Norman Murray CA explains why ethics is a top priority for business
In a time of public scrutiny on the profession and industry, business ethics rises to the fore time and time again. ICAS Ethics Board Chair and Past President, Norman Murray CA explains the differences that can be made when ethics and integrity are placed at the heart of professional responsibilities.
As we have seen recently, ethics, or rather lack thereof, continues to be an issue for the profession, business and society. There has been a decline in public trust in the accountancy profession, business and in many of our institutions. Trust is vitally important, and ethics is core to earning and maintaining trust.
Almost three years ago, in November 2015, ICAS launched its business ethics initiative: The Power of One. It calls on all CAs to live the values of ethical leadership; to shape the culture and values of their organisations; to help re-establish ethics at the heart of business practices; and to rebuild public trust in business.
About the Board
In early 2016, the ICAS Ethics Board was established to take forward The Power of One campaign, and I took on the role of Chair. The creation of an Ethics Board (from ICAS’ former Ethics Committee), reporting direct to ICAS Council, signified the high importance ICAS places upon ethics.
The Ethics Board currently has eleven Board members with a wide range of experience from a variety of backgrounds. We have four Board meetings per annum and keep in regular touch throughout the intervening period.
The Board is supported by Professor James Barbour, ICAS Director, Policy Leadership, who is the ICAS lead on all matters connected with the Ethics Board and The Power of One initiative, and Ann Buttery, ICAS Head of Ethics, Policy Leadership, who is also Secretary to the Ethics Board.
The mission for the profession and how ICAS can support
The Ethics Board’s mission is to provide knowledge, guidance and assistance to ICAS members in order that they may meet the ethical responsibilities of their profession.
ICAS has now published five papers on ethical leadership under The Power of One umbrella:
- Personal responsibility and ethical leadership
- Moral Courage
- Personal Reputation
- Organisational culture and values
- The CA and the organisation
We also provide ethics guidance in our Ethical decision making framework and our publication The Ethical Journey - The Right, the Good and the Virtuous, which provides an aide-memoire aiming to help ICAS members make the ‘journey’ from identifying an ethical dilemma to its resolution, encouraging CAs to pause for thought and broaden their perspective when facing an ethical decision, to aid their ethical decision-making process.
Updating the Code of Ethics to ensure relevancy
In 2017, we updated the ICAS Code of Ethics (effective 1 November 2017) incorporating an amendment to Section 100.5 of the ICAS Code to establish that “Moral Courage” is an enabler which helps CAs to comply with the fundamental principles, and introducing the new International Ethics Standards Board for Accountants (IESBA) “Non-Compliance with Laws and Regulations” (NOCLAR) sections.
The recent IESBA consultation paper on professional scepticism made reference to ICAS’ work on “moral courage” and the importance of professional accountants being able to stand their ground.
The ICAS Code is substantively based on IESBA’s Code and ICAS will be adopting IESBA’s new Revised and Restructured Code with effect from 1 January 2020. Further information will be provided on this in due course.
Where to find support materials
Members can find all of the above ethics-related publications, and seek help from our library of case studies and our ethics helpline service, by searching “Ethics and The Power of One” on icas.com. Professor James Barbour can also be contacted directly by members who have ethical concerns.