Do religious beliefs have a bearing on social responsibility? See this week’s articles to find out more.

Religiosity, attitude, and the demand for socially responsible products 
In this paper, Johan Graafland examines the relationship between various Christian denominations and attitude and behaviour regarding consumption of socially responsible (SR) products. Literature on the relationship between religiosity and pro-social behaviour has shown that religiosity strengthens positive attitudes towards pro-social behaviour, but does not affect social behaviour itself.

This seems to contradict the theory of planned behaviour that predicts that attitude fosters behaviour. One would therefore expect that if religiosity encourages attitude towards SR products, it would also increase the demand for them. The author tests this hypothesis for four affiliations (non-religious, Catholic, Orthodox Protestant, and Other Protestant) on a sample of 997 Dutch consumers, using structural equation modelling.

The researchers find that Christian religiosity, indeed, increases positive attitude towards SR products, except for the Orthodox Protestant affiliation. In accordance with the theory of planned behaviour, attitude is found to increase the demand for SR products. There is no evidence of hypocrisy (in the sense that religiosity increases pro-social attitude without affecting behaviour in the case of SR products) for any of the Christian denominations.

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Johan Graafland. (2017). Religiosity, Attitude, and the Demand for Socially Responsible Products. 
Journal of Business Ethics, 144(1), 121–138.


Religiosity and the volatility of stock prices: A cross-country analysis 
Prior research argues that religiosity increases the ethical behavior and levels of risk aversion of firm managers. To the extent that this is true, more religious countries might exhibit more stability in stock prices.

This study tests this assertion by determining whether religiosity in countries is negatively associated with volatility in financial markets. Using a unique empirical design, the authors account for the possibility that the structure of financial markets is endogenously related to a country’s religiosity by examining the volatility of American Depositary Receipts (ADRs) while conditioning on a number of home country variables capturing religiosity. The researchers also control for the possibility of endogeneity bias by identifying an appropriate instrumental variable.

Interestingly, tests show that religious affiliation and, to a lesser extent, religious adherence and religious beliefs negatively affect the level of ADR volatility.

Benjamin M. Blau. 2017. Religiosity and the Volatility of Stock Prices: A Cross-Country Analysis.
Journal of Business Ethics, 2017, 144(3), 609–621.


Practical wisdom and hermeneutics in monastic organisations 
Corporate codes of ethics, which have spread in the last decades, have shown a limited ability to foster ethical behaviours. For instance, they have been criticised for relying too much on formal compliance, rather than taking into account sufficiently agents and their moral development, or promoting self-reflexive behaviours.

Mercier and Deslandes aim here to show that a code of ethics in fact has meaning and enables ethical progress when it is interpreted and appropriated with practical wisdom. The authors explore a model that represents an uncommon organisational code of ethics: the monastic Rule of St. Benedict, written in the sixth century and still used today.

Their empirical study—conducted in several monasteries living under this rule—shows that organisation members interpret this rule, both hermeneutically and ethically, to adapt it to situations. They also appropriate this rule as a way of life and treat it as a dynamic framework that helps them to follow their purpose within their organisation. This exceptional code actually offers an alternative model for practising codes of ethics, in a virtue-ethical manner, beyond mere compliance with the text. The way in which reflexive and active agents practise the code, both individually and collectively, shapes their organisational experience and fosters their moral development.

Guillaume Mercier and Ghislain Deslandes. 2017. There are no Codes, Only Interpretations. Practical Wisdom and Hermeneutics in Monastic Organizations.
Journal of Business Ethics, 145(4), 781–794.


Christian ethics and spirituality in leading business organisations 
Christian ethics applied to economics and business has a long tradition. This dates back at least to the thirteenth century, with noteworthy developments in the four following centuries and again in the last century. Christian faith and reason intertwine to bring about principles, criteria, and guidelines for action and a set of virtues with relevance for economic activity.

Christian spirituality, with 2000 years of history, has been embedded in Christianity from its beginning, but the application to modern business activity is relatively recent. This article introduces a special issue which, the authors hope, will make its own small contribution to the developments of both Christian ethics and spirituality in the leading business organisations. After a short historical overview and a consideration of the current situation of Christian ethics and spirituality in business, the authors introduce the papers selected for this issue.

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Domènec Melé and Joan Fontrodona. 2017. Christian Ethics and Spirituality in Leading Business Organizations: Editorial Introduction.  
Journal of Business Ethics, 145(4), 671–679.


Corporate sustainability: Integrating Catholic social teaching and the natural-resource-based view of the firm 
Even though management scholars have offered several views on the process of corporate sustainability, these efforts have focused mainly on the technical aspects of sustainability while omitting the fundamental role played by individual moral competences.

Therefore, previous work offers an incomplete and somewhat reductionist view of corporate sustainability. In this article, the authors develop a holistic framework of corporate sustainability in which both the moral and technical aspects of sustainability are considered. The writers do so by integrating the ethical, normative perspective of the Catholic social teaching (CST) with the competitive view of the natural resource-based view.

This framework highlights the importance of CST principles and ideas in developing executive moral competences such as moral sensitivity and awareness, and moral cognition and motivation. Moral competences, in turn, influence the organisational selection of environmental strategies, giving leaders the intrinsic motivation to promote both a longer-term stance on corporate sustainability efforts and a relentless search for greener business models. Such strategies move the firm closer towards achieving environmental sustainability.

Hence, by bridging the individual, normative-ethical with the organisational, implementational levels of corporate sustainability, this framework provides a more realistic, coherent, and complete perspective on the complex process of achieving corporate sustainability.

Horacio E. Rousseau. 2017. Corporate Sustainability: Toward a Theoretical Integration of Catholic Social Teaching and the Natural-Resource-Based View of the Firm. 
Journal of Business Ethics, 145(4), 725–737.


What can we learn from Jesus about leading ethically?
In considering what it means to lead organisations effectively and ethically, the literature comprising spirituality at work (SAW) and spiritual leadership theory (SLT) has become highly influential, especially in the USA. It has also attracted significant criticism.

While in this paper, the authors endorse this critique, they argue that the strand of literature which purportedly takes a Christian standpoint within the wider SAW school of thought, largely misconstrues and misapplies the teaching of its founder, Jesus. As a result, in dismissing the claims and application of SAW and SLT, there is a real risk that we lose the vital contribution of Christian thought, not least some of the timeless counter-cultural wisdom of Jesus which, the authors contend, offers a vital foundation to the practice of ethical leadership and business ethics in organisations.

In proposing a way forward, two thorny issues which face all leaders are addressed: dealing with ego and closing the gap between what we say and what we do. The more we understand about the dynamics of human nature, the more we learn about the profundity of Jesus’ teachings. The authors then propose a number of ways in which Jesus-centred ethical leadership can be practised.

Each is radical and each implies risk: both the personal risk of inner renewal arising from repentance as a doorway to personal integrity, as well as the risk of opposing unethical practices and promoting the excellence of core practices in the workplace.

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Christopher Mabey, Mervyn Conroy, Karen Blakeley and Sara de Marco. 2017. Having Burned the Straw Man of Christian Spiritual Leadership, What Can We Learn from Jesus about Leading Ethically? 
Journal of Business Ethics, 145(4), 757–769.


CSR, religion and firm risk 
In this article, the authors examine the empirical influence of the combined effect of Corporate social responsibility (CSR) and the degree of local community religiosity on firm risk by investigating their unidirectional and endogenous effects.

Employing a large US sample, the researchers find an inverse association between CSR–religiosity and firm risk after controlling for various firm characteristics. Also, after mitigating endogeneity bias, they still find a negative association between CSR–local community religiosity and firm risk.

The authors interpret these results to support the social license to operate (SLO) explanation: the lower the level of firm risk, the higher the level of SLO.

Cui, J., Jo, H. and Na, H. 2017. Corporate Social Responsibility, Religion, and Firm Risk.
Asia Pacific Journal of Financial Studies, 46(2), 305–340.