As environmental communicators must not only act ethically but be seen to do so, activities and behaviors that may appear to compromise good judgment or integrity related to environmental communication should also be avoided.
  2. Honesty
    1. Truthfulness
      1. The net impression of ethical environmental communication should not create a false belief or beliefs about the impact or relationship of a person, entity, policy, activity, product or anything else (collectively in this section, a “Subject”) on or to the environment. This includes the use of overstatements and exaggerations, or implying that the specific impact or relationship of a Subject to the environment extends to an entire entity of any kind.
      2. Vague and non-specific statements regarding the impact or relationship of a Subject to the environment should be avoided. General claims are only considered appropriate if they can be made without qualification to apply in all circumstances. Impacts and relationships that are more specific or limited in nature should be clearly, prominently and proximally qualified in accessible and understandable language.
      3. Deceptive practices such as lies, deliberate omissions, scare tactics and bait-and-switch appeals must be avoided.
    2. Accuracy
      1. Ethical environmental communication requires commitment to the presentation of clear, unambiguous and verifiable facts.
      2. Rumor, speculation and hearsay should not form the basis of communication or the supporting evidence for arguments.
      3. It is the responsibility of the communicator to evaluate and assess the reliability of information used or secondary research cited in a communication.
    3. Expertise
      1. Environmental communicators must responsibly acquire, interpret, explain and employ advanced knowledge appropriate to the communication, whether it concerns the sciences, technical matters, arts, humanities, culture, local communities or any other area.
      2. Environmental communicators must appreciate and demonstrate cultural understanding in addition to technical and scientific knowledge.
      3. Expertise is obtained through continued personal and professional development, research and education, as well as through lived experience. Ethical environmental communicators must give appropriate information for their audiences and co-communicators to evaluate their specific level of expertise in relation to the subject at hand.
      4. Skilled technical, scientific, arts, humanities, cultural and community-based resources should be consulted when an issue-area is beyond the full understanding of the communicator.
  3. Respect
    1. Environmental communication should begin with a respect for the Earth, its ecosystems and all life, whether human or otherwise. This respect can be demonstrated by attempting to minimize harm and increase fairness toward all living beings as moral claimants.
    2. Diversity of opinion should be encouraged and welcomed, including those of the marginalized and the voiceless in society. Part of this inclusiveness involves taking into account the interests of all species, human or otherwise, who are impacted by the subject at hand.
    3. Ethical environmental communication should clearly, prominently and proximally acknowledge the ideas and intellectual property of others that are directly or indirectly used in the communication.
    4. The privacy of autonomous individuals should be respected in all cases. Prior consent should be obtained before disclosing any material non-public information about any other individual or organization.
    5. The confidentiality of sources and research participants who have not agreed to be identified should be ensured.
    6. In the case of issues that elicit strong differences of opinion, communication should focus on relevant issues. Impugning the personality, intellect, character or motives of others violates the value of respect.
  4. Accountability
    1. Ethical environmental communicators should stand behind and accept responsibility for their activities and proactively seek to correct any mistakes.
    2. Membership in, respect for, and adherence to the decisions of relevant self-regulatory organizations is promoted and encouraged.
    3. Ethical environmental communication should be open to public scrutiny and evaluation.


Among the core values of The IECA Code of Ethics are freedom of expression and respect for diversity of opinion. Therefore, compliance with this Code is voluntary. The first goal of the Code of Ethics is to improve understanding and awareness of the ethical dimensions of environmental communication. However, the Board of Directors of The IECA retains the right to bar from membership or expel any individuals or organizations that have been sanctioned or convicted for behavior not in compliance with the Code by a court of law, governmental agency or recognized self-regulatory entity to which such sanctioned parties are subject.

Adopted May 2013