Happy Global Ethics Day! Though I wish this day was universally unwarranted, it remains an important endeavor to celebrate the people and organizations striving to abide by the ethical standards that represent the most positive elements of human nature.
Regrettably, over the past half-century, citizens around the world have witnessed numerous egregious ethical lapses, like Enron, Bernie Madoff, Volkswagen, Wells Fargo, and more. As a result, many people increasingly believe institutional and corporate leaders are not trustworthy or working for their best interests. Corruption, conflicts of interest, fraud, and other unethical behaviors, particularly among the international business community, seem to resurface regularly without respite in both developed and developing countries. For society to prosper, businesses must take a leadership role in improving ethical behaviors.
To encourage this among businesses, IMA® (Institute of Management Accountants), the association of accountants and financial professionals in business, continuously advocates for the highest ethical and best business practices in management accounting and finance. The organization’s recently revised IMA Statement of Ethical Professional Practice (SEPP) serves as a guide for members and all financial professionals to act ethically, both in business and in their personal lives.
As former chair of the IMA Committee on Ethics, I led the organization’s efforts to promote and exemplify those standards. Also, since 1999, I regularly contribute to a business ethics column in IMA’s magazine, Strategic Finance. Sadly, over the past two decades, there has rarely, if ever, been a month in which I had a hard time finding content.
Dr. Belverd Needles, Jr., my colleague and a distinguished textbook author and prominent senior officer in many professional accounting organizations, recently suggested that a selection of my columns would also be a helpful tool for educators as well as financial professionals. I took his advice, and for the first time today, I’m introducing my new book to the world. “Curt Verschoor On Ethics – Timely Columns from Strategic Finance Ma...” illustrates through case studies the importance of ethical behavior in business organizations worldwide.
The book contains columns on 12 topics, including case studies of fraud, the value of an ethical culture, sustainability and integrated reporting, whistleblowing, and regulation and enforcement. So much has changed in the past 17 years, it was sobering to review my columns both new and old, and take the opportunity to weave them into what I hope will be a valuable resource for all manners of finance professionals.
Today is a milestone in the pursuit of ethics on a global basis. But for every citizen to enjoy a life commensurate with their potential, ethical behavior should permeate society in all areas of the globe at all times – not just on one day. Additionally, ethical behavior in and among business organizations is a prerequisite to that outcome.