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Businesses must grip ethics in the digital age finds global study


18 Aug 2017


Euro & Finance

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 organisations need to put ethics at the heart of securing public trust in the digital age.

Ethics and Trust in a Digital Age, released early August 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 behaviour.

Maggie McGhee, Director of Professional Insights at ACCA, says

‘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 behaviour harder to monitor and report. 

‘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.’

You can read the report here:   

About the report

The survey was completed by respondents in 158 countries. Over 10,000 respondents completed the survey, roughly 40% of who were ACCA members, 55% were ACCA students and the remaining 5% were members/students of other professional accountancy bodies.

In addition, to get a view of how accountants are perceived by others, 510 C-suite respondents who interact with the accountants in their organisations were also surveyed.

The observations are informed by discussions with senior finance professionals, typically at the level of Chief Financial Officer (CFO), Partner or equivalent. These perspectives were gathered via roundtable discussions conducted in Australia, China, Kenya, Nigeria, Republic of Ireland, Russia, Singapore, UAE and the US. In addition, the perspectives are informed by the experience and expertise of ACCA’s Global Forums members.

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For media enquiries, contact:

David Bowden, ACCA Newsroom
T: +44 (0)20 7059 5019
M: + 44 (0)7540919819
Twitter @ACCANews

About ACCA

ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) is the global body for professional accountants. It offers business-relevant, first-choice qualifications to people of application, ability and ambition around the world who seek a rewarding career in accountancy, finance and management.

ACCA supports its 198,000 members and 486,000 students in 180 countries, helping them to develop successful careers in accounting and business, with the skills required by employers. ACCA works through a network of 101 offices and centres and 7,291 Approved Employers worldwide, who provide high standards of employee learning and development. Through its public interest remit, ACCA promotes appropriate regulation of accounting and conducts relevant research to ensure accountancy continues to grow in reputation and influence.

Founded in 1904, ACCA has consistently held unique core values: opportunity, diversity, innovation, integrity and accountability. It believes that accountants bring value to economies in all stages of development and seek to develop capacity in the profession and encourage the adoption of global standards. ACCA’s core values are aligned to the needs of employers in all sectors and it ensures that through its range of qualifications, it prepares accountants for business. ACCA seeks to open up the profession to people of all backgrounds and remove artificial barriers, innovating its qualifications and delivery to meet the diverse needs of trainee professionals and their employers. More information is here: