ICAS launches Ethics Buddy Service
Ann Buttery CA, Head of Ethics, explains how the new service will help CAs deal with ethical dilemmas
ICAS has introduced the Ethics Buddy Service. The service will enable a CA facing an ethical problem, where deemed appropriate, to have confidential and informal discussions with an experienced member in order to explore the matter and assist them in considering how they might approach it.
Often, people caught in a dilemma struggle to see the wood for the trees. If a CA has an issue which is troubling them, the Ethics Buddy Service will give them access to constructive input early in the process to help delineate the issues and prevent matters from escalating. The buddy’s role is to listen, encourage a dialogue and contribute to the thinking process. They might ask CAs to consider various approaches but, as they will not be party to all the information, they cannot offer solutions. The service provides an opportunity to talk, but does not offer advice. Ultimately, it is up to the CA to make their own decision on the best way forward.
It is in the nature of ethical issues that they can take weeks or months to resolve – after which it may be several years before the person encounters another. The Ethics Buddy Service – which could be limited to a one-off call or a series of chats, though in a time-limited way – essentially sits between ICAS’ Ethics Helpline Service, which addresses more specific questions at a particular point in time, and its mentoring options, via which relationships are developed over a longer period of time. It supplements the existing provision of the aforementioned ethics helpline and access to the Protect whistleblowing helpline. It does not provide legal advice, which CAs will need to seek independently.
The launch of the Ethics Buddy Service follows ICAS’ 2019 research into the experiences of members encountering ethical dilemmas – published as Speak up? Listen up? Whistleblow? The research found that two-thirds of participating CAs had faced such problems at some point, whether technical or behavioural in nature. Technical dilemmas mainly related to accounting irregularities, fraud, theft and bribery, tax, auditing, bonuses, incentives and executive pay. Most behavioural issues centred on bullying, pressures from managers and clients and of workload. Bullying was the third-most frequently cited, after accounting irregularities and fraud/theft.
Some CAs said it would be helpful to have an ICAS “ethics mentoring” scheme to discuss such dilemmas. They were not looking for someone to provide solutions; rather an experienced member they could talk to before making their own decision. CAs spoke of the value of having an informal sounding board, someone they could trust because of their shared professional status and who would understand the context of the situation. The new Ethics Buddy Service may be especially useful for members who feel isolated – whether geographically, perhaps because they work in a more remote location, or professionally, because they operate in a niche field.
The service is part of ICAS’ commitment to provide resources that help members meet their ethical responsibilities. You can find out more about Speak up? Listen up? Whistleblow?, including extracts from real-life situations members have faced, on icas.com. New guidance focusing on the importance of organisations listening to their employees who “speak up” can be found in the paper Organisational culture: The importance of listening.
Access the Ethics Buddy Service and learn more about ICAS’ ethics offering