ICAS services that help you put professional ethics first
James Barbour CA, Director, Policy Leadership, and Ann Buttery CA, Head of Ethics, explain the ICAS services that help you put professional ethics first
At the start of 2021, ICAS introduced mandatory ethics CPD for all members to highlight the necessity of keeping the issue at the forefront of their mind. The first ethics CPD declaration of compliance sign-off was required in the 2022 annual return.
The CPD does not involve compulsory attendance at ethics courses or the purchase of related material, and there is no requirement to achieve a certain number of hours or points. However, CAs do need to be able to demonstrate within their CPD return how they have maintained their knowledge and awareness of ethics-related matters during the year. This could simply involve some relevant reading, including from the material freely available online at icas.com and other websites.
In addition to its Code of Ethics, ICAS has a series of publications, guidance and resources as part of the Power of One initiative. The institute also keeps members up to date with related news articles and webinars.
Code of Ethics
ICAS has now adopted a revised Code of Ethics to incorporate the International Ethics Standards Board for Accountants (IESBA) revisions promoting the role, mindset and behavioural characteristics expected of all professional accountants.
The 2022 revisions to the code encapsulate several of the ethics themes ICAS has been focusing on in recent years, in particular moral courage, the impact of technology, organisational culture and the importance of “speak up” mechanisms within organisations.
New application material has been added to the fundamental ethics principle of integrity to emphasise that, for professional accountants, this includes having the strength of character to act appropriately even when faced with challenging circumstances.
This new material contains the substance of the concept of “moral courage” which was first introduced into the ICAS Code of Ethics in 2017. Moral courage is regarded by ICAS as an enabler – an underpinning qualitative characteristic – which enhances CAs’ ability to comply with the fundamental principles of their profession. This is discussed further in ICAS’ Moral Courage publication – part of the Power of One initiative.
The impact of technology is now explicitly recognised within two fundamental ethics principles. The first of these, objectivity, now highlights the risk that over-reliance on technology could impair a CA’s ability to act even-handedly.
The second – professional competence and due care – has been amended to highlight the importance of ensuring knowledge is also up to date with technology, as it relates to the profession: “Maintaining professional competence requires a continuing awareness and an understanding of relevant technical, professional, business and technology-related developments.”
IESBA has also established a technology task force which is exploring in greater detail the impact of technology on the code, so further amendments in this field should be expected in due course. Indeed, IESBA will issue an exposure draft on proposed changes early this year.
In addition, a separate IESBA technology working group has been helping facilitate a wider review of the implications of new and emerging technologies. In June 2021, ICAS, together with the Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada and the International Federation of Accountants, released the first in a series of four thought leadership pieces to help guide financial professionals – Complexity and the professional accountant: Practical guidance for ethical decision-making.
The second paper in the series, Technology is a double-edged sword with both opportunities and challenges for the accountancy profession, was published in December. As ethical leaders, CAs have a key role to play in helping organisations and clients navigate the changes brought on by new technology in an ethical manner. To do so, CAs need to respect both positive and negative impacts of technology, actively pursuing opportunities while safeguarding against challenges.
The paper concludes with steps that CAs and professional bodies such as ICAS can take to help organisations harness technology and innovate, while purposefully considering and addressing ethics implications from the outset.
3. Organisational culture
New application material is also inserted to highlight the importance of an ethical organisational culture.
The new provisions are in line with the Power of One themes, recognising the importance of individual ethical leadership within organisations. ICAS’ Organisational Culture and Values publication echoes the sentiments in the new provisions highlighting the importance of a culture of “doing the right thing”.
4. Speaking up
The new provisions in the code also highlight the importance of speak-up mechanisms within organisations. As discussed in the ICAS research publications, Speak up? Listen up? Whistleblow?, which documented the experiences of members when encountering ethical dilemmas, being able to speak up is a vital pillar of an effective organisational culture, allowing issues to be dealt with before they escalate.
Following on from this research, in November 2021 ICAS published new guidance focusing on the importance of organisations “listening” to employees when they speak up – Organisational Culture: The Importance of Listening.
Here to help
ICAS ethics resources – including the Code of Ethics, publications and guidance, case studies, research, news articles and webinars – are all available on icas.com.
If you have an ethical query, ICAS has the Ethics Helpline Service. ICAS is also partnered with whistleblowing charity Protect to provide CAs and student members with access to an independent, confidential helpline offering free advice on whistleblowing and speaking up.
This year, ICAS is also launching the Ethics Buddy Service, which will, where deemed appropriate, enable a member with an ethical dilemma to have confidential, informal discussions with an experienced member, who can assist them in considering how they might approach their dilemma. This will be a supplement to the existing ICAS provision of the Ethics Helpline Service and access to Protect. Any legal advice will need to be sought independently by the member.
Access the ICAS ethics professional resources hub