Early on in my team and work culture development career, the National Institute of Applied Business Ethics invited me to speak at their UCLA sponsored conference in Los Angeles. It was the view of the conference leadership that topics such are trust, , genuineness, empathy, risk and success speak to business ethics. They believed that when leadership teams act in accordance with these principles, organizations will thrive. This is because their employees also thrive.

One of the key considerations of an ethical organization is how it handles risk. Recently a conference directed toward CPA’s addressed this topic. I think you will find it illuminating.

“The public believes that CPAs, regardless of the services performed,  are in effect the ‘fraud police’ in many situations,” said Duncan B. Will, CPA/ABV/CFF, CFE, an accounting and auditing loss prevention specialist with CAMICO. “We certainly are not the ‘fraud police,’ but it is critically important  for CPAs to understand the standards set for us by members of the public who, as jurors, often sit in judgment of CPAs. The standards set for us by juries are often considerably higher than our own professional standards.”

Will addressed CPAs at an August 10, 2012 “Ethics for Missouri CPAs” program  in St. Louis.

“While it is important not to disappoint our clients and third-parties,” said Will, “it is just as important not to disappoint the public and their expectations of CPAs.”

An effective way to address such expectations is through “active ethics,” which Will described as a way of acting in accordance with traditional notions of integrity, honesty, responsibility, and doing the right thing. “Active ethics is distinguished by characteristics such as disclosure (or sunshine), role reversal (putting yourself in the position of the client and third-parties such as lenders and investors),  and a thorough examination and understanding of the implications of your  actions.”

“Active ethics is not rules based,” said Will. “In fact, the absence of active ethics often results in justifications of actions by people who want to avoid exposure, and their justifications are usually complex and  based on rules.”

Active ethics can be promoted at CPA firms by the partners promoting best ethical practices, setting the “tone at the top,” communicating       expectations, training all personnel, establishing effective controls and whistle-blower policies, preventing retaliation against whistle-blowers, and rewarding ethical as well as other achievements.

Active ethics is an interesting topic. Is there any other kind? What do you think?

Copyright TIGERS Success Series by Dianne Crampton