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The Art of Ethics

By Alex C. Eng, CMA, CFM, CPA
May 1, 2018

When we hear the word “ethics,” most of us immediately proceed to our own visual of its meaning: a news broadcast, a legal proceeding, or perhaps even a specific personal event. Despite much effort across our professional associations to define its objective criteria, ethics is inevitably one of the most subjective areas open to interpretation. But one thing is for sure: Ethical behavior is driven by our intentions to commit to a higher standard of achievement. This higher standard is about a pervasive corporate culture, one that instills true integrity by valuing not only getting to a profitable conclusion, but also leading to the right answer. Or, from my almost-four-year old’s perspective, we need to “ease off and not beat that yellow light!” (There really isn’t an exclamation point suitable in describing his delight when I slammed on the brakes.)


While every aspect of our personal lives is affected by our subjective approach to ethics, when it comes to our professional behavior, IMA has taken a leadership role by promulgating the IMA Statement of Ethical Professional Practice. For more than 30 years, IMA has advocated the importance of promoting a positive ethical culture, as well as subordinating personal interests beneath the following four principles and standards (in words taken directly from the Statement).


Principles: Honesty, Fairness, Objectivity, and Responsibility.




Competence. Leadership, knowledge, skills, standards, decision support, and risk management;


Confidentiality. Appropriate disclosure and proper use of confidential information;


Integrity. Conflict and management of bias, promoting positive ethical actions; and


Credibility. Relevant and reliable communication of information and boundaries.


These principles and standards reflect IMA’s ongoing commitment to being an industry leader in the highest ethical practices. As part of that commitment, IMA updated the Statement last year to provide even clearer, easier-to-apply guidelines on how to behave ethically.


What, then, should you do as a CMA® (Certified Management Accountant) or other IMA member if questionable ethical practices cross your path? You can always speak with your supervisor or manager, and IMA has a free, confidential Ethics Helpline designed to provide clarification of how to properly apply the IMA Statement to a given situation. It’s available at (800) 245-1383 for members in the United States and Canada; other members can find specific instructions on the IMA Ethics Center page: http://bit.ly/2vBrWmW.


For all of us, ethics is an art, a skill we should attempt to master over the course of our professional lives. I welcome your comments at aeng@imanet.org.


Alex C. Eng, CMA, CFM, CPA, Esq., is Chair of the IMA Global Board of Directors and vice president, U.S. Corporate Finance at EDF Renewable Energy.
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