When considering some of the key reasons for the desperate state of the current global economic environment, it is difficult to deny accounting’s role therein. Although accounting institutes require adherence to codes of conduct, the question remains as to what happened to the stewardship function of the accounting profession. This article has critically reflected on the question, ‘What constitutes an ethical accounting profession’? The key principles within many institutes’ codes of conduct, such as competency, integrity, objectivity and confidentiality, have been considered against the background of utilitarianism, formalism and virtue ethics as foundational ethical theories. This article has concluded that although these principles aim to provide a framework for ethical accounting conduct, individual subjectivity on the part of the accountant will play a role in how these ethical principles become ethical practices.