Are UK accountants under pressure to behave unethically?

A new study from the CIMA and the American Institute of CPAs suggests that finance professionals are being pressurized to act unethically.

In the survey, entitled Managing Responsible Business, around 2,000 chartered accountants from all corners of the global were questioned about business ethics. It was discovered that 80% of companies now provide employees with a code of ethics, an increase of 8 percentage points from 2008. However, only 36% of companies actually collect ethics information.

Senior management has also become less interested in monitoring ethics in the workplace. In 2008, more than 85% of senior management and 68% of company boards reviewed ethics data; that has now dropped to 78% and 56% respectively.

Over the last four years, there has been an increase in those saying they sometimes felt pressured to compromise ethical standards. In developing countries, such as India and Malaysia, more than 50% of respondents said they had experienced this problem. In the UK and the US, just 18% had the same experience.

The key problem areas that were identified included awarding supplier contracts, allocating bonuses, meeting reporting deadlines and reporting company performance to the external stakeholders.

The report also discovered that 57% of organisations have implemented ethical standards training, just under 50% have a hotline that people can ring if they feel the company’s ethical standards have been violated and 25% have resorted to giving staff incentives to stick to the organisation’s code of ethics.

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