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Gott och ont inom affärslivet: utveckling av ett etiskt perspektiv på företags relationer med aktörer
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Business Administration.
1996 (Swedish)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)Alternative title
Good and bad in business : an ethical perspective on stakeholder relations (English)
Abstract [en]

Ethical issues and problems in business are receiving increasing attention, both in terms of criticism of examples of "bad" behaviour of business actors and in terms of the development of ethical codes of conduct in certain companies, ethical visions for businesses etc. In general, ethical problems seem to be increasingly prevalent in business, but ethics tend to be disre­garded by traditional organisational and managerial theory. This calls for the development of an ethical perspective on business.

This study adopts a stakeholder approach to the problem, meaning that the empirical focus lies on how business actors deal with the ethical issues that arise in their daily work in relation to various stakeholder groups. Two empirical studies have been conducted: one is a survey study of the attitudes of Swedish managing directors, and the other a case study of the ethical values and behaviour of two companies. These studies resulted in the formulation of concepts which reflect contextually interpreted moral views on the individual and organisational levels, respectively. On the individual level, a distinction was made between humanitarian morality, meaning that ethical problems in business are judged according to what is best for individuals, and organisational morality, where economic and practical concerns for the company are considered. On the organisational level, I found a principled, individually based morality where rule-following, voluntary agreements and personal moral norms were important, and an instrumental, collectively based morality, which meant that company goals dictated the way stakeholder relations and ethical dilemmas were taken care of. Overall, it was possible to make a distinction between two basic ethical criteria business actors use when judging ethical dilemmas: principles versus objectives. The results indicate that the use of principles and moral rules presuppose an intimate and personal handling of stakeholder relations. On the other hand, when business actors acquire a more professional way of managing their activi­ties, stakeholder relationships are handled in accordance with objectives and economic utility, these usually being the same as company goals.

One of the major contributions of this thesis is the concept of the ethical contract, as a meta­phor for the relationship between a company and any one particular stakeholder with special focus on the informal and implicit aspects of the relationship. The contract is characterised by two opposing forces: the striving for self-interest, which underpins ethical problems, and the development of self-imposed duties, which are necessary if instrumentally based interaction is to be "good". The mutual development of such duties is stimulated by proximity and personal relations.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Umeå universitet , 1996. , 392 p.
Studier i företagsekonomi. Serie B, ISSN 0346-8291 ; 37
Keyword [en]
Business ethics, organisational ethics, stakeholder relations, moral views in business, proximity, ethical climate, ethical contract
National Category
Business Administration
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-62934ISBN: 91-7191-239-8OAI: diva2:580364
Available from: 2012-12-21 Created: 2012-12-21 Last updated: 2012-12-21Bibliographically approved

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