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Article
Publication date: 29 June 2010

Professor Gael McDonald

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European Business Review, vol. 22 no. 4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0955-534X

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Article
Publication date: 29 June 2010

Gael McDonald

The constructs of relativism and absolutism have a significant role to play in the development of ethical theory; however, they are commonly simplified in their depictions…

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11440

Abstract

Purpose

The constructs of relativism and absolutism have a significant role to play in the development of ethical theory; however, they are commonly simplified in their depictions and are philosophically more complex than we give them credit for. The purpose of this paper is to undertake an in‐depth examination of ethical relativity and ethical absolutism before concluding with a discussion of which research implications warrant further investigation.

Design/methodology/approach

A descriptive, historical, anthological approach has been taken.

Findings

Ethical relativism is regrettably subject to a proliferation of related terminology and, in many instances with different meanings ascribed to similar terms. In addition, ethical relativity appears to attract different research perspectives that are heavily dependent on their academic origins. A clear distinction needs to be made between ethical and situational relativity. It is suggested that relativism is present in the process of moral justification and that ethical relativism should be analyzed from three levels: the individual level, the role and group level, and the cultural levels. The over‐riding objection to ethical relativism rests on the consequences of accepting relativism, which undermines the existence and strength of global moral standards and the inherent positioning of ethical absolutism. Absolutism does not deny the existence of multiple moral practices evident around the world, but proposes that variations in ethical actions could still be rooted in common universal moral standards based on our requirements as human beings and the necessities of long‐term survival.

Research limitations/implications

The ensuing discussions of relativism and absolutism open up a rich vein of research opportunities and suggest caution is required in regard to research methodologies. From a methodological perspective, care needs to be taken. For example, using hypothetical ethical dilemmas that are often unrelated to a specific industry or cultural setting has resulted in many researchers observing situational relativity rather than true ethical relativity.

Originality/value

This paper specifically examines whether there are differences in underlying and basic moral standards even though similarities in ethical behaviour have been determined, or whether differing ethical actions could, as the absolutists believe, originate from common universal standards despite apparent differences in perceptions and actions across cultures.

Details

European Business Review, vol. 22 no. 4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0955-534X

Keywords

Content available
Article
Publication date: 26 June 2009

Goran Svensson

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554

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European Business Review, vol. 21 no. 4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0955-534X

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Article
Publication date: 19 June 2007

Jens Mueller, Heinz Klandt, Gael McDonald and Tanja Finke‐Schuermann

This paper aims to describe the extent to which corporate organizations in Germany and in New Zealand have included sustainability practices as part of their strategic

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to describe the extent to which corporate organizations in Germany and in New Zealand have included sustainability practices as part of their strategic planning process.

Design/methodology/approach

Current literature is reviewed to make a case for sustainability to be a driver behind corporate decision making and long‐term performance. The results of surveys of several hundred firms in both Germany and New Zealand, countries with a publicly stated commitment to sustainability, are reviewed to compare the adoption rates of sustainability practices.

Findings

There is a significant difference between what firms do and what their managers think is important. Managers largely consider sustainability practices an important factor for their future careers, while firms to a large extent do not include sustainability as part of their strategic or operational planning process.

Research limitations/implications

The International Sustainability Acceptance Measurement (ISAM) collects data in several countries through local‐language versions of the same online survey tool (www.worldreply.com). The findings in this report are specific only to New Zealand and Germany.

Practical implications

The paper points academics, corporate executives and sustainability fanatics to an alarming inconsistency between what is publicly reported as commitment to sustainability and what is practically achieved.

Originality/value

This paper adds value to the discussion of how sustainability practices have migrated into the operation of firms.

Details

Corporate Governance: The international journal of business in society, vol. 7 no. 3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1472-0701

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Article
Publication date: 29 June 2010

Emily F. Carasco and Jang B. Singh

The purpose of this paper is to provide a general review of international efforts to hold transnational corporations (TNCs) responsible for human rights. It tracks the…

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1839

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to provide a general review of international efforts to hold transnational corporations (TNCs) responsible for human rights. It tracks the evolution of international conventions related to TNCs and human rights and assesses their effectiveness.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper describes and analyzes efforts over the last four decades by the United Nations (UN), the Organisation for Economic Co‐operation and Development, the International Labour Organization and non‐governmental groups to provide guidelines and encourage TNCs to aspire to international standards in human rights.

Findings

The early attempts to regulate TNCs internationally lacked any form of the robust compulsion, systemic monitoring and effective enforcement mechanisms necessary to deal with the magnitude of the global investment arena. However, during the last decade, there has been explicit recognition on the part of the UN that action is necessary and the most recent convention emanating from the UN, the Norms, may evolve into a binding instrument on TNCs.

Originality/value

This paper, by mapping the development of global ethical conventions up to the UN Norms on the responsibilities for TNCs and other business enterprises with regards to human rights, informs corporate officers of the state of global discussions on this issue and lays the groundwork for further scholarly analysis of the Norms in the future.

Details

European Business Review, vol. 22 no. 4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0955-534X

Keywords

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Article
Publication date: 29 June 2010

Ekaterina S. Ralston

The purpose of this paper is to examine the body of cross‐disciplinary literature on corporate social responsibility (CSR), organizational structure, and organizational…

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3639

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to examine the body of cross‐disciplinary literature on corporate social responsibility (CSR), organizational structure, and organizational culture. The author suggests that the issue of social responsibility is a phenomenon both external and internal to organizations, as it lies on the cusp of organizational culture and social expectations.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper bridges classical sociological thought and contemporary views on CSR to develop an argument about the deviant nature of CSR. It highlights the theoretical challenges to establish socially responsible behaviors of organization as a mainstream norm.

Findings

The paper suggests that CSR should be perceived within the context of the existing social norms and understood as an outcome of shared set of organizational norms and values. The review of existing theories of CSR is followed by a discussion of whether CSR is a deviant or a normative phenomenon.

Originality/value

The paper presents CSR as a deviant behavior and argues that in order for it to become a common organizational practice, ideas of socially responsible behaviors should be incorporated into the existing set of social expectations.

Details

European Business Review, vol. 22 no. 4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0955-534X

Keywords

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Article
Publication date: 29 June 2010

R. Barkemeyer, D. Holt, F. Figge and G. Napolitano

The purpose of this paper is to present an analysis of media representation of business ethics within 62 international newspapers to explore the longitudinal and…

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1894

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to present an analysis of media representation of business ethics within 62 international newspapers to explore the longitudinal and contextual evolution of business ethics and associated terminology. Levels of coverage and contextual analysis of the content of the articles are used as surrogate measures of the penetration of business ethics concepts into society.

Design/methodology/approach

This paper uses a text mining application based on two samples of data: analysis of 62 national newspapers in 21 countries from 1990 to 2008; analysis of the content of two samples of articles containing the term business ethics (comprised of 100 newspaper articles spread over an 18‐year period from a sample of US and UK newspapers).

Findings

The paper demonstrates increased coverage of sustainability topics within the media over the last 18 years associated with events such as the Rio Summit. Whilst some peaks are associated with business ethics scandals, the overall coverage remains steady. There is little apparent use in the media of concepts such as corporate citizenship. The academic community and company ethical codes appear to adopt a wider definition of business ethics more akin to that associated with sustainability, in comparison with the focus taken by the media, especially in the USA. Coverage demonstrates clear regional bias and contextual analysis of the articles in the UK and USA also shows interesting parallels and divergences in the media representation of business ethics.

Originality/value

A promising avenue to explore how the evolution of sustainability issues including business ethics can be tracked within a societal context.

Details

European Business Review, vol. 22 no. 4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0955-534X

Keywords

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Article
Publication date: 29 June 2010

Jeremy Galbreath

There is a small but growing body of empirical research examining benefits of corporate social responsibility (CSR) beyond traditional, accounting‐based financial…

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20779

Abstract

Purpose

There is a small but growing body of empirical research examining benefits of corporate social responsibility (CSR) beyond traditional, accounting‐based financial benefits. To extend this body of research in contexts outside of Europe and the USA, the purpose of the present paper is to empirically examine three potential benefits of demonstrating CSR: reduced employee turnover; increased customer satisfaction; and improved reputation.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper collected data on latent constructs through a survey of chief executive officers across a spectrum of industries in Australia. Confirmatory factor analysis assessed psychometric properties of the constructs, while regression analysis was used to examine posited hypotheses.

Findings

The findings suggest that firms engaging in CSR can benefit in ways beyond a pure bottom‐line outcome. First, due to exhibited fairness, socially responsive activities appear to be a means to reduce employee turnover. Second, by meeting justice needs of customers, CSR is likely to increase customer satisfaction. Lastly, CSR activities provide visible signals from which stakeholders infer various positive characteristics of firms, thus creating an avenue to increase overall firm reputation.

Practical implications

Firms can choose to do nothing with respect to their social responsibilities to doing much. While proactively engaging in CSR is not without opportunity cost, the results of this paper suggest executives should not dismiss CSR altogether.

Originality/value

Value from this paper is derived in three ways: relying on non‐financial dependent variables, it supplements limited CSR research conducted in this stream; the data and implications drawn come from Australia, thereby adding needed international insight into the benefits of CSR; and the paper supplements financial‐driven theories used in CSR research by focusing on employee justice perceptions, equity, and signaling theories.

Details

European Business Review, vol. 22 no. 4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0955-534X

Keywords

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Article
Publication date: 29 June 2010

J.R.C. Pimentel, J.R. Kuntz and Detelin S. Elenkov

The purpose of this paper is to offer an interdisciplinary review of the existing research on ethical behavior – informed by philosophical theories, social sciences, and…

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10679

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to offer an interdisciplinary review of the existing research on ethical behavior – informed by philosophical theories, social sciences, and applied business research – and identifies the merits and limitations of the extant theories, including the applicability of prescriptive frameworks and models to business practice.

Design/methodology/approach

Following the review, the paper advances a descriptive model of ethical decision‐making criteria that elucidates how individual, organizational, and environmental variables interact to influence attitude formation across critical components of an ethical issue.

Findings

The model advanced expands upon other existing frameworks and provides a comprehensive and simultaneous assessment of the interplay between individual‐level variables (e.g. demographic variables, position in the organisation), the structure and climate of the organisation in which the decisions are made, and the social and political features of the business environment.

Practical implications

The proposed model can be used as a training tool and it holds several advantages over the extant alternatives, namely versatility (it is adaptable to the specific organizational context in which respondents are required to conceptualize the dilemma and generate courses of action), and scope (the model allows for the simultaneous assessment of a myriad of cross‐level variables).

Originality/value

The paper offers a comprehensive decision‐making model that can be used to examine ethical decisions in business settings, to investigate potential differences in decision‐making accuracy and ethical reasoning between groups and individuals, and to examine the impact of changing ethical climates in organizational strategy.

Details

European Business Review, vol. 22 no. 4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0955-534X

Keywords

Content available
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433

Abstract

Details

European Business Review, vol. 20 no. 4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0955-534X

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