ICAS celebrates the fifth anniversary of its business ethics initiative - The Power of One
Ann Buttery, Head of Ethics, ICAS Policy Leadership, marks the fifth anniversary since the launch of The Power of One.
On 27 November 2020, ICAS celebrates the fifth anniversary since the launch of its business ethics initiative, The Power of One.
The Power of One
In 2015, ICAS called on all CAs to place ethical leadership at the heart of their professional responsibilities, to shape the culture and values of their organisations, to help re-establish ethics at the core of business practices and to rebuild public trust in business.
The Power of One message in 2020 remains the same.
ICAS recognises the power of every individual CA – ‘the Power of One’ – to influence those around them. Through their ethical behaviour, CAs are a force for good in the organisations in which they work. 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. 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, to the benefit of our broader society.
Most recently, ICAS announced it is introducing changes to the ICAS Code of Ethics (effective from 1 January 2021) to make it clear that CAs are required to respect values of equality, diversity and inclusion. These amendments do not represent a change in the substance of the Code but are being made to bring attention to the importance of values of equality, diversity and inclusion; to highlight that upholding these values is in the spirit of what it means to be a member of ICAS; and to emphasise the behaviours expected of individual CAs.
ICAS also recognises that ‘doing the right thing’ may not be easy.
ICAS knows the difficulties which can often be faced by Members - the pressures that CAs face that can lead to individuals compromising the fundamental ethical principles of their profession. Personal factors and circumstances can also influence an individual’s approach to an issue. CAs discuss the real-life ethical dilemmas they have faced in the ICAS research publication Speak Up? Listen Up? Whistleblow?
The Power of One recognises that inner strength is needed to counter what may be major obstacles or a countervailing culture and that individuals, and particularly CAs, therefore need to have the ‘moral courage’ to speak up and influence the culture of organisations in which they work, to ensure that organisations interact with all their stakeholder groups in an ethical manner.
A CA must uphold the highest standards of individual behaviour but also, if others within an organisation are behaving unethically, the CA has an obligation to highlight it and seek to influence, and modify, behaviour going forward. The reality is if a CA suspects impropriety and does nothing, a CA could be found guilty of condoning it, and could potentially be implicated in a scandal at a later date. Ethics is fundamental not only to an individual’s reputation, but also to that of the organisations in which CAs work, the profession and the business community generally.
Since November 2017, the need for CAs to have ‘courage to act morally’ has been highlighted in the ICAS Code of Ethics. Also, with effect from January 2022, following an International Ethics Standards Board for Accountants (IESBA) project to promote the role and mindset expected of professional accountants, new application material is being added to the ‘Integrity’ principle within the Code of Ethics which contains the substance of the concept of ‘moral courage’ emphasising that integrity includes having the strength of character to act appropriately when faced with challenging circumstances. The ICAS Code of Ethics is substantively based on the IESBA Code of Ethics. ICAS views this as reinforcing the message of moral courage. ICAS intends to retain moral courage as an enabler and this will work together with the IESBA enhancements to the fundamental principle of integrity.
The Power of Many
The obligation is placed upon each and every CA to take individual responsibility for the maintenance of the highest standards of ethical principles throughout their career.
CAs also have an important role to play in promoting ethical behaviour in the business community. The CA is in a better position than most to be able to challenge, and influence, the behaviour of others. This is a very powerful quality and one which will help CAs assist with organisations living the ethical values that they state they wish to achieve, and in so doing help towards restoring the trust lost in business in recent years.
Ethical principles upheld by one CA can influence many. The Power of One can become The Power of Many.
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.
To mark this fifth anniversary, ICAS is issuing second editions of The Power of One 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
The ICAS ethics helpline service provides guidance if you require support when ethical issues arise in practice.
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.