The Ethical Branch

Dylan Saito Dylan Saito
More articles by Dylan Saito.

In the PNW, we bear witness to best management practices (BMP's), and seemingly the worst as well. I feel a tide has changed much with the climate in our industry. It appears more PNW Arborists are well-aligned with our code of ethics and BMP’s, and some may have continued to use “loopholes” to cut corners, or an assimilated professionalism to sustain a career. Whether or not you are one or the other, we must continue to learn and engage each other with “proper practices". It makes our industry stronger and respected among the world community. This may translate into greater opportunities, if desired, or more jobs/fields in which we may guide our success for the planet, or profit, or both.

I am currently working with Rosa Gutierrez (ISA Compliance Services Manager) to create a possible series of articles that share different scenarios when the ISA code of ethics is violated, what compliance or any mitigation is required, and why/how it happened. The idea is to share the story behind the complaint and resolutions the ISA and the anonymous individual came to. Full disclosure - I am not trying to oust anyone for any reason; it’s an opportunity to learn from possible/actual mistakes, and any identifying variables will be removed prior to publishing. This will hopefully create confidence to relay information to those who need a friendly reminder of how important trees are, and the people that manage them. I hope to share the first of the series in the next issue of the newsletter. Below you will find a summary of the ISA code of ethics, to help set the tone for future discussions on this topic.

The ISA Code of Ethics

The integrity, professionalism and hard work of ISA credential holders are valued and acknowledged by ISA. The ISA Code of Ethics guides and protects ISA Certified Arborists in regard to professional and ethical behavior. This is a critical distinction within the industry that supports the added level of professionalism one should expect when hiring an ISA Certified Arborist. ISA credential holders agree to follow the Code of Ethics when they sign the application for certification.

ISA credentials distinguish ISA Certified Arborists from others who have not taken the steps to become certified. While the level of knowledge and skills gained through the ISA Credentialing program sets certified arborists apart from those who are not certified, it also ensures they are held to a higher level of ethical accountability. Consumers who make the decision to hire an ISA credential holder can rest easy knowing that the individual is not only trained to perform tree work correctly, but has agreed to follow the ISA Code of Ethics when performing their work.

What is the ISA Ethics Review Committee?

Certified Arborists (CA) and Board Master Certified Arborists (BCMA), along with those who have earned various discipline-specific certifications, have agreed to be held to the ethical code of conduct and, as such, can have ethics complaints submitted against them from clients, competitors and the general public. All alleged Code of Ethics violations are reviewed by the ISA Ethics Review Committee before a Code of Ethics violation becomes official. This committee is made up of dedicated volunteers who each possess a minimum of 10 years of experience as a BCMA.

What happens when an Ethics Charge Statement is filed against a Certified Arborist or BCMA?

The Ethics Charge Statement is reviewed by the Ethics Review Committee. The committee decides if the CA or BCMA violated the ISA Code of Ethics. The case can be dismissed or approved. If dismissed, the case is closed and the complainant is informed of the decision. If the case is approved, the complainant is informed and the respondent is notified of the ethics charge filed against him or her. The respondent has two opportunities to respond to the complaint.

After all mail correspondence between the parties is completed, the case escalates to a hearing where the complainant and the respondent participate, along with the committee and legal counsel. The Ethics Review Committee decides the case, and both parties are informed of the resulting decision.

Who can file an ethics complaint?

Anyone can file a Code of Ethics complaint. The complainant is required to complete an Ethics Charge Statement and provide evidence of the sections of the ISA Code of Ethics he or she feels were violated.

Access the Code of Ethics, complaint forms, procedures and the ISA Ethics Charge Statement. Visit

For more information, please contact ISA Compliance Services Manager Rosa Gutierrez:

Office: (678) 637-0981
Cell:  (404) 405-7629

If you are interested in sharing a story or experience you have had regarding a complaint or a code of ethics violation, all identities will remain anonymous unless requested/approved to be published. Please contact me directly at