The Consultative Committee of Accountancy Bodies (CCAB) has published guidance on developing and implementing a code of ethical conduct to help organisations address operational and integrity risks.
CCAB says its publication, Developing and Implementing a Code of Ethical Conduct, is intended for use by professional accountants but is also applicable to a wider audience in the private, public and not-for-profit sectors.
It sets out the objectives of a code and the elements that form it, such as a mission statement; high level values; ethical principles and specific behaviours. While not intending to be prescriptive, it also proposes a structure on which a code can be based.
Anthony Harbinson, chair of CCAB, said: 'The financial crisis has turned the spotlight on integrity within the business community. Rightly, behaviours, codes and rules have been questioned. But our belief is that a code of ethical conduct can make a difference - it can play an important part in resolving ethical dilemmas.'
To be effective in providing a clear and consistent framework for ethical behaviour, CCAB says an ethical code needs to be a living document, reviewed regularly by employees, and by management. It should be benchmarked externally, with a view to identifying any areas where positive improvements could be made. It also needs to cover potentially contentious issues such as whistle-blowing and speak up obligations.
Harbinson said: 'Tone from the top matters - not just in the accountancy profession, but in wider business, and in the public sector too. And a code of ethical conduct needs be understood and owned by all within the organisation.'
The CCAB bodies - ICAEW, ACCA, ICAS, CIPFA, and Chartered Accountants Ireland - are all signatories to the International Ethics Standards Board for Accountants (IESBA) Code, which has five fundamental ethical principles - integrity; objectivity; professional competence and due care; confidentiality and professional behaviour.