Accounting and the ethics challenge: Re-membering the professional body

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35 Citations (Scopus)


This paper looks beyond recent financial reporting ‘scandals’ to consider the ‘standing challenge’ that ethics represents for accountants and the professional bodies that represent them. It examines the notion of a profession and argues for a position that recognises both the potential benefits of professionalisation and the self‐serving tendencies to which professions can be prone. Such a position entails a view that the outcome of professionalisation for society is a contingent matter rather than an inevitability (whether positive or negative) and therefore something that is worth attempting to influence. In developing the argument, two major areas from the business ethics/corporate social responsibility literature, oriented towards business enterprises but also of relevance to professional bodies, are reviewed: whether being ethical ‘pays’ in financial terms; and whether formal codes are useful in promoting ethical behaviour. The paper concludes by positing three models of the professional body and contending for a renewed notion of membership if professional bodies are to function as effective ‘moral communities’.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)177-189
Number of pages13
JournalAccounting and Business Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2009


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