ICAS seeks views from CAs on establishing an ‘ethics buddy’ scheme
Ann Buttery, Head of Ethics, ICAS Policy Leadership, flags that CAs’ views are being sought in the May 2021 ICAS Member survey to gauge the level of interest in ICAS offering an ‘ethics buddy’ scheme for Members, similar to mentoring.
Currently, CAs who are in doubt as to their ethical position may seek guidance via the ICAS Ethics Helpline Service. ICAS is also partnered with Protect to provide ICAS Members and CA Student Members with access to an independent, confidential, whistleblowing advice helpline. This service offers free advice regarding whistleblowing and speaking up.
ICAS also offers three mentoring options:
- Career Mentoring
- Mentoring with the ICAS Foundation
- Business Mentoring
In October 2019, ICAS published two research papers - Speak up? Listen up? Whistleblow? - reflecting the results of a project which investigated, through a survey and then individual interviews, the experiences of ICAS Members when encountering ethical dilemmas.
The aim of the research was to understand the types of situations individual CAs may find themselves in, and how they deal with ethical dilemmas, in order to be able to provide effective professional guidance and support.
Some of the CAs interviewed for the research felt it would be helpful if ICAS could provide an ‘ethics mentoring’ type scheme for Members. They were not looking for someone to provide solutions, just someone they could talk to about an issue so that they could come to their own decision. CAs spoke of the value of being able to speak with someone and being listened to. Such a scheme could potentially be especially useful for Members who feel isolated (perhaps because they are more geographically remote or working in more niche areas such as charities or family businesses) and need someone with whom they can talk.
The interviewees believed the opportunity to be able to talk with a trusted individual would be beneficial to ICAS Members. However, they also recognised the challenges in setting up such a scheme.
Therefore, one of the key recommendations from the research was for ICAS to consider establishing a specific ‘ethics mentoring’ scheme to allow CAs with ethical dilemmas to be able to discuss these with suitably trained, experienced ICAS Members.
Survey of ICAS Members
To try to gauge the level of interest of the ICAS Membership in the provision of such a scheme, questions are being included within the ICAS Member survey which is being sent to a sample of Members in May 2021.
The nature of ethical issues is that they might take a number of weeks or months to resolve but then the individual might not encounter any again for years. The potential ‘ethics mentoring’ scheme is being referred to in the survey as an ‘ethics buddy’ scheme to try to differentiate it from the other ICAS mentoring options. It would essentially sit between the current ICAS Ethics Helpline Service, which tends to address more specific questions at a particular point in time, and the three ICAS mentoring options noted above where on-going relationships are developed between two individuals over a longer period of time.
The purpose of the survey is to understand whether CAs believe such a scheme would be a useful, whether they think they personally would consider contacting ICAS to use such a scheme if they had an ethical dilemma, or whether there is some other type of support Members would prefer ICAS to offer.
ICAS ethics buddy
The ICAS ‘ethics buddy’ service would provide a CA with the opportunity to have an informal, confidential conversation about an ethical dilemma with an experienced CA – a ‘sounding board’. The ethics buddy’s role would be to listen and to explore the issue with the CA experiencing the dilemma, and to assist them in considering how they might approach their dilemma.
The ‘ethics buddy’ would be there to encourage a dialogue. They might ask questions like “have you thought about …?” but they would not be party to all the information and so would not be there to offer solutions, only to provide suggestions.
Such a scheme would be a supplement to the existing ICAS provision of the Ethics Helpline Service and access to the Protect independent whistleblowing advice helpline. CAs would also need to seek any legal advice independently.
Ultimately it will be up to a CA to reach their own decision on a way forward.
Have your say
The ICAS Member survey goes live in May 2021. If you receive an invitation to complete the survey, please let us know your views.
Find out more about the Speak Up? Listen Up? Whistleblow? research
To find out more about the ICAS Speak up? Listen up? Whistleblow? research, the full research papers as well as a summary of the key findings and a series of extracts from the research where you can find out from ICAS Members about the real-life situations they have faced, are all available here.
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
From 1 January 2021, compulsory ethics CPD is introduced for all ICAS Members. This does not involve compulsory attendance at courses or the purchase of material – it could simply mean some reading of ethics-related material available online. In addition to ICAS’ own ethics resources as noted above, other websites provide useful sources of information as explained here.
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.