While businesses adapt to operating in a digital environment, the vast majority of business people place ethics as “very important” in this climate.
A major survey of 10,000 accountants by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) found that nine out of ten rated ethics as important in the digital age—with 77% claiming it was “very important”.
Some 94% of executives questioned in the Ethics and trust in a digital age report said that their ethical behaviour helped the organisation they work for build trust with internal and external stakeholders.
A similar percentage of all respondents said that the ethical principles they follow as accountants (set by the International Ethics Standards Board for Accountants) are still relevant in a digital world.
“Ultimately, technology cannot change the fact that ethics (or the lack of it) is expressed through human behaviour and human decisions, and this keeps the principles relevant,” the report stated.
“Certainly, there will be new information to understand—but this will change the context of the principles’ application, not the principles themselves.”
Maggie McGhee, director of professional insights at the ACCA, said the financial crisis had revealed the extent to which highly complex systems make instances of unethical behaviour harder to monitor and report. These issues are similar to those presented by digital business.
“What is clear is that the digital age throws up new dilemmas where there are no easy answers,” said McGhee.
“If you’re working in a business considering whether to start accepting bitcoin payments, or implementing cloud-based customer records, these are questions for the here and now…Professional accountants are often on the frontline of facing ethical questions in business.”