Deloitte's Chief Executive James E. Copeland announced plans to revitalize and expand the firm's ethical awareness program. A key objective is to strengthen the essentials (knowledge, expertise, assessments and controls) needed to tackle the risks that have shaken confidence in the capital markets.
The initial steps will focus on:
- Helping auditors to recognize the intangibles (behaviors and environmental characteristics) most likely to raise ethical issues.
- Strengthening the policies and procedures that help ensure a timely and consistent response to ethical issues.
- Carving out a role for a Chief Ethics Officer.
- Reexamining the content of professional training courses in search of better ways to integrate knowledge and expectations about how to deal with the warning signs of unethical behavior.
These steps respond to the growing evidence of unscrupulous workplace "greed." Mr. Copeland prefers to call it the loss of consensus about ethical business practices. He rates it as the greatest long-term threat to the viability of the accounting profession.
The need for a recommitment to traditional values, such as ethics, integrity and quality, has become a common theme in many of Mr. Copeland's recent speeches. As chief executive, he has demonstrated strong support for these values and a willingness to "walk the talk," despite what he refers to the "price tag" of integrity.
As proof that he practices what he preaches, Mr. Copeland has so far resisted the temptation to commercialize the profession's problems. He has no book to plug and says the firm is not out to win a popularity contest. Simply put, his message is: It's time to get back to basics.
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