Framework for Ethical Decision-Making

The Framework is a step-by-step process for making ethical decisions intended for day-to-day use or for more complex decisions.

The arrows between the steps show that one step leads to another. The more you and your team use the Framework, the more skillful you become in applying it to ethical problems.

Steps in the Ethical Decision Framework, shaped in circular format with arrows pointing to each next step. The steps are: Set the Scene; Gather and Assess Information; Examine Values & Principles, Policies & Procedures; Outline Feasible Alternatives; Make the Decision and Act on it; Reflect on the Decision; The Framework can show that even after "reflecting on the decision," one can "set the scene" and go through the Framework again.

The Framework is not meant to be a restrictive structure. For instance, while working through the feasible alternatives for action, your team might become aware of a gap in factual knowledge. Ethical decisions are only as good as the information in which they are grounded. Clearly, this gap would require your team to “loopback” to reassess the facts.

For more information, please contact the Ethics Centre.

Set the Scene          

What is the problem?

What is at stake? What drives the problem?

Who is/should be involved in the decision-making process? 

Gather and Assess Information               

What is going on? What are the facts? Which are relevant? Which are in dispute? Is there missing information?

Who are the stakeholders?

Would someone outside our group describe the problem differently?

Examine Mission, Values, Principles, Policies and Procedures

Take a look at:

  • the Mission and Values of The Salvation Army in Canada & Bermuda; additional ethical values and principles upheld by your ministry unit; your profession
  • the organizational policies and procedures upheld by The Salvation Army; your ministry unit; your profession

Are any at stake or in conflict?

Are any in conflict with personally held values or principles?

Are any in conflict with other practical constraints?

Outline Feasible Alternatives      

Broadly speaking, what courses of action are available?

Evaluate each course of action against the following measures:

  • What are the foreseeable outcomes (harms and benefits)?
  • Are any rights or responsibilities being breached?
  • Would it be appropriate for others under similar circumstances to make this decision?
  • What values is this course of action based on? Is this the way someone you admire, someone with integrity would act?

Make the Decision and Act on It

Reflect on the Decision     

Monitor the effects of the decision.

Are there things you would do differently next time?

Does anyone (including you) feel their integrity has been compromised by the decision?

Should steps be taken in order that such a decision need not be made again?

Click here for a printable copy of the Framework for Ethical Decision-Making