Ethical Are Purchasing Professional

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How Ethical are Purchasing Management Professionals?
ABSTRACT. The primary purpose of this study was to assess the ethics of purchasing management pro- fessionals. A multidimensional scale of ethics was used to measure their predispositions to act morally. The ethics measure from this scale was correlated to a series of ethical vignettes specific to the purchasing function to further assess the value of the scale. In addition, the consistency of values as rationale for decision making was also examined. The findings of the study indicate that purchasing professionals appear to be more ethical than indicated in previous studies as measured by both the multidimensional scale of ethics and their responses to ethical situations similar to those faced in their day-to-day work experiences. The utility of a multidimensional scale of ethics is further validated, and some preliminary assessments of the nature of values impacting on ethical decision making are also evaluated. Modern purchasing management, as it has evolved from purchasing to purchasing/materials management, has become an increasingly complex activity. Modern purchasing/materials managers have more responsibility and account- ability than their predecessors did, and their Robert Landeros, is associateprofessor of Integrated Supply Management at the Haworth College of Business, Western Michigan University, U.S.A., and visiting associate professor of logistics at the Norwegian School of Management, Sandvika, Norway. He has researched and published in the area of interorganizational rela- tionships. Richard E. Plank, is associate professor of Marketing at the Haworth College of Business, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, Michigan, U.S.A. His research interests are in the areas of purchasing, personal selling, and the buyer-seller inteoCace. Robert Landeros Richard E. Plank

scope of operation covers more than ever before (Reck et al., 1992). Puchasing, quality control, manufacturing, and inbound and outbound logis- tics operations are now part of some purchasing managers responsibilities, or at least represent areas they must coordinate. This increasing com- plexity brings purchasing managers into poten- tially increasingly intricate ethical dilemmas. A recent study by Forker and Janson (1990) enumerated the state of ethical practices in purchasing. Their findings suggested that a number of activities considered unethical were still practiced by some members, and, in a few cases, practiced by many members, of the pur- chasing management community. Previous studies by Dempsey et al. (1980); Hite and Bellizzi (1987); Plank and Greene (1988); and Bird (1989) found similar results. All cited research required respondents to document how they would handle specific situations. There has been no attempt to measure the ethical inclina- tions of purchasing management by applying existing scales of ethicalness (unidimensional or multidimensional), such as developed by Reidenbach and Robin (1990). This study assesses the ethical inclinations of purchasing management professionals by using a multidimensional scale of ethics developed for marketing professionals (Reidenbach and Robin, 1988, 1990, 1993; Reidenbach et al., 1991; Hansen, 1992) and extended for college accounting faculty by Cohen et al. (1993). An additional purpose of this study is to begin to assess values and the consistency of those values as drivers, or rationale, for decision making within an ethical context. Following a brief discussion of the major ethical issues inherent in the purchasing management function and the Journal of Business Ethics 15: 789-803, 1996.

© 1996 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands. 790 R. Landeros and R. E. Plank
ethical theory used in this study, the study and its results are reported. The findings of this research suggest not only a limited set of con- clusions, but additional research that may be conducted. Ethical issues in purchasing management...
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