Rules, standards, and ethics: Relativism predicts cross-national differences in the codification of moral standards
AbstractThis research examines the relationship between the code of ethics adopted by businesses in a country and the ethics positions of the inhabitants of that country. Ethics Position Theory (EPT) maintains that individuals' personal moral philosophies influence their ethical judgments, actions, and emotions. The theory, when describing individual differences in moral philosophies, stresses two dimensions: relativism (skepticism with regards to inviolate moral principles) and idealism (concern for positive outcomes). Extending previous research that identified differences in relativism and idealism between residents of different countries and world regions, we examined the relationship between relativism, idealism, and the regulatory standards governing commercial activities of firms headquartered in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Hong Kong, Ireland, Japan, New Zealand, Spain, the UK, and the US. The results indicated that the level of relativism of a nation's populace predicted degree of ethical codification of commerce in that nation. These findings suggest that the ethical conduct of business will be more closely regulated in countries where relativism is low (e.g., Australia, Canada) but less closely regulated in countries where the residents are more ethically relativistic (e.g., Hong Kong, Spain).
Business ethics Cross-cultural values Ethics codes Ethics position