Tuesday, December 02, 2008

ARE GLOBAL ETHICS A MYTH?

http://www2.cimaglobal.com/cps/rde/xchg/SID-0A82C289-8E62997E/live/root.xsl/cimaethicsevent08venue.htm

The above link is an excellent podcast of a major debate on this topic hosted in London by CIMA, the accountancy body and chaired by Jon Snow, the Channel 4 News Anchor. It was a timely discussion on a critical topic, and I was fascinated to hear Jon Snow say at the very start: I am truly impressed by the diversity of the panel and the audience. It is sad to say, but in most discussions on ethics and public policy, minorities are excluded and by default, the culture and ethics are deemed to be of 'minor' importance. This is so not true.

The UK accounting profession is hugely diverse, and UK accounting bodies are at the hub of the global accounting profession with members stretching far and wide. However, if you look underneath these bodies, you will find the power and management to be very mono-cultural. Also, the ethics of modern accountants are being heavily criticised by many, including the eminent academic Prof. Prem Sikka of Essex University. Rarely have accountants responded in any clear way to his trenchant critiques. His Guardian Blog is a recommended read.

It is therefore very good that CIMA has taken the lead to host this discussion. Accountants need to be more reflective and also engage directly in cultural and ethical debates. There is a fascinating Indian ritual called the Chopda Pujan which has been conducted for centuries, and is so timely for today. It happens on New Year's Eve (Diwali) and businessmen get together to worship the goddess of wealth Laxmi and pray for success and prosperity in the future. However, this prayer is not for personal greed and accumulation, but so that the businessmen can play his or her dutiful role in the upliftment of the whole community and society. Here is a practice which a diverse accounting body should hold at its headquarters every year, not only to embrace diversity, but also to positively portray a good ethical example to the whole world. And please, Indian religions are Dharmas - sciences of sustainable living - they should be seen in this light. Diverse Ethics would be very happy to guide this initiative to any accounting body and it would have huge media interest also.

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