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Championing ethical leadership amid competing pressures

Author: ICAEW Insights

Published: 24 May 2023

An Economist Impact event brought together senior business leaders, including ICAEW’s chief executive, to discuss the evolving importance of ethical leadership and its impact on organisations.

In an increasingly complex and interconnected world, the importance of ethical leadership cannot be overstated. Today, even the largest and longest established companies find themselves grappling with ethical dilemmas that can have far-reaching consequences.

This was put firmly under the spotlight during Championing Ethical Leadership Amid Competing Pressures, an event organised by Economist Impact, a business arm of the Economist Group. Held earlier this month in Brussels, it explored the continuous evolution of business ethics within organisations.

Senior leaders from the private sector, public sector, academia, law and finance came together to discuss a range of topics, including how workplaces can create an environment of accountability; how leaders can balance competing pressures and make the right decisions; what frameworks, mechanisms and policies can work best to hold businesses to account; and how can good corporate citizenship be used to attract, retain and motivate ethical employees.

Championing Ethical Leadership was sponsored by the Global Accounting Alliance (GAA), of which ICAEW is a founding member. The GAA is an agreement between professional accountancy bodies in significant capital markets, formed in 2005 in response to the emerging challenges of globalisation.

Michael Izza in conversation with delegates at the GAA Ethics event in Brussels, an event programmed by Economist Impact.

Attending the event, ICAEW Chief Executive Michael Izza said: “Fostering an ethical culture matters now more than ever. ICAEW, as part of the GAA, can leverage the reach of the profession and our extensive member networks, to promote ethical decision-making in organisations and global business generally.

“Ethical standards must be more than just a label. For standards to be effective, they need to be widely promoted, rigorously policed and prosecuted where necessary. Upholding ethical standards remains a cornerstone of what it means to be a professional Chartered Accountant, committed to acting in the public interest.”

High-profile speakers included Elia Yi Armstrong, Director, Ethics Office, United Nations; Amanda Belcher, Senior Vice President, Edelman Global Advisory; Thomas Lee-Devlin, Global Business Correspondent, ‘The Economist’; Barry Melancon, Chair, Global Accounting Alliance and Chief Executive, Association of International Certified Professional Accountants; Emily O’Reilly, European Ombudsman, European Union; and Audrey Morin, Group Compliance Director, Schneider Electric.

Commenting on the event, ICAEW Senior Lead, Ethics David Gomez said: “It is important to highlight the important role that ICAEW members can play in contributing towards a positive ethical culture within organisations. Increasingly, the chief financial officer is seen as the conscience of an organisation and ICAEW is developing ethical resources, including the new Ethics CPD course, to assist members in this role.”

Resilience under pressure

The last ethical survey of the profession undertaken by CCAB revealed that some accountants face significant pressures to act unethically. This free webinar in June highlights the learnings from that survey, provides strategies for making better ethical decisions, and discusses the ethical challenges facing accountants.

CCAB webinar