Ethics in a Covid-19 world

This white paper – developed as part of our global focus on rethinking business for a sustainable recovery – explores what ethics now means in a Covid-19 world, looking at the key areas of challenges that organisations are experiencing.

Image on the cover of the report of a tree in the middle of an ocean.

For accountancy and finance professionals, these tensions have reinforced the importance of upholding the highest standards of ethics. This has always been at the core of the profession, but in times of duress, it is all the more important to pay close attention to it.

It’s already clear that ethical challenges related to the pandemic are a reality for many accountancy and finance professionals. As a survey of ACCA and Institute of Management Accountants (IMA) members featuring respondents from around the world in September 2020 revealed, one member in five has directly, or via a work colleague, encountered a situation where, as a result of Covid-19, ethics were at risk of compromise (Figure 1a in the report). Furthermore, among those who experienced such situations, a quarter of issues related in some way to the use of technology (Figure 1b in the report).

Looking ahead over the next two years (Figure 2 in the report), one member in five expects to encounter a situation where they, or someone they know, could be ethically compromised. This reflects an awareness of and alertness to potential risks and how ethics will continue to be a key priority in the future. Business recovery is essential but must be achieved in a way that is ethical and that serves the public interest. That is the only way to achieve a recovery from this pandemic that is sustainable and that creates value in the long term. The pandemic will, we hope, one day be behind us, but the choices we make in its wake will stay with us well into the future.

This whitepaper reminds and outlines the ethical framework for accountancy and finance professionals. And shines a light on potential risks of ethical compromise across eight areas:

  1. Time-constrained decision making 
  2. Remote working 
  3. Reducing staff size 
  4. Assurance services 
  5. Presentation of financial information 
  6. Increase in fraud 
  7. Ethics across the supply chain 
  8. Facilities management