Cultural Values and International Differences in Business Ethics

12 February 2007, Netherlands

An article in the Journal of Business Ethics, Volume 75, Number 3, by Bert Scholtens and Lammertjan Dam.
Abstract: We analyze ethical policies of firms in industrialized countries and try to find out whether culture is a factor that plays a significant role in explaining country differences. We look into the firm’s human rights policy, its governance of bribery and corruption, and the comprehensiveness, implementation and communication of its codes of ethics. We use a dataset on ethical policies of almost 2,700 firms in 24 countries. We find that there are significant differences among ethical policies of firms headquartered in different countries. When we associate these ethical policies with Hofstede’s cultural indicators, we find that individualism and uncertainty avoidance are positively associated with a firm’s ethical policies, whereas masculinity and power distance are negatively related to these policies.