Virtuous Character

We are collaborating with the Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues (University of Birmingham) on a research project to explore what virtues and attributes are prized and upheld by ICAEW members and what they associate with the ideal professional for chartered accountants.

The Virtuous Character in Business and Finance project is one of three projects of the Jubilee Centre that explores the ethics of professionals. It examines what business school students and business and finance professionals say about character and virtues in the business and finance professions, and the extent to which such students and professionals draw on virtue-based reasoning when confronted with ethical dilemmas.

Over 300 ICAEW members contributed to our research by completing an online survey or taking part in a in-depth interviews.

The Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues is a pioneering interdisciplinary research centre at the University of Birmingham, focussing on character, virtues and values in the interest of human flourishing. The Centre promotes a moral concept of character in order to explore the importance of virtue for public and professional life. The Centre is a leading informant on policy and practice in this area and through its extensive range of projects contributes to a renewal of character virtues in both individuals and societies.

The overarching aim of this project is to think about the future of business ethics education and training. We think that despite some recent interest in virtue ethics in the field of business, the actual moral practice of business graduates and seasoned professionals has more typically been studied through a rule-and-code focused lens than a virtue ethical one. With this interdisciplinary project, taking on board insights from business/finance, philosophy and social science, the Jubilee Centre aim to ameliorate this shortcoming in the literature and shed an important new light on the state of business ethics in the UK.

We believe that business and finance professionals need to rediscover their true vocation which is to serve the wider long-term interests of society. In order to achieve this, the project will lead to changes in how students and professionals understand character and in how they conduct themselves in real life.

Some of the key questions that the project will explore are:

  • Which virtues are prized and upheld by the business professionals themselves, according to self-reports?
  • Which virtues are associated with the ideal professional and how do those and other virtues and values shape current practice?
  • Does a virtue ethical approach provide a suitable theoretical foundation for business education?
  • What hinders or helps business professionals in exhibiting virtuous practice?
  • What recommendations can we give to educators about improving the teaching of professional ethics in the field?

The Jubilee Centre is conducting a thorough review of the literature. AuditFutures is facilitating a survey of ICAEW members in business and finance and some of the surveys will be followed-up by in-depth interviews with a sub-sample of respondents. We expect to publish an interim report with findings and insights later this year.

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