Given November 15, 2022
I’m Gabriela Figueiredo Dias, Chair of IESBA. It is an honor to join you today in my first address to IFAC’s Council.
My first 10 months with the IESBA have been very busy.
But I would like to begin by stressing, on behalf of the entire Board, how seriously we take our responsibility to protect and advance the global accountancy profession’s Code of Ethics.
We see the IESBA’s ethics and independence standards as one of the greatest assets of the profession, one that makes the profession unique, and the framework that ties professional accountants to always act in the public interest.
Ethics has a crucial importance to the profession. Actually, the IESBA Code underpins the profession’s reputation. Your reputation.
It is the basis for trust in all that the profession does. And “You only have trust once.”
Let me therefore assure you that we understand the full importance and impact of our decisions as the global ethics standard setter.
The key question then is – How do we intend to handle this asset?
Well, some will say the priority is to protect it, to defend it.
That is valid of course.
Others, however, will say that an asset like this should continue to be nurtured, to grow, adapt and evolve in the changing and dynamic world we live in.
For me, the answer is both. A balanced approach. A purposeful one, focused on making a positive impact in the society.
Why? Ethics is a behavioral construct for professional accountants in service of businesses and the wider society. But businesses and societal expectations evolve.
Therefore, so must the IESBA Code.
At the same time, the Code has proven itself in many ways – so, we must retain its operability and durability.
As a former securities markets regulator, concerned about investor protection, I am aware of the importance of an ethical culture and leadership and of high-quality corporate information prepared and assured in accordance with the strongest ethics standards.
Given all this, what is critical as we move ahead in ethics standard setting?
I believe we must anchor to a clear vision.
That vision must speak to the heart of the profession, the expectations of stakeholders, and to the dynamics of today as well as tomorrow. The vision must revolve around reinforcing…re-igniting …trust
What does it take to be “recognized and accepted as the ‘linchpin to public trust”?
I see three critical drivers:
Critical Driver One: an unwavering focus on the areas of greatest opportunity, or threat, and a commitment to act with agility and impact.
Right now, that opportunity is sustainability.
The international regulatory community has recognized the IESBA’s critical role in the future of sustainability standard setting.
In September, IOSCO and the FSB have publicly recognized the IESBA’s critical role in the future of sustainability standard setting, urging us to develop profession-agnostic sustainability ethics standards to complete the infrastructure needed for transparent, relevant, and trustworthy sustainability reporting.
There is actually global appreciation that the IESBA Code sets the high ethical bar needed to underpin confidence in corporate information. Based on that experience and demonstrated relevance, the IESBA is particularly well positioned to also set the ethics standards needed to support trust in sustainability information.
We are conscious of the urgency of an integrated approach to sustainability, where all professionals, sectors and organizations play a role.
Therefore, we have committed publicly to developing timely, fit-for-purpose ethics and independence standards for sustainability reporting and assurance, usable by any provider, in coordination with the International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB) and, of course, our close friends at the IAASB.
The world is aligning… Ethics is being recognized as an equal pillar and an enveloping element of the infrastructure, besides reporting and assurance standards.
Critical Driver Two: a commitment to foster a community of active stakeholders, both inside and outside of the accountancy profession.
Our relevance and the impact of our outputs depend on the diversity of our stakeholders, on the intensity of our outreach to them, and on our openness to address their needs and their inputs.
As an example, coordinating with the IAASB and the ISSB, and engaging with national standard setters, jurisdictional bodies, and others, is for us an essential instrument of work and progress.
Doing with the others, and not in spite of them, is our motto and our safeguard against irrelevance.
Critical Driver Number Three: Relentless agility and prioritization.
Prioritization in delivering on our promises and ensuring quality.
Prioritization in observing trends, changes and transformation, incorporating it in our reflections and work, and being agile in doing the necessary adjustments.
And prioritization in the transformation of the Board as it implements the Monitoring Group recommendations.
With all this in mind, if you are asking… how can we help?
I will tell you how:
Please prioritize the adoption and implementation of the IESBA Code in your own jurisdictions, including the future sustainability ethics standards.
IFAC has been a great partner in adoption and implementation support. I have seen this firsthand during my first year here, and I applaud Kevin and his team.
Please also continue to help us communicate the relevance and importance of ethics in the accountancy profession, and walk the talk.
Continue to promote and engage with us on our exposure drafts and other dialogue opportunities.
What you do with this great asset, the IESBA’s global ethics standards, and how you advance it in your own communities, matters for the IESBA’s ethics standards to be the linchpin of public trust.
My full report is in your material, it is rich with details. I welcome any comments or questions while we are together in Mumbai.