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IMA and International Business Ethics

By Jim Gurowka, CAE, and Curtis C. Verschoor, CMA, CPA
January 1, 2019
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IMA takes a consistent, comprehensive approach to promoting the highest ethical standards for accounting and finance professionals around the world.

 

As a global organization in 140 countries and with 366 professional and student chapters, IMA® (Institute of Management Accountants) has long played a leadership role in advancing the best ethical practices on an international level. IMA’s mission statement includes “advocacy of the highest ethical and best business practices in management accounting and finance.” This commitment to ethics has permeated the organization since it was founded in 1919 as the National Association of Cost Accountants (NACA). The IMA Statement of Ethical Professional Practice is considered the gold standard for guiding the ethical behavior of management accountants and financial managers worldwide.

 

A GLOBAL PRESENCE

 

IMA’s commitment to the global profession of management accounting and finance spans more than a half century, with the first non-U.S. chapter chartered in Cuba in 1943. More recently, IMA increased its efforts to make inroads into geographic regions beyond North America. For example, the first IMA International Conference was held in Dubai, UAE, in 2006, and a simplified Chinese version of the CMA® (Certified Management Accountant) exam was introduced in 2007. To this day, IMA is still the only international accounting association to offer Chinese management accountants and financial professionals a beginning-to-end experience for certification, providing exam prep, the actual exam, and continuing professional education (CPE) courses, all in Chinese.

 

IMA also has regional offices in eight cities outside the United States: three in China, two in Europe, one in India, one in Singapore, and one in Dubai. Today, more than half of IMA’s approximately 120,000 members hail from outside the U.S. Driving this expansion has been the association’s desire to grow the management accounting profession and to develop the skills and abilities of those finance and accounting professionals who work inside organizations across the globe. A fundamental part of this effort is encouraging the highest ethical standards among practitioners everywhere.

 

ETHICS IS GLOBAL, TOO

 

IMA takes its global role and responsibilities seriously, especially in the field of ethics. The IMA Statement sets forth principles and standards for the ethical conduct of accounting and finance professionals, and all members are expected to abide by them no matter what country or region they’re in. And since IMA is a member organization of the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC), these guidelines must be—and are—no less stringent than those set forth by the International Ethics Standards Board for Accountants (IESBA).

 

IMA takes a consistent, comprehensive approach to enforcing the IMA Statement. The IMA Committee on Ethics applies the same requirements and consequences to members no matter their geographic location, and reporting mechanisms are in place globally to ensure that ethical issues are addressed and resolved. The consequences of violating the IMA Statement are identical for every IMA member around the world.

 

To help members understand their ethical obligations, the IMA Statement has been translated into simplified Chinese and Arabic. And in addition to agreeing to abide by the IMA Statement, IMA members also must disclose any prior felonies on their record when completing their membership application.

 

Rather than being considered onerous and invasive, these ethical constraints have in practice helped fuel IMA’s continuing international growth. IMA’s strong ethical principles have increased the association’s esteem among members located around the world. In general, members appreciate the global nature of both IMA and the CMA certification, and IMA’s core principles and standards represent aspirational goals for professionals in both developed and developing countries.

 

AN EVOLVING APPROACH

 

While IMA’s commitment and dedication to the highest ethical standards is fixed in many ways, its approach to ethics has evolved when necessary to adapt to changes in the profession. IMA’s first code of conduct for members was issued in the 1980s. In 2005, the original IMA Statement of Ethical Professional Practice was created as a response to the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002. This was followed by a revised version in 2017 that’s shorter and easier to apply and reflects a more principles-driven approach.

 

Currently, IMA is working on an update to the IMA Management Accounting Competency Framework. The final version, due to be published in early 2019, will provide guiding principles that govern a person’s behavior in the workplace and will set forth specific recommendations for individuals with knowledge levels ranging from basic to expert. The revised Framework’s exposure draft, published earlier this year, contained a new competency domain—Professional Ethics & Values—as a fundamental underpinning for the five other domains. This underscores the importance of the concepts, illustrating how they play an integral part in guiding the actions performed in all aspects of the profession.

 

Ethics is a vital component of a company’s culture. Cultivating an ethical culture—defined as a set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterize an institution or organization—is a key success factor that contributes to a company’s competitive advantage and ability to create long-term value. That’s why each entity’s code of conduct should carefully express its core values, evidenced by a commitment to upholding the highest ethical standards.

 

IMA ETHICS HELPLINE

 

 

For clarification of how the IMA Statement of Ethical Professional Practice applies to your ethical dilemma, contact the IMA Ethics Helpline.

 

In the U.S. or Canada, dial (800) 245-1383. In other countries, dial the AT&T USA Direct Access Number from www.usa.att.com/traveler/index.jsp, then the above number.

 

The IMA Helpline is designed to provide clarification of provisions in the IMA Statement of Ethical Professional Practice, which contains suggestions on how to resolve ethical conflicts. The helpline cannot be considered a hotline to report specific suspected ethical violations.

 

 

Jim Gurowka, CAE, is the senior vice president, global business development, at IMA. You can reach him at jgurowka@imanet.org.  
  Curtis Verschoor, CMA, CPA, is the Emeritus Ledger & Quill Research Professor, School of Accountancy and MIS, and an honorary Senior Wicklander Research Fellow in the Institute for Business and Professional Ethics, both at DePaul University, Chicago. He is also a Research Scholar in the Center for Business Ethics at Bentley University, Waltham, Mass., and Chair-Emeritus of IMA’s Committee on Ethics. Trust Across America—Trust Around the World awarded him a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2016. In 2017, IMA published his book, Curt Verschoor on Ethics. His email address is curtisverschoor@sbcglobal.net.
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