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THIS FALL, CPA CANADA launched the Advanced Certificate in Accounting program for people interested in midlevel accounting roles. The program’s first course offers a foundational knowledge in ethics: what it is, the types of ethical dilemmas accountants are likely to face and a five-step problem-solving framework called the ACAF Method that mirrors the CPA Way.


Step 1 : Assess the situation Step 2 : Identify issues Step 3 : Analyze issues Step 4 : Make conclusions Step 5 : Communicate findings


The University of Waterloo’s School of Accounting and


Finance has adopted some of the doctrines from Mary Gentile’s book Giving Voice to Values to help students do the right thing. “How can you become an advocate for the right choice and use your skills of persuasion to change the minds of people pressur- ing you?” asks Krista Fiolleau, an assistant professor of assur- ance and ethics at the school. “We spend a lot of time on strate- gies to help students live their values.” That can only happen if graduates are comfortable with ethics


themes that underpin CPA Canada’s Competency Map and the provincial codes: being objective, competent and independent. They are doing this in part by incorporating ethics informally throughout their undergraduate courses and oſten by offering stand-alone ethics courses. The goal is to provide students with the vocabulary to discuss ethics, to understand what it means to behave ethically, to have an understanding of ethical decision- making frameworks and then to employ stakeholder analysis and critical thinking to encourage different viewpoints, assess how decisions impact all stakeholders and come up with alter- native actions. “For example, as a CFO, you may wish to push for an account-


ing treatment that will maximize your compensation. That’s not how we would train a CFO at our school,” says Cameron Graham, accounting professor at the Schulich School of Business. “They are going to learn to take other perspectives into account and to realize in the long run [that] balancing those interests against your own is fun-


damentally necessary; otherwise there’s no reason for anyone to trust you. We’re teaching students to make those kinds of contradictions explicit, to talk about them and get them on the table. I want to see students come out of our program not afraid of ethical dilemmas and contradictions and ambiguity because they know how to get other people involved in coming to a shared understanding of what the problem is and to a decision that is acceptable to everyone. That’s when you have graduates who can add value.”


and their own values and understand the barriers to ethical deci- sion-making. “I get my students to engage in enough conversa- tions about ethics so they don’t feel like it might be impolite to question someone else’s values,” says Chris MacDonald, director of the Jim Pattison Ethical Leadership Education and Research Program at the Ted Rogers School of Management. “You don’t want the moment of crisis to be the first time you’ve tried to put words around what it is you value as an individual and as a company. In most cases, we are training future managers, not just future professionals. What sort of example are they going to set? The way they shape those teams and the structures and incentives they put in place will make it either harder or easier for individuals to feel empowered to do the right thing and raise their hand when they see signs of trouble; to create an ethical culture or not.” Brooks sees a void in business that CPAs can address. “The


objective is to make professional accounting students aware of ethical issues and failures so they can advise colleagues and executives on these matters and how to use ethical decision- making in other areas of the organization. They don’t teach business ethics in law school; they don’t stress it in marketing or anywhere else. Because the profession is based on ethics and because CPAs are preparing financial statements and auditing them, they have a lot at stake or should. If you want a culture of integrity, the profession has a big role to play.”


MARY TERESA BITTI is a freelance writer based in Oakville, Ont.


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JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2016 | CPA MAGAZINE | 49


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