Two of the Core Competencies listed by the International Coaches Federation (ICF) are categorized as Setting the Foundation. The first of these is Meeting Ethical Guidelines and Professional Standards. The ICF makes clear that the Core Competencies are all equally important, so the listing is simply a progression through the coaching process.
In support of this competency, the ICF publishes a Code of Ethics. Many coach training programs and many coaches provide and subscribe to a Code of Ethics; because the coaching industry is uncontrolled, not all do. Professionals of most industries promote ethical guidelines and have a process for ensuring clients are protected by providing an avenue for addressing concerns. It is important that coaches subscribe to a cohesive standard for the professionalism of the coaching industry and the quality of services.
The ethics of a professional coach address professional conduct at large, conflicts of interest, professional conduct with clients, and confidentiality.
Significantly, subscribing to the Code of Ethics means that professional coaches understand and clearly communicate the difference between coaching and other helping professions including consulting, mentoring, or mental health. Quality training programs teach the difference and develop a coaching-specific approach.
Additionally, because clients share significant and personal information during a coaching relationship, addressing confidentiality in the Code of Ethics is of the utmost importance to the coaching client.