Date posted: 01/07/2020

Report – Professions’ expertise nothing without ethics

Commitments to ethical codes set professions apart from other occupations.

A commitment to ethics and integrity underpins public faith in Australian and New Zealand professions, says a report on the state of professions such as accounting, medicine and law.

Having a code of ethics was identified as the most important characteristic of a profession in a survey conducted as part of The 21st Century Profession – the changing nature of professions report commissioned by Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand (CA ANZ).

Ethics was very closely followed by expert knowledge as an essential characteristic of a profession – 64% and 63% respectively.

"A common perception of professions is that their authority rests on their expertise, but our survey shows that in the public's mind expertise and knowledge must first and foremost be underpinned by ethics and integrity," said CA ANZ CEO Ainslie van Onselen. "Expertise, ethics and integrity are the trinity of characteristics that set professions apart."

She said that the expertise, knowledge and authority of professions, such as teachers, the medical profession and accountants, was on display guiding individuals, communities and businesses to overcome the various challenges presented by COVID-19.

"As a profession, accountants have been able to fulfil their role as trusted advisors due to society trusting that their expertise will be applied in an ethical manner."

Commitments to ethical codes set professions apart from other occupations, said van Onselen who is a lawyer. The survey found the people put less emphasis on members of a profession having a university degree than once was the case. Only 37% of respondents believed that members of a profession require a university degree and should sit professional exams.

This finding was one of a number in the report pointing to the need for professions to change to stay relevant and attract top talent, van Onselen said.

"Change is happening to professions right now thanks to COVID-19 and further change is inevitable. In particular there is demand from the public, and from members of professions, for greater transparency. Professions need to get better at explaining what they do and the value they add.

"Professions must look forward and continue to adapt to stay relevant and meet new demands."

The 21st Century Profession

Findings from the paper point to a healthy future for professions.

Download the report here

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