Accountants deal with figures, in budgets, bills, accounts and balance sheets. They execute the decisions of boards and management and it is the board and management who are accountable for the figures at the end, not the accountants. This is the common view. A brand new book, ‘Chief Value Officer: Accountants Can Save the Planet' by Mervyn King with Jill Atkins (Greenleaf Publishing, December 2016), radically redefines the role of accountants.
Mervyn King, SC, from South Africa is a world expert on corporate governance, arbitrator, mediator and the initiator and President of the International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC), of which Globethics.net is a member. He has also served as one of three Presidents of the Global Ethics Forum of Globethics.net from 2012 to 2014.
The book first describes the evolution of companies to become "ownerless", the recent trend to rediscover corporate governance and the need to do it in a holistic way. On the reporting side, the trend from financial reporting to corporate, integrated reporting is now needed. The author with the IIRC are key drivers in promoting integrated reporting as a new way to show in reports not only the figures, but also to understand in a comprehensive way companies' long term value creation and impact on society.
The authors call accountants Chief Value Officers, thus recognising, "the crucial role of accountants in creating value (and saving the planet)" (p.90-93). In 2016, the International Federation of Accountants IFAC already acknowledged this integrated thinking and reporting as important for their membership of over one million professional accountants. The book concludes with the call to transform the training of accountants to be oriented towards values-driven accounting leading to sustainable development.
This book is a rich source for the Globethics.net Ethics in Higher Education programme, demonstrating as it does how professions must and can be transformed into professions that create long term value for society. What is true for accountants, is true for engineers, economists, architects, doctors, and so on. The challenge is now for someone, perhaps one of our Globethics.net participants, to write the sequel on the ‘Chief Value Officer' in their own profession.