The ethical challenges for professionals

Digital technologies have made us all global citizens, where, in real-time, we see how business impacts at local and global levels.  These impacts heighten our professional, ethical accountabilities to ensure such impacts are not diminishing human social progress.

The human toll wrought by Covid-19 vividly demonstrated our shared humanity.  To ensure we create a better post-Covid world than the one that existed before, we must draw on our shared humanity and ability to reason. The pandemic exposed the shortfalls of our current leadership models and governance systems that have spawned a winners take all economy characterised by casualised labour, stagnant wages and human slavery; where business corruption is robbing societies of the medical, educational, and social investments needed to protect human flourishing.

Plan a new approach rather than “Snap Back”

The World Economic Forum (WEF) calls on those in power not to “snap back” to pre-Covid inequalities.  Instead, they call on professionals to leverage new digital technologies to design “moon shots” that consciously design for a more humane economy. They recognise that technologies are not neutral and can harm as well as enhance human well-being.  Named  The Great Reset , WEF is engaging leaders and sharing resources to ensure digital technologies are designed to enhance societal progress.

The accountancy profession is already helping to raise the ethical floor below the global marketplace, enabling better governance through integrated reporting. Still there is much more to do to answer Society’s call for ethical leadership.

Business leaders now find themselves on a global stage held to account for the intersection of ethical accountability and commercial imperatives. Existential questions around business’ role in addressing societal challenges, including climate emergency, AI’s impacts on global workforces; global corruption and the shape of humanity’s progress in a digital world, need to be addressed in Boardrooms around the world along with new governance models that learn from the mistakes of the past.

Global societal movements such as #MeToo, Black Lives Matter and climate emergency have made personal and organisational reputations vulnerable to changing societal values.  What happens inside corporations inevitably finds its way into the public arena, where accountability for ethical impacts is increasingly in focus.

New visions of responsible and responsive business goals

The good news is that many global leaders are already responding to WEF’s call for “A Great Reset”. They acknowledge that when the goal of the system changes, the system itself changes. They are talking about transforming capitalism to make it more inclusive and socially accountable and purposely designing human-centred systems.

All professionals have already signed up to protect Society’s interest as part of their professional license.  We need to venture further and assume a proactive role in ensuring new technologies enhance our human well-being. The accountancy and legal professions have a box seat steering the 4th Industrial Revolution, being embedded in institutions in all sectors.  These inhouse professionals can be midwives to the birth of a more socially inclusive world enhanced by digital technologies.

By assisting organisations to focus on human-centric designs as the characteristic of our Digital Age, professional will continue to raise the ethical floor below the global marketplace.


Edited version of the Dr. Attracta Lagan presentation at the APESB 15 Year anniversary event 21 May, 2021.

The APESB website has a range of resources to assist professional accountants with the APESB suite of pronouncements, including links to helpful external resources.

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