Under the CIMA Code of Ethics, CIMA members and students have an obligation to act in a professional manner and avoid any action which could bring the profession into disrepute. This includes the ways in which they communicate and represent themselves online via social media. A failure to comply with the Code of Ethics can lead to an investigation into their professional conduct and may result in disciplinary action being taken.
Relevant sections of the Code of Ethics include:
1) Section 114: Confidentiality
R114.1: “A professional accountant shall comply with the principle of confidentiality, which requires an accountant to respect the confidentiality of information acquired as a result of professional and business relationships.”
2) Section 115: Professional behaviour
R115.1: Members and students must “comply with relevant laws and regulations and avoid any conduct that the accountant knows or should know might discredit the profession.”
115.1 A1: “Conduct that might discredit the profession includes conduct that a reasonable and informed third party would be likely to conclude adversely affects the good reputation of the profession.”
R115.2: “When undertaking marketing or promotional activities, a professional accountant shall not bring the profession into disrepute. A professional accountant shall be honest and truthful and shall not make:
(a) Exaggerated claims for the services offered by, or the qualifications or experience of, the accountant; or
(b) Disparaging references or unsubstantiated comparisons to the work of others.”
Social media encompasses a number of platforms, including but not limited to Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram. These platforms may be used in a professional or a personal capacity; CIMA members and students should be mindful of their conduct and professional duties in all contexts.
CIMA expects its members to uphold the reputation of the Institute and the management accounting profession when communicating online, and to maintain the public trust in the profession. Examples of behaviour which may not meet these standards include:
- Posting offensive comments, whether referring to a protected characteristic under the 2010 UK Equality Act or otherwise. The protected characteristics are age, race, disability, religion or belief, pregnancy or maternity, sex or sexual orientation, gender reassignment and marriage or civil partnership.
- Sharing confidential information about an employer, competitor, client or other stakeholder
- Sharing confidential information relating to examinations such as providing inside information about questions to other students
- Harassing or victimising anyone including employees of the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants
- Using statements, photographs, video, or audio that reasonably could be viewed as malicious, obscene, threatening or intimidating
- Inciting hate or extremism
- Posting content meant to intentionally harm someone’s reputation
Laws regarding social media usage differs by jurisdiction. Members and students must ensure that they are familiar with the legal situation in their own country. Members should also ensure they are familiar with any policies or standards set by their employer in relation to social media.
Where a person is identifiable as a CIMA member or student, they should be aware that their comments may reflect upon the Institute. This would likely include websites such as LinkedIn, where it is typical to publicise membership of CIMA, and may also include other channels where a person has stated that that they are a member. Members and students must be aware that even where they have not explicitly indicated that they are a CIMA member or student, they may still be identified as such where their name or other information can be linked.
When using social media, members and students should be aware that their comments may be copied, redistributed or taken out of context by others. It is advisable to ensure that appropriate security settings are used so that social media activity is only seen by those with whom the member or student is comfortable. It is important to note that sharing or liking comments made by others may be seen by some as endorsing the view point of the original commentator.