A selection of interesting articles we found recently looking at role modelling ethical behaviour.

A multi-experience model of perceived ethical climate
Existing research on the formation of employee ethical climate perceptions focuses mainly on organisation characteristics as antecedents, and although other constructs have been considered, these constructs have typically been studied in isolation. Thus, our understanding of the context in which ethical climate perceptions develop is incomplete.

To address this limitation, Duane Hansen and his team build upon the work of Rupp (Organ Psychol Rev 1:72–94, 2011) to develop and test a multi-experience model of ethical climate which links aspects of the corporate social responsibility (CSR), ethics, justice, and trust literatures and helps to explain how employees’ ethical climate perceptions form. The authors argue that in forming ethical climate perceptions, employees consider the actions or characteristics of a complex web of actors. Specifically, they propose that employees look
(1) outward at how communities are impacted by their organisation’s actions (e.g., CSR),
(2) upward to make inferences about the ethicality of leaders in their organisations (e.g., ethical leadership), and
(3) inward at their own propensity to trust others as they form their perceptions.

Using a multiple-wave field study (N = 201) conducted at a privately held US corporation, Hansen et al. find substantial evidence in support of their model.

Find out more at: Duane Hansen, S., Dunford, B.B., Alge, B.J. et al. 2016. Corporate Social Responsibility, Ethical Leadership, and Trust Propensity: A Multi-Experience Model of Perceived Ethical Climate.
Journal of Business Ethics, 137(4), 649–662.


Good without knowing it: Subtle contextual cues can activate moral identity and reshape moral intuition
The role of moral intuition (i.e., a set of implicit processes which occur automatically and at the fringe of conscious awareness) has been increasingly implicated in business decisions and (un)ethical business behavour. But troublingly, because implicit processes often operate outside of conscious awareness, decision makers are generally unaware of their influence.

Leavitt, Zhu and Aquino tested whether subtle contextual cues for identity can alter implicit beliefs. In two studies, the researchers found that contextual cues which nonconsciously prime moral identity weaken the implicit association between the categories of “business” and “ethical,” an implicit association which has previously been linked to unethical decision making. Further, changes in this implicit association mediated the relationship between contextually primed moral identity and concern for external stakeholder groups, regardless of self-reported moral identity.

Thus, the results show that subtle contextual cues can lead individuals to render more ethical judgments, by automatically restructuring moral intuition below the level of consciousness.

Find more at: Leavitt, K., Zhu, L. & Aquino, K. 2016. Good Without Knowing it: Subtle Contextual Cues can Activate Moral Identity and Reshape Moral Intuition.
Journal of Business Ethics, 137(4), 785–800. 


Virtue ethics and the practice–institution schema: An ethical case of excellent business practices
This paper aims to contribute to a greater understanding of the theory of virtue ethics and its applications in the business arena. In contrast to other prominent approaches to ethics, virtue ethics provides a useful perspective in making sense of various business ethics issues with an emphasis on the moral character of the individuals and its transformational influences in driving ethical business conduct.

Building on Geoff Moore’s (Bus Ethics Q 12(1):19–32, 2002; Bus Ethics Q 15(2):237–255, 2005; Bus Ethics Q 18(4):483–511, 2008) treatment of Alasdair MacIntyre’s practice–institution schema, the paper discusses how individuals, as moral agents, can serve to promote virtuous business conduct and help foster a moral and ethical climate in the organisation and in society at large. Using interview data from a broader study of the New Zealand wine industry as explanatory examples, the paper argues that while many companies’ sustainable practices are still largely market based, such excellent business practices are often driven by individuals’ moral and ethical pursuits.

For more see: Wang, Y., Cheney, G. & Roper, J. 2016. Virtue Ethics and the Practice–Institution Schema: An Ethical Case of Excellent Business Practices. 
Journal of Business Ethics, 138(1), 67-77.


Ethics during adolescence: A social networks perspective
Marketing research on adolescents’ ethical predispositions (EP) and risky behaviours (RB) has focused primarily on individual difference variables. The present study, in contrast, examines the social network positions that an adolescent occupies within a group.

A survey of 984 adolescents demonstrates that EP and RB stem from a balance between assimilation (i.e., centralities within the peer network) and individuation (i.e., need for uniqueness). In particular, Gentina and colleagues show that adolescents with close first-degree relationships within a specific peer group (measured by high degree centrality) and/or high need for uniqueness have lower EP and engage in more RB, while adolescents that are more central to the entire network (measured by high closeness centrality) have higher EP. The theoretic and practical implications of these findings are discussed.

Further details are at: Gentina, E., Rose, G.M. & Vitell, S.J. 2016. Ethics During Adolescence: A Social Networks Perspective.
Journal of Business Ethics, 138(1), 185-197.


Cobrands as ethical role models?
An important aspect of brand perception emanates from its corporate social responsibility (CSR) activity. When two brands involved in CSR activities form a cobranding alliance, their respective CSR perceptions can impact consumer attitudes toward the alliance. As an ethically-oriented strategy, the alliance can be potentially beneficial to both partner brands, and can create opportunities for promoting CSR activities.

The research streams on brand management, cobranding, and CSR, however, are silent about this important branding strategy that has several embedded business and societal benefits. This study examines how CSR-based consumer perceptions and ethical self-identity impact consumer evaluation of cobrands. Employing a quasi-experimental between-subjects design, the study tests six cobranding scenarios in three product categories. The data were collected via structured questionnaires resulting in 318 valid responses. The data were analysed employing Partial Least Squares Structural Equation Modelling.

The results confirm that positive CSR perceptions toward the partner brands are robust indicators of attitudes toward cobrands. Further, the match between the CSR activities of the partner brands (positive CSR fit) and the product categories (product fit) influences cobrand attitudes.

The results also show evidence of ‘spill-over’ effects, where the alliance has a positive impact on subsequent CSR perceptions toward the partner brands. Additionally, the findings demonstrate an asymmetry in the effects of the cobrand on subsequent CSR perceptions wherein consumers with low ethical self-identity show greater spill-over effects from the cobrand than those with high ethical self-identity. The study contributes to knowledge in the domains of business ethics, cobranding, and social responsibility. The findings have managerial implications for designing CSR-based ethical branding strategies for cobrands.

Read further at: Singh, J. 2016. The Influence of CSR and Ethical Self-Identity in Consumer Evaluation of Cobrands. 
Journal of Business Ethics, 138(2), 311-326.


Can “real” men consume ethically? How ethical consumption leads to unintended observer inference
Consumers often intend to create a socially responsible identity by consuming ethically. Observers, however, do not limit their inferences to the specific identity consumers intend to project. To illustrate, Shang and Peloza examine how observers make inferences about consumers on the basis of their ethical consumption.

Across four studies they find that, in addition to being viewed as ethical, consumers are viewed as less masculine and more feminine when they consume ethical products. The researchers also identify two boundary conditions to this effect, including the use of self-benefit/other-benefit advertising appeals and the use of descriptive norms to establish gender appropriate behaviour.

Shang and Peloza finally examine how consumers resolve the conflict of creating ethical and gender-congruent identities. They find that when male (female) consumers are in the presence of observers of the opposite (same) sex, they are more (less) likely to prioritise ethical identity even when it threatens their gender orientation.

More detail is at: Shang, J. & Peloza, J. Can “Real” Men Consume Ethically? How Ethical Consumption Leads to Unintended Observer Inference. 
Journal of Business Ethics, 139(1), 129–145.