How Important Are Ethics and Social Responsibility?

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How important are ethics and social responsibility?
A multinational study of marketing professionals
Anusorn Singhapakdi and Kiran Karande
College of Business and Public Administration, Old Dominion University, Virginia, USA

How important are ethics?

Received September 1998 Revised March 1999 June 1999 September 1999

College of Administrative Sciences, Kuwait University, Safat, Kuwait, and School of Business Administration, University of Mississippi, USA Keywords International marketing, Ethics, Social responsibility, National cultures, Consumer behaviour Abstract States that in the present era of global marketing, as more companies enter international markets, ethical problems are likely to increase. As companies and their managers deal with their counterparts in different countries, there is a need to understand the latter's ethical decision-making processes. Divergence in ethical behavior and attitudes of marketing professionals across cultures can be explained by, among other variables, differences in perceptions regarding the importance of ethics and social responsibility in achieving organizational effectiveness. This study investigates the variation in those perceptions among marketing professionals from Australia, Malaysia, South Africa, and the USA. The variation is explained by country differences (cultural differences, differences in the economic environment, and differences in legal/political environment), organizational ethical climate, and selected demographic characteristics of the marketer (gender and age).

C.P. Rao

Scott J. Vitell

Introduction The study of ethics has become increasingly important with global business expansion, because of an increase in ethical and social responsibility ± concerns that businesses face in different country environments. There exists, however, a wide divergence in the level of importance attached to these two issues in different countries (Czinkota and Ronkainen, 1998). Moreover, vast differences exist from country to country in the economic development, cultural standards, legal/political systems, and expectations regarding business conduct (Wotruba, 1997). In addition, there is great divergence in the enforcement of policies (Mittelstaedt and Mittelstaedt, 1997). The authors would like to thank Mohd. Rashid Ahmed, Universiti Pertanian Malaysia, Malaysia; Nicola Higgs-Kleyn, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa; and Muris Cicic, University of Wollongong, NSW, Australia for their assistance in the data collection for this study. The authors would also like to thank Janet Marta for her comments on the earlier versions of the manuscript.

European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 35 No. 1/2, 2001, pp. 133-152. # MCB University Press, 0309-0566

European Journal of Marketing 35,1/2 134

In the business ethics literature, ethical variations among marketers/ managers from different nations are documented in many empirical studies on various types of ethical issues (e.g. Armstrong et al., 1990; Graham, 1985; Becker and Fritzsche, 1987). Variation in ethics across cultures was evidenced in a cross-national study of industrial salespeople by Dubinsky et al. (1991) where some significant differences in ethical perceptions were found among marketing managers from Japan, Korea, and the USA. A study by Singhapakdi et al. (1994) also revealed that American and Thai marketers differ on various components of their ethical decision-making process. However, international researchers have not investigated differences in the extent to which marketers from different countries believe that ethics and social responsibility are important for organizational effectiveness. An individual's perception about whether ethics and social responsibility contribute to...
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