Ethics: A key element of the learning journey for all CA Student Members and ICAS Members
Ann Buttery, CA, Head of Ethics, ICAS Policy Leadership, highlights that ethics is a key element of the learning journey for all CA Student Members and ICAS Members, emphasising the importance that ICAS places on ethical behaviour.
The Power of One
ICAS’ The Power of One business ethics initiative highlights that the CA is more than just a professional qualification; it is a career for life. The personal benefits that such a career brings should not be regarded lightly nor should the responsibility that goes with it. 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 to the benefit of our broader society.
The start of the journey
The fundamental importance of ethics to the accountancy profession is emphasised from the start of a CA Student Member’s journey with ICAS. The ICAS Code of Ethics applies not only to ICAS Members but also CA Student Members, and ethics is integral to the CA qualification syllabus.
Ethics is included within the appropriate subject areas at Test of Competence (TC), Test of Professional Skills (TPS) and Test of Professional Expertise (TPE) and, in addition, all students must complete a Public Trust and Ethics course which consists of three compulsory elements:
Business Ethics 1 (BE1)
Business Ethics 1 is completed in the first year of the CA training contract and looks at the decisions of the student from a personal perspective. Business Ethics 1 introduces the ICAS Code of Ethics, ethical decision-making, and the impact of these decisions. Students also learn about different ethical theories, and how these can influence decisions.
Public Trust and Ethics 2 (PTE2)
Public Trust and Ethics 2 is delivered as part of the TPE course in the final year. This covers decision-making from a professional perspective. Using short case studies, students are encouraged to think and act ethically. This commitment is reinforced by an annual declaration of good ethical standing for each students' record of relevant practical experience.
Public Trust and Ethics exam
In November 2018, ICAS introduced a Business Ethics exam for CA Student Members (replacing an ethics-based assignment). The exam’s introduction emphasised the importance ICAS places on ethics being at the heart of the profession. In line with the CA Agenda, ‘public trust’ is now also an element of the exam. The exam takes place the day before the final technical exam -TPE – and must be passed for the student to qualify as a CA. It is a short case study, which brings together elements from BE1 and PTE2.
Students are required to identify ethical issues, evaluate these issues, discuss options and provide suitable recommendations with reference to the ICAS Code of Ethics and relevant legislation. The assessment ensures newly qualified CAs are encouraged to develop an ethical mindset and are prepared to act in the public interest from the beginning of their professional career.
Ethics Oath for new ICAS Members
For those newly qualified ICAS Members attending the ICAS Admissions Ceremony, they are reminded again of their ethical responsibilities and stand along with their fellow CAs to make the following oral ethical declaration:
“I declare that I will conduct myself in a manner that maintains and enhances my own professional reputation, that of my fellow members and ICAS.
As a CA, I commit myself to acting in the public interest and will conduct myself with integrity, objectivity and courage, and in accordance with the high ethical standards of ICAS.”
The journey continues - mandatory ethics CPD
CA Student Members are taught and examined on their knowledge of ethics; however, it is also recognised that there is a need for continued and ongoing training in ethics post qualification to serve as a continual reminder to Members of their ethical responsibilities. With effect from 1 January 2021, ICAS introduced mandatory ethics CPD for all ICAS Members to highlight the necessity to keep ethics at the forefront of their mind. The first ethics CPD declaration of compliance sign-off will be required in the 2022 Annual Return.
ICAS ethics CPD does not involve compulsory attendance at ethics courses, or the purchase of ethics material, and there is no requirement to achieve a certain number of hours or points. It could simply involve some ethics-related reading which is freely available online, including from ICAS ethics resources, as noted below, or other websites. See here for further information.
Ethics is at the heart of the professional responsibilities of ICAS Members
The Power of One calls on all CAs to place ethical leadership at the heart of their professional responsibilities, and ethics being core to learning, not only to achieve qualification as a CA but also being mandatory for CPD post qualification, serves to continually highlight to CA Student Members and ICAS Members the importance of ethical behaviour.
ICAS ethics resources
ICAS is committed to providing ethics resources and support to its Members. Since 2015, ICAS has published a series of publications, guidance and resources as part of the Power of One initiative which are all available on icas.com.
In November 2020, to mark the fifth anniversary of The Power of One, ICAS issued second editions of its series of publications on ethical leadership:
- Ethics -The Power of One
- The Power of One – Personal responsibility and ethical leadership
- The Power of One – Moral Courage
- The Power of One – Personal Reputation
- The Power of One – Organisational culture and values
- The Power of One – The CA and the organisation
- The Ethical Journey – The Right, the Good and the Virtuous
ICAS also offers the following:
- guidance on conflict of interest;
- an ethical decision making framework;
- ethics videos;
- case studies, including CAs’ real-life ethical dilemmas featured within the ICAS research publication Speak up? Listen Up? Whistleblow?; and
If you have an ethical query, including a query on the provisions within the Code of Ethics in relation to values of equality, diversity and inclusion, ICAS offers an ethics helpline service.
ICAS is also partnered with whistleblowing charity Protect to provide members and students with access to an independent, confidential helpline. This service offers free advice regarding whistleblowing and speaking up.