The Contemporary Business Issues (CBI) subject examines a number of contemporary and emerging global issues in order to familiarise you with the business environment you are likely to be operating in as an accountant. It also uses Contemporary Business Issues as a vehicle for advancing the development of professional values, ethics and attitudes.

In particular, attitudes that:

  • value learning combined with well-developed personal communication, networking and information technology skills
  • acknowledge the importance of professional curiosity as a means of avoiding imprudent decision-making
  • welcome divergent opinions and creative approaches to problem solving as a means of gaining insights into an increasingly complex and dynamic business world

This subject will offer you the challenges and opportunities presented by contemporary issues – such as operating in a carbon-constrained economy and in an environment of tight liquidity and dwindling resources.

The CBI subject is an elective subject within the CPA Program professional level. Online resources are used extensively for this subject, including online versions of Modules (these are also printed), audio and video presentations and web links.

If you are considering enrolling in this subject, you should ensure you have reliable online access and enjoy the challenge of this type of learning experience.

Exam structure

The CBI exam generally consists of 100 per cent multiple-choice questions. 

System requirements

As some of the online resources are PDFs, you should check that you have the latest version of Adobe Acrobat Reader. If you do not, download and install the latest version that is compatible with your operating system. 

You will need to use My Online Learning to access the CBI Desk, where the online resources for this subject are located.

Subject aims

The aims of the subject are to:

  • promote the development of professional values, ethics and attitudes by using complex, real-life scenarios that highlight how professional values, ethics and attitudes underpin all facets of an accountant's world; and
  • develop a broader awareness of the origins and effects of contemporary and emerging global issues that are affecting the business environment

General objectives

On completion of this subject, you should be able to:

  • encourage an attitude of professional curiosity by challenging assumptions about contemporary and emerging issues and how they should be addressed
  • critically evaluate current research and practice on the origins and effects of contemporary and emerging global issues
  • judge the effects that disclosure requirements will have on financial and non-financial reporting, and consider the overall impact that a shift towards non-financial, sustainability and integrated reporting will have on enterprises and accounting functions

Subject content

The ‘weighting’ column in the following table provides an indication of the emphasis placed on each module in the exam, while the ‘proportion of study time’ column is a guide for you to allocate your study time for each module.

Module Recommended proportion of study time (%) Weighting (%)
1. The accountant as strategic business adviser


2. Global business context


3. Business crime: Investigation, detection and prevention


4. Financial reporting and beyond


5. Innovation and risk


6. Communication and technology


  100 100

The subject is divided into six modules. A brief outline of each module is provided below.

Module 1: The accountant as strategic business adviser

This module introduces the subject by highlighting how contemporary issues are affecting the role of accountants as members of a business community and public practitioners, and the effect this is having on professional values, ethics and attitudes.

Many prospective accountants assume their work will revolve around recording and reporting financial information. However, that is a very narrow view. Accountants also act as internal business advisers, carry significant ethical responsibilities, and have expanded their focus well beyond financial measures to consider physical and social areas as well.

This module will attempt to broaden your ideas about some of the many varied roles that will be important for accountants to fulfil. Specifically, it focuses on the idea of accountants as strategic business advisers. 

The module also considers human resource issues for organisations, and in particular how the complexity of the environment in which organisations operate is growing. The role of the accountant in managing these issues is discussed. This increase in responsibility from being providers of information to being partners in decision-making is challenging. It requires a deeper understanding of the industry in which the accountant operates, and the economy, as well as global social, environmental and political issues.


  • Part A: The need for advice
  • Part B: Advising beyond traditional accounting areas
  • Part C: Ethical interaction
  • Part D: Human resource issues and complexity 

Module 2: Global business context

Module 2 provides background information on global issues that are well known and of current and future concern. Business is expected to be profitable. However, if that comes at the expense of long-term sustainability, not only will living conditions be adversely affected, so too will the ability of organisations to continue to deliver new products and services while achieving appropriate levels of profit.

A case study titled ‘The sovereign wealth fund of Papua New Guinea’ is located at the end of Module 2. It describes Papua New Guinea’s (PNG) history at managing windfall revenues from previous mining booms, and how the PNG government intends to address this issue with respect to a future windfall from its liquid natural gas (LNG) resources. At the end of the case study, there are a series of tasks linked to ‘Part A: Impact of dwindling resources’ together with suggested answers. The case study is non-examinable.


  • Part A: Impact of dwindling resources
  • Part B: Operating in a carbon-constrained economy
  • Part C: The changing population
  • Part D: Offshoring

Module 3: Business crime: Investigation, detection and prevention

Module 3 considers the growing specialist field of forensic accounting as well as the related and expanding area of business crime. Crimes against business, government agencies and the not‑for-profit sector are discussed, including theft, fraud, falsification of financial reporting, bribery, corruption and money laundering. The module takes an in-depth look at the growth in these areas in terms of size and also the complexity of the crimes.

An overview of the role and processes of the forensic accountant in investigating, detecting and preventing business crime is then provided. The steps taken to conduct a business crime investigation are outlined, and how such crimes are detected using analytical tools and methods is discussed. Business crime prevention is then considered, including the Australian standard AS 8001–2008 Fraud and Corruption Control, which outlines key attributes of a robust fraud and corruption control program.


  • An overview of forensic accounting
  • Business crime
  • The forensic accountant’s role in investigating business crime
  • Detecting business crime
  • Preventing business crime

Module 4: Financial reporting and beyond

Module 4 focuses initially on regulatory issues by considering the progress on international convergence of accounting standards and the impact of the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) on accounting standard-setting. Recent developments in public sector accounting standards as well as developments in director reporting are also considered. Liquidity risk, particularly in relation to how it has been impacted by the GFC, is then addressed, followed by a review of the regulations for banking, Basel III, and their implications for accountants, and a discussion of a possible return to protectionism in some countries.

An alternative banking model, Islamic finance, is discussed and some interesting insights are provided which help explain why some claim this model showed increased resilience during the GFC.

Part B explores sustainability issues and the increasing demand by stakeholders for more detailed non-financial information from organisations. Developments in the innovative area of integrated reporting are discussed, including an analysis of the integrated reporting framework. The framework is designed to support organisations in presenting higher quality reports regarding their impacts on a number of ‘capitals’ and also on aspects of value creation.

Part C moves on to non-financial reporting frameworks beginning with the G4 Guidelines issued by the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI). Other forms of sustainability reporting, including water accounting, self-reporting of carbon and other data to the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) and natural capital accounting are also considered. The module concludes with a discussion of the opportunities for accountants to meet the needs of business for new services to help them satisfy the demands for information on environmental, sustainability and governance (ESG) reporting.

These services include assurance of sustainability reports.


  • Part A: Developments in financial reporting and banking regulations
  • Part B: Integrated reporting
  • Part C: Non-financial reporting frameworks

Module 5: Innovation and Risk

The module begins by looking at risk management and its linkage to organisational value. Important issues relating to development and improvement of intangible assets such as brands, reputation, knowledge and intellectual property are covered. The module discusses the need to build trust while safeguarding these assets, especially with the speed at which knowledge can be lost, transferred or stolen in the modern, digitally interconnected world.

Risks relating to data security are then considered, including the types of risks that organisations face and the types of protection needed to keep internal systems secure.

The module then goes on to consider how, around the world, there is growing recognition of the link between an entrepreneurial outlook, innovation and workforce productivity, and how entrepreneurship contributes to the growth of the local and national economies in which they are embedded.

Types of entrepreneurship, including social entrepreneurship and innovative sources of entrepreneurial funding for start-ups are considered. The module concludes by considering microfinance, an innovation in the financial services industry that aids entrepreneurship in developing countries.


  • Part A: Risk and value
  • Part B: Protecting intellectual property
  • Part C: Data security and risk
  • Part D: Entrepreneurship and innovation
  • Part E: Microfinance.

Module 6: Communication and technology  

Module 6 discusses a range of issues associated with modern global business communication. This module focuses first on how communication takes place in an organisation, including some of the principles and cultural aspects of communication. Communication frameworks and planning are covered—these are important considerations to ensure that communication is effectively received and understood.

The effect that modern information and communication technologies (ICTs) are having on business communication, both inside and outside organisations, is then discussed. Social media and the important area of knowledge sharing are considered. These areas are valuable in enabling an organisation to manage relationships with stakeholders and to help with sharing expert knowledge (which becomes increasingly complex as organisations grow).


  • Part A: Communication in business 
  • Part B: How businesses use ICT