Ethics matter, regardless of place, origin, or belief.

This is the Mission of Carnegie Council, which in 2014 started Global Ethics Day for institutions to explore the role of ethics in a globalised world. Inspired by Earth Day, the occasion provides an opportunity for organisations around the world to hold events on or around this day. Organisations in Africa, Asia, Australia, Caribbean Islands, Eurasia, Europe, North America and South America participate.

2020 marks the first year that The IIE will take part in Global Ethics Day, represented by the 2nd year Business Ethics students at the IIE MSA Campus who are studying to become Chartered Accountants (SA) (CA(SA)).

IIE MSA is a brand of The Independent Institute of Education, SA’s largest and most accredited private higher education provider.

The 2020 event is driven and project managed by Adél Du Plessis, Senior lecturer in Corporate Governance and Auditing, and is expected to be rolled out across more campuses in 2021.

The students will all dress professionally for this event, all wear the same branded 2020 Global Ethics Day masks and each team will present on real life events in South Africa that links with Ethics Principles of the King IV Code on Corporate Governance.

As the Global Ethics Day was inspired by Earth Day, the students will plant a tree as well. Specifically a lemon tree will be planted for the following reasons:

  • It provides fruit and can grow in any weather and does not need a lot of water. The fruit / lemons that it will carry in future need to remind our future students to look after our planet.
  • The thorns symbolise the corruption/fraud/selfish/unethical behaviour/challenges that we face in our society/organisations/families.
  • We are the lemons – we are not perfect and sweet as apples/pears. We also make mistakes and fail and sometimes leave a sour taste but we, as lemons can still be used to bring “good” – cleaning, healing, fresh air, lemonade.
  • Each student will also receive a lemon (to keep as a tangible metaphor).

The reason why this tangible 2020 Global Ethics Day is so important for our students is they need to start to physically experience that to be a well-rounded CA(SA) leader, they need develop the skill of being Impartial (maintaining objectivity and independence) that will lead to better Business Ethics in their careers. This risk of not being Impartial is explained well by a statement made by now Minister Tito Mboweni in 2003 at the launch of the African Women Chartered Accountants (AWCA):

“Many organisations are started with good sincere intent, but sooner rather than later, are subsumed by other interests… At the core of this phenomenon is financial and resource independence… they rely more on corporate contributions or corporate members… This tends to affect their independence and their ability to survive in the event of the withdrawal of funding or sponsorship by corporations. Please do not allow anybody to put you in their pockets! Even if they never say so, they do go around boasting about it.”

Over the years history and society has proven to us that when money is at stake, people may be tempted to sacrifice their ethical values and make subjective decisions. Maintaining independence and objectivity as a CA(SA) is therefore crucial to stay ethical because at the core of the CA(SA) Profession is financial and resource management and reporting. The best we must do as teachers of our country’s future CA(SA) leaders is to continue to challenge our students to stay impartial in daily interactions and decisions and stand up for and to do what is right from the bottom up, because it is the right thing to do.

Adél Du Plessis is an IIE MSA Senior lecturer in Corporate Governance and Auditing