Based on the P.D. Leake Lecture given at Chartered Accountants’ Hall in May 2007,\ud this paper looks beyond recent financial reporting ‘scandals’ to consider the ‘standing\ud challenge’ that ethics represents for accountants and the professional bodies that\ud represent them. It examines the notion of a profession and argues for a position that\ud recognizes both the potential benefits of professionalization and the self-serving\ud tendencies to which professions can be prone. Such a position entails a view that the\ud outcome of professionalization for society is a contingent matter rather than an\ud inevitability (whether positive or negative) and therefore something that is worth\ud attempting to influence. In developing the argument, two major areas from the\ud business ethics/corporate social responsibility literature, oriented towards business\ud enterprises but also of relevance to professional bodies, are reviewed: whether being\ud ethical ‘pays’ in financial terms; and whether formal codes are useful in promoting\ud ethical behaviour. The paper concludes by positing three models of the professional\ud body and contending for a renewed notion of membership if professional bodies are to\ud function as effective ‘moral communities’
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