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The Empirical Assessment of Corporate Ethics: A Case Study

Muel Kaptein and Jan Van Dalen
Journal of Business Ethics
Vol. 24, No. 2 (Mar., 2000), pp. 95-114
Published by: Springer
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25074271
Page Count: 20
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The Empirical Assessment of Corporate Ethics: A Case Study
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Abstract

Empirical analyses of the ethics of corporations with the aim to improve the state of corporate ethics are rare. This paper develops an integrated, normative model of corporate ethics by conceptualizing the ethical quality of organizations and by relating this contextual quality to various expressions of immoral behavior. This so-called Ethics Qualities Model for organizations, which contains 21 ethical qualities, allows one to assess the ethical content of institutional groups of individuals. A proper conceptualization is highly relevant both for the empirical corroboration of business ethics theories and for managerial purposes, such as judging individual and group performance or informing external stakeholders. The empirical applicability of the model is illustrated by an explorative case study of a large, globally operating financial institution. This case-study demonstrates that the corporate ethical qualities differ with respect to their perceived optimality as well as to their estimated impact on (un)ethical conduct. The various results provide managers with many clues to understand their organization and to take effective measures to improve the ethical content of their organization.

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