Ethics is a branch of philosophy that studies the difference between right and wrong.
As professional chartered accountants, you have many opportunities to choose between right and wrong.
As you have seen in the business press, making the wrong choice can lead to serious consequences including corporate failure, loss or reputation, fines and even prison sentences.
In any situation, you must begin with the laws of your country. Next you look to the specific rules that govern the situation. For example, if you are an auditor, you will be bound by the relevant auditing standards in your jurisdiction.
Then, as a professional, you must consider the principles of your professional body which form the basis of your professional ethics.
Remember that professional ethics is all about your obligation to the public. As a professional - whether a doctor, lawyer, engineer or accountant - you will have been tested and accepted by your profession.
The public places their trust in you simply because you are a member of a trusted professional body. The public is not expected to know how to assess either the ability or the ethics of a doctor, a lawyer, or an accountant.
They trust that the professional bodies will have done this for them. This means that as a professional you owe the public a certain level of integrity and objectivity - as well as professional competence and due care, confidentiality, and professional behaviour.
In other words you must uphold the ACCA fundamental principles simply because you are a professional and you have professional ethics in accounting.
Throughout all of this, your own values, interests and experiences are the filter through which you view any situation. It is important for you to be aware of those filters because they could influence your professional judgement. That is why it is important to be able to recognise your own personal ethical perspective when you exercise your professional ethics.
It is important to be able to know the difference between the two. As a professional accountant, you should strive to maintain objectivity by being mindful of the fact that your personal values are just that - personal and unique to you.