Does bad company corrupt good morals? This week’s research tidbits considers the influences on ethical behaviour.

Parental and peer support affect consumer ethical beliefs
What causes adolescents to develop consumer ethical beliefs? Prior research has largely focused on the negative influence of peers and negative patterns of parent–child interactions to explain risky and unethical consumer behaviours. The authors take a different perspective by focusing on the positive support of parents and peers in adolescent social development.

An integrative model is developed that links parental and peer support with adolescents’ self-worth motives, their materialistic tendencies, and their consumer ethical beliefs. In a study of 984 adolescents, the authors demonstrate support for a sequential mediation model in which peer and parental support is positively related to adolescents’ self-esteem and feelings of power, which are each associated with decreased materialism as a means of compensating for low self-worth. This reduced materialism is, in turn, associated with more ethical consumer beliefs.

Elodie Gentina, L. J. Shrum, Tina M. Lowrey, Scott J. Vitell and Gregory M. Rose. 2018. An Integrative Model of the Influence of Parental and Peer Support on Consumer Ethical Beliefs: The Mediating Role of Self-Esteem, Power, and Materialism.
Journal of Business Ethics, 150(4), 1173–1186.


Friendships of virtue, pursuit of the moral community, and the ends of business 
It is argued here that business firms can and do provide an incubator that enables the Aristotelian category of friendships of advantage to develop into friendships of virtue. This contradicts other literature that views acquaintances of utility as the business norm, and expresses pessimism concerning more advanced virtuous development of friendship within the business firm.

It is argued here, however, that this virtuous development is integral to the Kantian social aim of pursuing a moral community, an aim which declares the appropriate moral motivation for business, and that certainly should incorporate a role for developing virtuous relations as a component of that pursuit. An atmosphere that encourages the development of relations of virtue is feasible, exists in real business, and is optimal for pursuit of moral business communities.

Read this Open Access article online for free.

Richard M. Robinson. 2018. Friendships of Virtue, Pursuit of the Moral Community, and the Ends of Business. 
Journal of Business Ethics, 151(1), 85–100.


Do parents and peers influence adolescents’ monetary intelligence and consumer ethics?
Adolescents have increasing discretionary income, expenditures, and purchasing power. Inventory shrinkage costs $123.4 billion globally to retail outlets. Adolescents are disproportionately responsible for theft and shoplifting. Both parents and peers significantly influence adolescents’ monetary values, materialism, and dishonesty as consumers.

In this study, we develop a theoretical model involving teenagers’ social (parental and peer) attachment and their consumer ethics, treat adolescents’ money attitude in the context of youth materialism as a mediator, and simultaneously examine the direct (Social Attachment → Consumer Ethics) and indirect paths (Social Attachment → Money and Materialism → Consumer Ethics). Results of 1018 adolescents (France = 534 and China = 484; average age = 15.21) illustrate that social attachment discourages unethical beliefs directly, but encourages it indirectly through monetary values.

Our multi-group analyses demonstrate a novel paradox: The correlation between parental and peer attachments is smaller in France than in China, but similar across gender. Parents contribute more than peers to social attachment in France, but both carry equal weight in China. There is a negative direct path for the Chinese sample and for girls. Indirectly, parental attachment prevents French teenagers’ unethical beliefs, whereas peer attachment promotes boys’ unethical intention, supporting the notion—bad company corrupts good morals.

Across both culture and gender, monetary attitude excites dishonesty consistently for all adolescents. A negative direct path exists for Chinese boys only (the Pygmalion Effect for male little emperors). Overall, social attachment reduces unethical beliefs. Parental and peer supports shape teenagers’ monetary intelligence and ethical or unethical decision making, differently, across culture and gender. The authors provide theoretical, empirical, and practical implications to ethical parenting, peer attachment, monetary values, and business ethics.

Elodie Gentina, Thomas Li-Ping Tang and Qinxuan Gu. 2018. Do Parents and Peers Influence Adolescents’ Monetary Intelligence and Consumer Ethics? French and Chinese Adolescents and Behavioral Economics. 
Journal of Business Ethics, 151(1), 115–140.


Moral character and organisational structure 
To discuss moral behaviour in organisations, a growing number of authors turn to a ‘virtue ethics’ approach. Central to this approach is the so-called moral character of individuals in organisations: a well-developed moral character enables organisational members to deal with the specific moral issues they encounter during their work.

If a virtue ethics perspective is seen as relevant, one may ask how organisations can facilitate that their members can exercise and develop their moral character. In this paper, the authors argue that the way tasks are defined and interlinked (the organisation’s structure) has a profound influence on “exercising and developing moral character”—it can enhance and frustrate it.

In order to show how structures may support organisational members to exercise and develop their moral virtues, the paper first describes what it means to exercise and develop virtues in an organisational setting and what is required for it. Next, the paper sets out to explain how specific values on different structural parameters (formalisation, decentralisation, specialisation, and unit grouping) at different structural levels (micro, macro, and network) relate to exercising virtues in organisations.

Read this Open Access article online for free

Dirk Vriens, Jan Achterbergh and Liesbeth Gulpers. 2018. Virtuous Structures.
Journal of Business Ethics, 150(3), 671–690.


The effects of managerial experience on corporate green investments 
How impartial are managerial decisions? This question is particularly concerning when it comes to making green investment decisions in the face of stakeholder pressures. When managers respond to stakeholder pressures, their personal cognition, judgment, and past experiences play a role in determining their responses.

The salience of particular stakeholder claims may be determined by deeply rooted individual preferences. This research investigates how a manager’s past experiences can influence green investments. Data are gathered from 247 managers about their past experience and their employer’s performance data. These data are combined with managerial responses to a vignette-based experiment, which required managers to make green investments based on a decision scenario where they are exposed to different types and strength of stakeholder pressure (from consumers and the community).

Results suggest that managers’ years of experience, their employers’ financial performance, and their employers’ market performance influence investment decisions even when making decisions under new and different set of circumstances. While the employers’ financial performance influences managers to invest more, the employers’ market performance only influences managers’ investment in the presence of either high consumer or high community pressure. Compared to less-experienced managers, experienced managers invest more in response to consumer pressure but less in response to community pressure. Practical and theoretical implications of these findings in green management are explored.

Birte Schaltenbrand, Kai Foerstl, Arash Azadegan and Kevin Lindeman. 2018. See What We Want to See? The Effects of Managerial Experience on Corporate Green Investments. 
Journal of Business Ethics, 150(4), 1129–1150.


Busy auditors and ethical behaviour in Malaysia 
The required professional and ethical pronouncements of accountants mean that auditors need to be competent and exercise due care and skill in the performance of their audits. In this study, the authors examine what happens when auditors take on more clients than they should, thus raising doubts about their ability to maintain competence and audit quality.

Using 2803 observations of Malaysian companies from 2010 to 2013, the authors find that auditors with multiple clients are associated with lower earnings quality, proxied by total accruals and discretionary accruals.

The results demonstrate that associating client firms’ reported discretionary accruals with individual auditors, rather than their firms or offices, is important in determining audit quality. Moreover, the authors demonstrate that the disclosure of auditors’ signatures on their reports is useful for assessing auditor quality at the individual level, thus contributing to the debate on the usefulness of having auditor identities on reports.

Karen M. Y. Lai, Andriyawan Sasmita, Ferdinand A. Gul, Yee Boon Foo and Marion Hutchinson. 2018. Busy Auditors, Ethical Behavior, and Discretionary Accruals Quality in Malaysia. 
Journal of Business Ethics, 150(4), 1187–1198.