Ethics

Much has been written about ethics and how a company’s employees should conduct business. A discussion of ethics is critically important as this governs our conduct as well as our profession. It covers our daily conduct, your personal information, and it establishes basic values for responsible actions and practices. 


There are three parts to our business ethics; general day-to-day decision making, forest management responsibilities, and real estate behavior. The big question is, how does one define proper ethics in each area? 


General Day-to-Day Decision Making


Jib Davidson, the co-owner and certified forester of Columbia Timber Company and United Country Land & Lifestyle Properties, is a Rotarian. All Rotarians pledge to support the Four-Way Test as well as a code of conduct. 


The Four-Way Test is used by Rotarians worldwide. It serves as a moral code of conduct for both personal and business relationships.


Rotary also adopted the Declaration of Rotarians in Business and Professions to provide more specific guidelines for high ethical standards. Those standards are

  1. Consider my vocation to be another opportunity to serve
  2. Be faithful to the letter and to the spirit of the ethical codes of my vocation, to the laws of my country and to the moral standards of my community
  3. Do all in my power to dignify my vocation and to promote the highest ethical standards in my chosen vocation
  4. Be fair to my employer, employees, associates, competitors, customers, the public and all those with whom I have a business or professional relationship
  5. Recognize the honor and respect due to all occupations which are useful to society
  6. Offer my vocational talents to provide opportunities for young people, to work for the relief of the special needs of others and to improve the quality of life in my communtiy
  7. Adhere to honesty in my advertising and in all representations to the public concerning my business or profession
  8. Neither seek from nor grant to a fellow Rotarian a privilege or advantage not normally accorded others in a business or professional relationship

Forest Management Responsibilities

Number three of the Declarations of Rotarians says, in part, “…to promote the highest ethical standards in my chosen profession”. Our chosen profession is forestry, and Jib is a Certified Forester.


So, what is a Certified Forester? Five Certified Foresters are certified by the Society of American Foresters (SAF.) The Society “is the largest national scientific and educational organization representing the forestry profession in the United States”.[1] The SAF website says, in part, “Integrity, trust, dependability. SAF certification is the gold standard, recognized by the forest industry, government officials, and landowners”.[2]


The requirements to become a Certified Forester are to hold an earned baccalaureate or master’s degree from an accredited forestry degree program, have five or more years of qualifying professional forestry experience within the past ten years and complete their continuing education requirements. Most states that require registered foresters use the CF exam and requires CF status.

 

A Certified Forester is:

  1. Committed to high standards of practice
  2. Follows extensive continuing education requirements of at least 60 hours within a three-year period
  3. Demands the highest level of ethics and professional principles

Standards of Professional Practice:

  1. Follow all applicable regulations governing environmental quality and management of forest resources.
  2. Inform prospective clients or employers of the importance of conserving forest resources.
  3. Maintain environmental quality in management recommendations to prospective clients or employers.
  4. Refrain from misrepresenting or pursuing business or management practices that are detrimental to the goals of a prospective client or employer.
  5. Refrain from providing professional opinions or recommendations for areas of expertise in which the Certified Forester is not qualified and refer clients or employers to qualified professionals when such expertise is lacking.
  6. Use only truthful and clear statements in any advertising or statement of qualifications.
  7. Refrain from misrepresenting certification from SAF, or one's individual certification status, including misuse of application status, trademark, certificate, or other related credentials. Refrain from any misrepresentation on an application; willful submission of incorrect information in recertification; or failure to include relevant information in any communication to the Certification Review Board (CRB.)
  8. Meet all requirements to maintain certification.

We are proud to say that it has been our experience that almost all Certified Foresters subscribe to this simple yet important code of ethics, and we are even more proud to be a part of this endeavor.

Real Estate Behavior

Finally, most of us are licensed real estate agents and brokers. We are in good standing with the State of Florida Department of Business & Professional Regulation (DBPR) which is the agency charged with licensing and regulating real estate salesmen and brokers. Within DBPR is the Division of Real Estate known as the Florida Real Estate Commission. Real estate license law can be found in Chapter 475, Part I of the Florida Statutes.


The requirements to obtain a license to become a real estate sales associate are to have a high school diploma (or GED), take a 63-hour licensing class, and pass the state exam. There are no ethics or standards for licensed real estate sales associates or real estate brokers other than to comply with the requirements of Chapter 475.


However, a licensee has an option to join their local real estate board, sometimes called associations. There are 54 local real estate boards in Florida; more populated counties may have two boards, and less populated areas may have combined several counties into one board. The only requirement for a licensed real estate sales associate to join a local board is to pay the annual fee. They automatically become members of the National Association of Realtors, the Florida Realtors, and their local board. They also automatically become a Realtor[3]. There are no exams to become a Realtor, just pay the fee and the licensee can use the title.


Once a licensee pays the fee and becomes a Realtor, they are required to subscribe to the National Association of Realtors Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice[4]. The Code of Ethics is composed of 17 articles ranging from duties to the public, clients and customers, to the proper use of the word REALTOR. All existing Realtors are required to complete 2.5 hours of ethics training every two years. 

Citations

[1]https://www.eforester.org/Main/Certification_Education/Certified_Forester/Why_Hire_a_Certified_Professional/Main/Certification/Why_Hire_a_Certified_Professional.aspx

[2]https://www.eforester.org/Main/Certification/Certified_Forester.aspx?WebsiteKey=0605da36-47de-48f7-b626-a9e9d693e2ad  

[3]Realtor is a federally registered collective membership mark of the National Association of REALTORS. Its purpose is to identify licensed real estate associates who are members of their local real estate board and hence the National Association of Realtors. 

[4]https://www.nar.realtor/about-nar/governing-documents/code-of-ethics/2018-code-of-ethics-standards-of-practice