Cowton, Christopher J. (2017) Virtue theory and accounting. In: Handbook of Virtue Ethics in Business and Management. International Handbooks in Business Ethics . Springer, pp. 1129-1140. ISBN 978-94-007-6509-2

After a period in which accounting has been implicated in a succession of corporate scandals, virtue theory offers considerable, and so far unfulfilled, potential for understanding and improving accounting practice. A virtue perspective should pick out those characteristics particularly associated with ‘good’ accountants, while recognising that accountants work in many different contexts and undertake a wide variety of different tasks. In seeking to construct an overarching view of the virtuous accountant, this chapter begins by a consideration of professionalism – something that unites accountants and differentiates them from many, but not all, occupational groups. This analysis reveals the importance of both integrity and competence, which is consistent with the Greek notion of arete as an excellence (i.e. not just moral virtue). In order to develop a more detailed picture that would apply particularly to professional accountants as a group, the chapter then examines the IESBA Code of Ethics for Professional Accountants and derives from its five fundamental principles and the associated commentary a set of adjectives that pick out, as a first approximation, the characteristics that might constitute the virtuous accountant.

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