An ethics for the lobbying profession? The role of private associations in defining and codifying behavioural standards for lobbyists in the EU

Andreea Nastase*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Web of Science)


The regulation of lobbying activities nowadays represents an internationally recognized standard of good governance. Such measures usually consist of mandatory public registers of lobbyists, meant to increase scrutiny and account-holding over the activities of lobbyists in the political and policy arena. In parallel to public regulation, industry-led initiatives have proliferated in recent years, in the form of private codes of conduct sponsored by professional lobbyists’ associations. However, existing research on lobbying regulation has largely ignored these developments. The article addresses this research gap. It proposes that codes of conduct developed by practitioners’ associations should be assessed through a professional ethics framework and tests this approach in a case study of the European Union (EU). Findings shows that, although the relationship between professionals and the beneficiaries of their services is central to the ethics of any profession, the codes of conduct developed by the EU associations neglect lobbyists’ obligations towards those whose interests they represent. Having been created in response to the threat of public regulation, these private codes sought to reassure the EU institutions of lobbyists’ integrity, leading to a narrow interpretation of ‘ethical’ lobbying as not exercising a corrupting influence over public officials or the public decision-making process.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)495–519
Number of pages25
JournalInterest Groups and Advocacy
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020


  • Lobbying ethics
  • Lobby regulation
  • Professional ethics
  • European Union
  • Code of conduct
  • LAWS

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