Cultural Factors Impacting Ethical Behavior

Available research indicates that, as might be expected, differences in business ethics exist across countries (Sims 2006; Sims and Gegez 2004) and cultural factors can impact ethical beliefs and attitudes (Walker and Jeurissen 2003). Regarding the concept of national culture, Hofstede (2001) suggested five dimensions that can be used to characterize it: individual collectivism (i.e., the extent of individual or group orientation in a society); power distance (e.g., in high power distance culture, centralized top-down control prevails); uncertainty avoidance (e.g., in high uncertainty-avoidance cultures people are prepared to take extra risks); masculinity-femininity (i.e., a task vs relationship orientation); and long- vs short-term orientation (i.e., how far a group invests for the future). Hofstede’s conceptualization of national culture has been criticized for generalizing based on an analysis of subnational populations and also for averaging situation-specific opinions of culture to infer national culture (Thomas, Krambia-Kapardis, and Zopiatis 2008). Such criticisms, however, have not stopped researchers from using Hofstede’s five criteria to explore the link between national culture and ethics. Thomas, Krambia-Kapardis, and Zopiatis concluded that the available literature does not allow conclusions to be drawn about the link because of conflicting findings. According to the same authors, however, evidence for such a link has been reported with reference to specific features of a culture. Husted (1999) reported a relationship between levels of societal corruption and power distance, uncertainty avoidance, and masculinity, while Getz and Volkema (2001) found a correlation between levels of corruption, power distance, and uncertainty avoidance. Such findings have implications for how best to implement CSR and how to tackle corruption in a society. This issue is addressed in Chapter 5.

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