What happens when the public’s version of fair and ethical does not match the company version? Our research tidbits explores.

The ethics of promoting pro-corporate ideologies
Think tanks became key political and economic actors during the twentieth century, creating and occupying an intellectual and political position between academic institutions, the state, civil society, and public debate on organisation and management. Think tanks are especially active in setting frames for what constitutes politically and socially acceptable ways of thinking about economic activity and the rights or obligations of corporations.

Their operation and influence has been acknowledged and analysed in political science and policy analysis, but in organisation and management studies they are almost entirely ignored. In this paper, the authors review the existing literature on think tanks to develop an ethical–political framework based on a Gramsci’s account of state–civil society relations, referring to historical case materials relating to a significant Brazilian think tank, the Instituto de Pesquisas e Estudos Sociais (IPES).

The authors show how the IPES was successful in bringing then-controversial neoliberal perspectives on management and organisation into mainstream political debate, where they could be discussed and ultimately accepted as morally and intellectually legitimate. The authors note the importance of management education and business schools with respect to think tanks in the development of a hegemonic pro-capitalist interpretation of corporate responsibility, and suggest this is worth more investigation.

The authors conclude by outlining how think tanks are central to civil society acceptance of pro-corporate ideologies, how they might be researched regarding the ethical implications of the work they do, and how their approach provides a foundation for this.

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Amon Barros & Scott Taylor. 2020. Think Tanks, Business and Civil Society: The Ethics of Promoting Pro-corporate Ideologies. 
Journal of Business Ethics, 162(3), 505–517.


“They did not walk the green talk!” 
While environmental claims are increasingly used by companies to appeal consumers, they also attract greater scrutiny from independent parties interested in consumer protection. Consumers are now able to compare corporate environmental claims against external, often disconfirming, information to form their brand attitudes and purchase intentions.

What remains unclear is how the level of information specificity of both the environmental claims and external disconfirming information interact to influence consumer reactions. Two experiments address this gap in the CSR communication literature. When specific (vs. vague) claims are countered by specific (vs. vague) external information, consumers report more negative brand attitudes and lower purchase intentions (Experiment 1). The effect is serially mediated by (1) scepticism toward the claims and (2) lack of corporate credibility (Experiment 2).

The authors conclude by discussing strategies that firms can utilise to avoid information dilution and ensure that external disconfirming information percolates to consumers as specific.

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Davide C. Orazi & Eugene Y. Chan. 2020. “They Did Not Walk the Green Talk!:” How Information Specificity Influences Consumer Evaluations of Disconfirmed Environmental Claims.  
Journal of Business Ethics, 163(1), 107–123.


Tax fairness 
Prior research shows taxpayers’ perceptions of fairness leads to greater cooperation and compliance with tax authorities. Yet our understanding of tax fairness has been hampered by its general reliance upon models and measures of fairness developed by organisational fairness research, even though fairness is a perception subject to contextual influences.

Accordingly, the authors attempt to gain insight into the influence of contextual factors on fairness through the development of a theoretically based and empirically derived model of tax fairness, grounded in organisational literature, but empirically tested in the tax context.  The analysis shows the extent to which items and dimensions found in the organisational fairness literature reflect taxpayers’ perceptions of tax fairness.

Most importantly,  the findings contribute to fairness research by identifying the role of relevant comparison groups in affecting perceptions of fairness, and thereby extends our understanding of the role of context in affecting fairness perceptions. Furthermore, by identifying the dimensions and items incorporated in perceptions of tax fairness,  the study provides a foundation for tax researchers and policy makers to determine how best to promote voluntary taxpayers’ compliance and in so doing, mitigate tax avoidance and tax evasion.

Jonathan Farrar, Dawn W. Massey, Errol Osecki & Linda Thorne. 2020. Tax Fairness: Conceptual Foundations and Empirical Measurement. 
Journal of Business Ethics, 162(3),  487–503.