Christine O’Rourke, Head of Conduct Standards at RICS outlines key proposed changes in the consultation
Head of Conduct Standards
With new priorities impacting the built and natural environment, we would like feedback on how we evolve the rules that underpin how RICS professionals, students, trainees and regulated firms operate to ensure they remain trusted and future fit.
Society and business practices have changed since these rules were last updated in 2007 and extensive research by RICS has identified escalating risks and opportunities which need to be reflected within them. These include climate change, technology, global applications of professional ethics, and maintaining and developing competence.
In 2019, RICS established a working group that has since engaged with members and stakeholder groups globally to develop proposals for one clear document combining the standards of ethical and professional behaviour, so that RICS professionals have one clear framework.
1. A new simplified structure
Our aim is to make the rules as simple as possible to ensure that they are clear, and professionals and firms understand how to comply with them. We also want to make it easier for clients and the public to know what to expect from RICS professionals.
The five rules consolidate the existing Global Professional and Ethical Standards and incorporate new rules about maintaining continuing competence and providing good service to clients. We are also including example behaviours under each rule to provide additional description of how to comply with the rules.
All of the rules apply to both members and firms, as do most of the new example behaviours*, so we suggest it is simpler to provide a single document, rather than two which would have only small differences.
2. Clear examples of expected behaviours
We propose to include example behaviours under each rule to illustrate how complying with the rule and behaving in line with the ethical principle could be demonstrated.
We want the rules to support professional judgement, so these example behaviours are not an exhaustive list or prescriptive. They are intended to help professionals, firms and the public understand what is meant by the concepts in the rules.
3. Incorporating sustainability
Throughout our engagement with members, we have heard that many clients want advice on how to act sustainably, and in an RICS commissioned survey**, the majority of respondents said industry bodies should be doing more to tackle climate change. We have incorporated this into some of the behaviours.
The working group has also spent time considering how to reflect RICS’ commitment to the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the effect that positive ethical practice by our members and firms could have on the built and natural environment and on communities affected by their work.
4. Supporting the use of technology
There are a number of ethical risks arising from an increased use of technology and how RICS members ensure the reliability of outputs from technology. There are also risks from the volume of data that firms may collect, in particular around the right to use this data and appropriate consent from clients.
With this in mind, we have used the behaviours in the rules to clarify that part of providing a good service to clients is the efforts that RICS professionals and firms make to understand these risks and take reasonable steps to ensure that data is used properly and reliably.
One of the rules covers treating people with respect and courtesy. This rule sets expected behaviours for non-discrimination, tackling modern slavery and encouraging diversity and inclusion. We appreciate that these may be approached differently depending on the legal systems and cultural norms in different countries, but we believe that these are important elements underpinning professional ethics. We are therefore keen to receive more feedback on how this ethical principle should be reflected in the new rules.
The new Rules of Conduct are open for consultation until 7 December 2020, and we invite all RICS professionals, customers and other stakeholders to take part. You can read more detail on the proposals and submit your feedback via our consultation portal.
* Five behaviours will relate to firms only.
**RICS commissioned YouGov survey in October 2019 among 2095 members of the UK public. 65% said that industry bodies should be doing more to tackle climate change.
Watch this webinar explaining the proposed new rules, why we are updating them , and how our panel of professionals believe the new rules will impact your work