Research tidbits this week considers the challenges in business ethics and how far benevolence remains effective.
Challenges and limits of (global) business ethics
Though this paper acknowledges the progress made in business ethics over the past several decades, it focuses on the challenges and limits of global business ethics. It maintains that business ethicists have provided important contributions regarding the Evaluative, Embodiment, and Enforcement aspects of business ethics.
Nevertheless, they have not sufficiently considered a fourth part of a theory of moral change, an Enactment theory, whereby the principles and values business ethicists have identified might actually be followed. Enactment theory argues that appeals to ethical leadership, moral imagination, and communicative participation have been insufficient to the task of closing the gap between what businesses do and what they ought to be doing.
To address this problem, a theory of moral change focusing on the relations of power within which individuals and businesses operate needs to be developed. Drawing on the work of John Gaventa, the paper sketches some directions in which business ethics should proceed to help diminish this gap.
The upshot is that business ethics needs greater connection with economic, social, and political theories. It also suggests that there are important limits to fostering the ethics of global business.
George G. Brenkert. 2019. Mind the Gap! The Challenges and Limits of (Global) Business Ethics.
Journal of Business Ethics, 155(4), 917–930.
Do employers rule our lives (and why we don’t talk about it)?
Throughout history, many employers have had an irresistible urge to control and profit from the work of others—slavery being the worst example of this. The ancient Roman scholar Marcus Terentius Varro regarded slaves as instrumentum vocale or talking tools, and it sometimes seems like we haven’t really gotten past that idea.
Rousseau believed that humans fell from the golden age when they discovered how to get work from each other. Karl Marx said that employers alienated workers from their work and themselves. In the business ethics literature, David Ewing noted that most Americans leave their Constitutional rights at the door when they go to work, and Studs Terkel got straight to the point when he said, “for some people work is a daily humiliation.”
So the question in the subtitle of this book raises an especially important one for Americans today, “Why don’t we talk about how employers rule our lives?”.
Joanne B. Ciulla. 2019. Review of Private Government: How Employers Rule Our Lives (and Why We Don’t Talk About It) by Elizabeth Anderson.
Journal of Business Ethics, 156(1), 289–292.
Contemporary pedagogy on business ethics
Disparate attempts exist to identify the key components that make an ethics pedagogy more effective and efficient. To integrate these attempts, a review of 408 articles published in leading journals is conducted. The key foci of extant literature are categorised into three domains labelled as approach (A), content (C), and delivery (D), and a comprehensive framework (ACD) for ethics pedagogy developed.
Within each of these domains, binaries that reflect two alternatives are identified.
Approach, the philosophical standpoint, can be theory-laden or real-world connected.
Content, the constituencies addressed, can have a focus on breadth or depth.
Delivery, the execution of the adopted pedagogy, can be traditional or innovative.
The review of articles also identifies the lack of pedagogies that comprehensively focus on all the binaries across domains. The other substantive contribution of this article addresses this gap by developing a generic pedagogy—Integrative Live Case—based on the ACD framework. Based on an incident that is currently unfolding, this pedagogy allows integration of binaries across the three domains.
It also allows for a modular course plan that can accommodate varied pedagogical preferences. Volkswagen Dieselgate is presented as a stylised example to showcase the significant advantages of using this pedagogy.
G. Venkat Raman, Swapnil Garg and Sneha Thapliyal. 2019. Integrative Live Case: A Contemporary Business Ethics Pedagogy.
Journal of Business Ethics, 155(4), 1009–1032.
Convergence in international business ethics between US and Korean managers
This study investigates the relationship among ethical philosophy, thinking style, and managerial ethical decision-making. Based on the premise that business ethics is a function of culture and time, the authors attempt to explore two important questions as to whether the national differences in managerial ethical philosophies remain over time and whether the relationship between thinking style and ethical decision-making is consistent across different national contexts.
The authors conducted a survey on Korean managers’ ethical decision-making and thinking style and made a cross-cultural, cross-temporal comparison with the results presented by previous studies that surveyed Korean and US managers with the same questionnaire at different points in time.
The analysis revealed that Korean managers have become more reliant on rule utilitarianism for ethical decision-making over the last two decades, which is dominantly used by US managers, corroborating the convergence hypothesis built on social contracts theory. However, as opposed to previous research, the authors found that managers with a balanced linear and nonlinear thinking style do not necessarily make more ethical decisions compared to those with a predominantly linear or nonlinear thinking style.
This study contributes to international business ethics literature by presenting a theoretical framework that may explain the convergence of ethical philosophies employed by managers in different national contexts over time, and that the relationship between thinking style and managerial ethical decision-making may not be universal, but contingent on contextual factors.
Yongsun Paik, Jong Min Lee & Yong Suhk Pak. 2019. Convergence in International Business Ethics? A Comparative Study of Ethical Philosophies, Thinking Style, and Ethical Decision-Making Between US and Korean Managers.
Journal of Business Ethics, 156(3), 839–855.
Sustainability marketing commitment
Corporate sustainability is an important strategy and value orientation for marketing, but scarce research addresses the organisational drivers and barriers to including it in companies’ marketing strategies and processes.
The purpose of this study is to determine levels of commitment to corporate sustainability in marketing, processes associated with sustainability marketing commitment, drivers of sustainability marketing at the functional level of marketing, and its organisational context. Using survey data from 269 managers in marketing, covering a broad range of industries in Sweden and Denmark, the authors took a structural modelling approach to examine construct relationships, mediation, and moderation effects.
Overall, the findings show that marketing capabilities associated with the innovation of new products, services, and business models constitute a strong driver to leverage sustainability marketing commitment. In conjunction with insights into processes related to the enactment of sustainability marketing, this result indicates that companies’ marketing departments have a propensity to drive corporate sustainability.
The study provides substance to the idea of aligning substantive marketing capabilities closer to dynamic capabilities. Accordingly, the study reveals that reliance on market orientation alone does not lead to greater sustainability commitment.
Karin Tollin & Lars Bech Christensen. 2019. Sustainability Marketing Commitment: Empirical Insights About Its Drivers at the Corporate and Functional Level of Marketing.
Journal of Business Ethics, 156(4), 1165–1185.
The moral entrepreneur
Ethical leadership has become a popular subject of empirical research in recent years. Most studies follow Brown et al.’s (Organ Behav Hum Decis Process, 97:117–134, 2005) definition of ethical leadership, which consists of two components: the moral person and the moral manager.
In this paper, the author argues for a third relevant component: i.e., the moral entrepreneur who creates a new ethical norm. Viewing moral entrepreneurship as a new component of ethical leadership opens up avenues for studying various antecedents and outcomes of ethical leadership that have not been acknowledged so far, or at least, not adequately.
Read this Open Access article online for free
Muel Kaptein. 2019. The Moral Entrepreneur: A New Component of Ethical Leadership.
Journal of Business Ethics, 156(4), 1135–1150.
Should authentic leaders value power?
Although there is consensus that authentic leaders act according to their true values, the authors have no empirical evidence of what specific values authentic leaders have. While traditional leadership approaches place power at the core of leadership, authentic leadership scholars would argue that benevolence is the value that is central to effective authentic leadership.
To date, the questions about whether and when authentic leaders with high power values promote or hurt followers’ performance have not been investigated. Ostensibly, authentic leaders with high power values seem to represent the dark side of authentic leadership. In this paper, the authors develop a theoretical model and empirically investigate the role that leaders’ power values play in the functioning of authentic leadership.
The authors also test the assumption that authentic leaders with high benevolence values promote followers’ performance. Based on the multilevel analyses of 477 employees in 72 teams, the authors found that authentic leaders with prominent power values could foster followers’ performance, only when followers’ perceived value congruence was low. Authentic leaders with high benevolence values, however, cultivated followers’ performance unconditionally, regardless of perceived value congruence levels.
Yuanmei Elly Qu, Marie T. Dasborough, Mi Zhou & Gergana Todorova. 2019. Should Authentic Leaders Value Power? A Study of Leaders’ Values and Perceived Value Congruence.
Journal of Business Ethics, 156(4), 1027–1044.