ACCA: Businesses Need to Put Ethics at the Heart of Securing Public Trust in the Digital Age

As the world marks the anniversary of the start of the global financial crisis, a new global study of accountants and business leaders has found that organizations need to put ethics at the heart of securing public trust in the digital age.

Ethics and Trust in a Digital Age, released by ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) raises questions about how prepared businesses are to face new ethical challenges such as ransomware attacks; crypto-currency transactions; intellectual property disputes and customer privacy.

Nearly two thirds of respondents called for strong ethical leadership while a majority (54%) called for guidance on a new code of ethics for the digital age. The report draws upon the views of over 10,000 professional accountants and students, including over 500 C-suite executives.

The report includes a series of short case studies exploring the ethical questions raised for accountants and auditors by digital technology. It offers guidance through assessing the scenarios alongside the five fundamental principles for professional accountants established by the International Ethics and Standards Board for Accountants (IESBA). These are: integrity, objectivity, professional competence and due care, confidentiality and professional behavior.

"Professional accountants are often on the frontline of facing ethical questions in business.  The crisis revealed the extent to which highly complex financial systems make instances of unethical behavior harder to monitor and report,” says Maggie McGhee, Director of Professional Insights at ACCA.

“What is clear is that the digital age throws up new dilemmas where there are no easy answers. If you’re working in a business considering whether to start accepting bitcoin payments, or implementing cloud-based customer records, these are questions for the here and now.

“In the digital age there needs to be more, not less, importance placed on the ethical and professional judgement of individuals.

“What many are calling for is guidance and leadership on how to respond. All those involved in decision-making levels in business should be aware of how new technologies can affect their reputation and consider how to support their employees in doing the right thing.”

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