Ethics Value - Management

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Journal of Business Ethics (2006) 64: 31–43 DOI 10.1007/s10551-005-4664-5

Ó Springer 2006

The Impact of Corporate Ethical Values and Enforcement of Ethical Codes on the Perceived Importance of Ethics in Business: A Comparison Scott J. Vitell ´ Encarnacion Ramos Hidalgo of U.S. and Spanish Managers

ABSTRACT. This two country study examines the effect of corporate ethical values and enforcement of a code of ethics on perceptions of the role of ethics in the overall success of the firm. Additionally, the impact of organizational commitment and of individual variables such as ethical idealism and relativism was examined. The rationale for examining the perceived importance of the role of ethics in this manner is to determine the extent to which the organization itself can influence employee perceptions regarding ethics and social responsibility. Results indicate that all of the variables tested, except relativism, impacted upon one’s perceptions of the importance of ethics and social responsibility. Perceptions of the importance of ethics and social responsibility also varied depending upon country of residence with the

U.S. sample having somewhat higher perceptions concerning the importance of ethics and social responsibility than their counterparts in Spain. Furthermore, when comparing the two samples, the U.S. sample had significantly higher corporate ethical values, greater enforcement of ethical codes, less organizational commitment and both lower idealism and relativism. KEY WORDS: business ethics, codes of ethics, corporate ethical values, Spain

Introduction Due to the increasing concern of the general public about ethical issues in business, especially in the U.S., many organizations have tried to control the problems by institutionalizing ethics (Gellerman, 1989; Murphy, 1989; Stevens, 1994). For example, some organizations have made structural and procedural changes such as creating new ethics positions (e.g., ethics ombudsmen and ethics committees) and increased the institutionalization of ethics in the forms of corporate codes of ethics and ethics newsletters (Badaracco and Webb, 1995; Briggs and Bernal, 1992; Cressey and Moore, 1983; Murphy, 1989; Stevens, 1994; Weiss, 1994), The overall question to be examined by the present paper is to what extent can the institutionalization of ethics in the form of codes of ethics and corporate culture, lead to a greater perceived importance of ethical issues among employees and ultimately to more ethical decision making? Additionally, as businesses have expanded globally, the study of ethics has become increasingly important due to the different cultural/country

Scott J. Vitell is the Phil B. Hardin Professor of Marketing at the University of Mississippi, He received his Ph.D. in Marketing from Texas Tech University, Currently he is the Marketing Section Editor for the Journal of Business Ethics and serves on the editorial review boards of the Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science and the Journal of Business Research. His recent publications have appeared in the Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, the Journal of Retailing, the Journal of Business Ethics, Business Ethics Quarterly, Business Ethics; A European Review, International Business Review and the Journal of Consumer Marketing, among others. ´ Encarnacion Ramos Hidalgo is a professor of Business Administration and Marketing at the University of Seville, Spain where she also received her Ph.D. Her dissertation involved the study of marketing ethics and the role it plays in organizational effectiveness, Her recent publications have appeared in Business Ethics: A European Review as well as many national and international conferences.


´ Scott J. Vitell and Encarnacion Ramos Hidalgo greatest good for the greatest number of people, while an ethical egoist will be likely to choose whichever alternative produces greater good for him or herself. Furthermore, any approach that has as its...
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