Modern teaching of economics, accounting and finance has ignored faith and community, removing a key context for ethical dialogue and conduct, according to Professor Atul K. Shah.
In his new book ‘Inclusive and Sustainable Finance: Leadership, Ethics and Culture’ Shah says the professional bodies have a lot to learn, and need to reform their curriculum so they relate more to the living cultures and beliefs of all their students.
He believes these same professional bodies have a duty to cultivate a public and environmental conscience among the leaders they certify. “At present they are doing the opposite,” he suggests.
For many joining the profession there is still a huge need to compromise their beliefs to ‘fit in,’ and Shah feels there is a total absence of non-white culture and faith in the current accounting syllabus and curriculum.
He also said that despite there being thousands of books on business leadership, accountancy and finance science, there is total silence on what good and fair accounting and finance leadership looks and feels like. Shah explained: “We all know from the scandals at Enron or Lehman Brothers, or RBS and HBOS what bad finance leadership looks like.” But the question of good leadership and its power and influence is not looked at by accountancy students.
Shah worries that ethical education avoids engaging with the deeper systemic and political structures which create the inequalities and social and environmental damage in the first place. He explains: “It personalises ethics, when often it is globalism or market triumphalism which is the core driver of corporate greed.” What he wants to see is a holistic approach to ethics education where students are empowered to be self-critical and understand the structural assumptions that promote certain ‘truths’ through accounting.
Shah is concerned ethics is now just seen as a technique to be mastered for passing exams and then forgotten as quickly.
He stresses that often what counts cannot be counted! “Culture and community help people have a sense of purpose and conscience, which is very helpful for ethical conduct.” Shah feels that faith and belief helps people regulate their own behaviour, something rarely discussed openly.
To find out more go to: https://atulkshah.co.uk/2022/06/30/sustainable-finance-pioneering-new-research/