In response to the corporate scandals of the 1990s, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 began requiring public companies to disclose whether they have adopted a code of ethics. While compliance is voluntary for privately held companies, some have chosen to adopt and disclose their own code of ethics. In that vein, the American Subcontractors Association, Alexandria, Va., has approved its “Model Code of Ethics for a Construction Subcontractor” to help subcontractors stay on the straight and narrow.

The organization hopes that contractors and suppliers will adapt the code to their own needs and use it as a starting point for creating change within their companies. ASA's code discusses 11 areas of ethical concern for subcontractors, including competition, qualifications, standards of practice, conflicts of interest, public safety, service providers and suppliers, employees, public information, compliance with laws, image of the construction industry, and internal procedures.

The values and behaviors fostered in the company will most likely come from the top down. However, it's just as important to discuss the meaning of the code with employees to see how it applies to specific instances of behavior the company hopes to encourage or discourage. For example, a list of discouraged behaviors will likely include: falsifying time, padding expense reports, hiring undocumented workers, pilfering company materials and supplies, concealing errors, not reporting violations of company and industry standards, and taking longer than necessary to do the job. The list of encouraged behaviors will likely include truth-telling, praise for accomplishments and enforcement of company policy, and adherence to legal and industry standards.

To download ASA's “Model Code of Ethics for a Construction Subcontractor,” visit


  • Competing fairly for contracts
  • Adhering to accepted standards of practice
  • Avoiding conflicts of interest
  • Assuring the safety of employees, other's employees on the job site, and the general public
  • Interacting with suppliers in an equitable manner and using honesty and integrity in dealing with customers
  • Complying with federal, state, and local laws
  • Making truthful public statements and disclosures
  • Complying with other laws and industry standards
  • Upholding the image and standards of the construction industry