Ethics and Trust as a CA
Ethical leadership sits at the heart of the CA’s professional responsibilities, allowing them to shape the culture and values of the organisations in which they work. As a CA, you should be seeking to establish ethics at the core of business practices and helping to re-build public trust in business.
For professional accountants, the concept of ethics involves much more than just an intuitive sense of following one’s conscience. CAs are required to adhere to the five fundamental ethics principles contained within the ICAS Code of Ethics: integrity; objectivity; professional competence and due care; confidentiality; and professional behaviour. Each individual CA has to take personal responsibility for the maintenance of the highest standards of ethical principles throughout their career and must also be cognisant of the fundamental requirement of the accountancy profession to act in the public interest.
No matter the career stage or level of seniority, every CA can have a strong role in shaping the culture and values of the organisations in which they work.
In this article, I will be examining the role a CA has to play in establishing ethics and trust within an organisation, ethics and trust in the digital age, and examining the ICAS business ethics initiative ‘The Power of One’ and how you can apply this to your role.
Ethics & Trust within an Organisation
As a CA, regardless of your role or level of seniority, you need to demonstrate ethical leadership, taking responsibility not only for your own actions, but also challenging others when necessary. CAs can be under considerable individual pressures, and the need for ethical leadership could not be greater in the modern finance function.
As a CA, part of your role is to challenge business decision making and to build trust across an organisation by providing reliable and professional information to help influence positive decision making. CAs can help to build and maintain trust within an organisation by being a business partner and supporting both internal and external stakeholders.
As a CA you need to support your clients and employers and help manage the pressures being faced by your organisation or those you represent, but this must never come at the cost of your own professional conduct. If others are not behaving ethically then as a CA, you cannot just stand by and watch it happen, you have a duty to act.
Ethics & Trust in the Digital Age
Early in 2017 there was a global survey on attitudes towards ethics among 10,000 professional and trainee accountants, and of those of over 500 senior (‘C-suite’) managers. More than 8 in 10 of these accountants around the world were of the view that strong ethical principles and behaviour will become even more important in the evolving digital age. This view was echoed by a similar proportion of C-suite executives, referring to the accountants in their organisations.
As the world we live in, and by extension the finance function that CAs operate in, continues to evolve and advance technologically, strong ethical principles are key. As the digital world continues to evolve, so too will the corresponding ethical implications. There will be continued complexity in the professional environment, brought on by rapidly evolving technology, digital disruption, and mis/disinformation, directly impacting all organisations.
As referred to in a previous article the most important system behind a set of accounts will always be the person managing them – How to future proof your career As technology evolves and an accountant’s role becomes more stakeholder focused, and as automation eats up manual tasks, it is important to utilise this ever more powerful technology to act in an ethical manner and to further underpin and support business decisions in an ethical and trustworthy way.
The Power of One
As a newly qualified CA you will have taken your ethics courses and exam and made your oral ethics declaration at the admissions ceremony.
As part of its commitment to professional ethics, ICAS launched its business ethics initiative ‘The Power of One’ in 2015. The Power of One calls on all CAs to place ethical leadership at the heart of their professional responsibilities. Through their ethical behaviour, CAs are a force for good in the organisations in which they work. They can also influence those around them, and thereby help shape the culture and values of their organisation. The cumulative effect of their influence can help reinforce the importance of ethics at the core of business practices and of a more responsible and holistic approach to business. In this way, CAs are a key component of building public trust in business, to the benefit of our broader society
In turn, ICAS committed to providing new resources and support for members on ethics. Since 2015, ICAS has published a series of publications, guidance and resources as part of The Power of One initiative.
Ethics & the Future
The professional accountant of the future will need, in addition to technical capability, a rounded skill set that demonstrates key quotients for success in areas such as experience, intelligence, creativity, digital skills, emotional intelligence and vision. And at the heart of these lies the ethical quotient.
As a CA in any organisation, whether in industry or practice, you have a responsibility to yourself, your membership body, and stakeholders to act in an ethical manner and to build trust within in an organisation by challenging decisions and by providing accurate information to help positively influence business decision making.
As the world continues to modernise it will become more vital than ever to have strong ethical and moral principles, and as the person behind a set of accounts it is on you to uphold these. By utilising the ICAS business initiative ‘The Power of One’ you can give yourself the best opportunity to reach your ethical potential as a CA.
About Rutherford Cross
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This blog is one of a series of articles from our commercial partners.
The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of ICAS.