Ethical behaviour in the accounting profession is the topic for this week’s tidbits, covering a push for an applied code of ethics and the teaching of ethics in accountancy studies.

Ethics education for professional accountants in Australia and New Zealand
This paper investigates how ethics is incorporated in the qualification process for prospective professional accountants across Australia and New Zealand.

It does so by examining the structure of these qualification processes and by analysing the learning objectives and summarised content for ethics courses that prospective accountants take either at university or through the post-degree programs provided by CPA Australia and Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand. The authors do this to understand how the ‘sandwich’ approach to teaching ethics (Armstrong, Journal of Accounting Education 11(1):77–92, 1993) is implemented.

This approach advocates a standalone ethics course, followed by ethical cases that are integrated across accounting courses, and subsequently a capstone course that combines ethics and professionalism. The authors test the extent to which this approach is adopted and examine how its application relates to the components of moral behaviour (Rest, Moral development: Advances in research and theory, Praeger Publishers, New York, 1986).

The results provide three significant contributions. The first is that the ‘sandwich’ approach is not in place for most prospective accountants as only a minority of programs include a mandatory course with a substantial ethics component, and this is more likely in undergraduate rather than postgraduate programs. The second contribution is that although moral sensitivity and moral judgement are widely considered, little attention is given to issues of moral motivation and moral character.

The authors suggest that change is unlikely without explicit ethical education requirements from the professional accounting bodies. The paper also makes a final contribution by proposing a more nuanced typology characterising the degree to which ethics is incorporated in particular courses.

Andrew West & Sherrena Buckby. 2020. Ethics Education in the Qualification of Professional Accountants: Insights from Australia and New Zealand..

Journal of Business Ethics, 164(1), 61–80.

A mixed content analysis model of ethics in the accounting profession
The purpose of this study is to propose a contemporary-specific model entitled “sustainable development model of accounting professional ethics (SDM-APE)” and empirically investigate and quantitatively prioritise its components.

The study adopts the mixed content analysis research method and integrates both qualitative and quantitative approaches. The necessary data for the initial model are extracted after examining 569 published articles related to professional ethics of accounting in Iran during 2005-2015. Then, the ethical codes are reviewed, summarised and extracted via “content analysis.”

Based on the findings of this study, a sustainable accounting model is developed, which consists of four constructs, including personal, social, economic-organisational and environmental factors, with 69 components. Afterward, the model is tested through collecting questionnaires and simple random sampling by 217 academic and professional experts. Accordingly, the second-order confirmatory factor analysis in LISREL software is used.

The paper clearly demonstrates that ethics in the professional accounting are underpinned by four major constructs: personal, social, economic-organisational and environmental factors; all four mentioned constructs of the model are interconnected and affect professional ethics in accounting and maintain a proper goodness of fit. Meanwhile, social, personal, economic-organisational and environmental features reveal the greatest fit accordingly.

The variable of “avoiding the misuse of organisational property and information” is the most important variable of the model. It is followed by deontology, responsibility and accountability for environment, preventing environment degradation and emission of environmental pollutants, promoting the culture of environmental conservation, standing in the second to fifth priority levels, respectively.

Namazi, Mohammad & Rajabdorri, Hossein. 2019. A mixed content analysis model of ethics in the accounting profession.

Meditari Accountancy Research, 28(1), 117-138.

An applied code of ethics model for decision-making in the accounting profession
The purpose of paper is to supply a code of ethics that can be easily utilised by working professional in their day to day decision making. The accounting profession plays a vital role in the functioning of modern society.

It is essential that members of this profession be ethical and stand fast against the internal and external pressures that might encourage these professionals to engage in fraudulent activities. Codes of ethics provide a coherent articulation of the ideals, responsibilities and limitations of the collective ethic of a profession’s members and can assist in guiding ethical behaviour.

The authors’ model is based on the professional values of justice, utility, competence and utility, i.e. JUCI model, which is a straightforward and easily understandable ethical decision-making model that the average accounting professional, as well as finance professionals in general, may reference when challenged with difficult ethical quandaries.

This code, the JUCI Code, represents a contribution to the literature in that its simple, but not simplistic, approach could be of enormous benefit to busy and pressured accountants who need help in constructing independently achieved and defensible rational ethical decisions in the practice of accounting.

Payne, D.M., Corey, C., Raiborn, C. & Zingoni, M. 2019. An applied code of ethics model for decision-making in the accounting profession.

Management Research Review, ahead-of-print

Ethical implications of management accounting and control
Management accounting and control seeks to provide information that substantiates decision-making at all firm levels and thus may also foster ethical decision-making.

Against this background, this article presents a systematic literature review of research on management accounting and control and business ethics that has been published in the Journal of Business Ethics. Through this review, the authors intend to bring to the forefront a research topic that has been widely neglected in broader literature reviews on accounting ethics research and that has been covered by a small number of articles published by traditional leading accounting journals only.

The systematic literature review is guided by a theoretical framework that integrates the decision-facilitating and decision-influencing roles of management accounting and control information and the stages of the ethical decision-making process. Through this theoretical lens, the authors analyze 64 management accounting and control articles published in the Journal of Business Ethics over more than three decades. Synthesising and structuring this research, the authors discuss prior accomplishments and elaborate on avenues for future research.

Christoph Endenich & Rouven Trapp. 2020. Ethical Implications of Management Accounting and Control: A Systematic Review of the Contributions from the Journal of Business Ethics.

Journal of Business Ethics, 163(2), 309–328.

Glass ceiling perceptions in the accounting profession
Access to a deep pool of talent is essential to the success of every professional services firm. The supply of that talent is contingent upon the available rewards for the exercise of that talent, and both the existence of the potential rewards and the beliefs that individuals hold about the existence of the rewards affect the decision to remain in the field.

One structural factor that may affect the judgment about whether to remain in a profession are promotions based on the gender of the employee (i.e., the “glass ceiling”). In this study, the authors examine the “glass ceiling” within the context of the accounting profession. While advances have been made within the accounting profession to address the glass ceiling, the continued existence—and perceptions about the continued existence—of the issue exert adverse effects upon the available talent pool and may create long-term problems for the profession.

In this study, the authors investigate glass ceiling perceptions among a large sample of female accounting professionals employed in accounting; the sample includes both public accountants, and those employed in industry accounting. The study yields the finding of beliefs in bias-driven effects (e.g., a bias against female promotions to the top level), structural effects (e.g., a lack of mentoring opportunities, networking opportunities, and high-profile job assignments), and cultural effects (e.g., a lack of social support from the male leaders within the organisation) among these accounting professionals. Glass ceiling perceptions are also influenced by several demographic factors. Furthermore, accounting professionals employed by industry are more likely to report a glass ceiling within their firms than accounting professionals employed by public accounting firms.

The findings are of interest to researchers who explore gender-related issues in professional service firms such as the field of accounting, and to senior members of practice who are tasked with ensuring the integrity and quality of the talent pool and the equitable distribution of rewards to employees.

Jeffrey R. Cohen, Derek W. Dalton, Lori L. Holder-Webb & Jeffrey J. McMillan. 2020. An Analysis of Glass Ceiling Perceptions in the Accounting Profession.

Journal of Business Ethics, 164(1), 17–38.