Business Ethics A European Review

Published by Wiley
Online ISSN: 1467-8608
Publications
Article
Biotechnology companies have been forced to take account of the social and ethical pressures which increasingly surround their activities. A research project was undertaken with the aims (a) of identifying the practices and procedures which companies put in place as a response to these pressures, and (b) of advising the European Commission on ways by which interaction between these companies and their stakeholders might be improved. Two questionnaires were administered, and although the response rate was not high a reasonably balanced sample was achieved. The results indicated that although there was a high degree of ethical awareness and a willingness to pursue an ‘integrity approach’ to decision-making as opposed to a ‘compliance approach’, companies on the whole lacked the institutional tools (codes of ethics, ethics training, and others) which would enable them to operationalise an integrity approach to corporate decision-making.
 
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Souzy Dracopoulou (ed), Ethics and values in health care management
 
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This paper uses a real-life case taken from political history and recounted by Vaclav Havel, President of the Czech Republic. Three times in this country's history, its leaders opted for a "more realistic" solution (giving way when faced with a serious problem: invasion or insurrection) in preference to a "more ethical" solution (resisting, knowing the high cost in human lives this would entail). In this paper we analyze the relationship between heroism (adopting a "more ethical" solution), management, and leadership. Particular emphasis is placed on the morality of the "more ethical" decision, the obligation or lack of it to put that decision into practice, and the relationship between a "more ethical" form of conduct and leadership in the firm.
 
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In general, capitalist countries display sustained growth, dynamism and innovation, and a high adaptability in response to external shocks. Yet in the last twenty years discontent over the notorious drawbacks of capitalism – corporate frauds, corruption, abuses of market power – has grown continually. In this paper, we argue that no remedy to these difficulties can be found if ethical dilemmas are not anticipated and addressed at the individual, firm and economy-wide level. While pro-ethical changes in business regulation would help, government action alone may not be effective enough. Given that the social sciences provide the general framework of reference for human action, better integration of the ethical dimension by these disciplines would bring about additional benefits. In particular, economic theory would gain from developing more in-depth reflection on human end-goals and values.
 
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The question of how an individual firm's social and environmental performance impacts its firm risk has not been examined in any empirical UK research. Does a company that strives to attain good environmental performance decrease its market risk or is environmental performance just a disadvantageous cost that increases such risk levels for these firms? Answers to this question have important implications for the management of companies and the investment decisions of individuals and institutions. The purpose of this paper is to examine the relationship between corporate environmental performance and firm risk in the British context. Using the largest dataset assembled so far, with community and environmental responsibility (CER) rankings for all rated UK companies between 1994 and 2006, we show that a company's environmental performance is inversely related to its systematic financial risk. However, an increase of 1.0 in the CER score is associated with only a 0.028 reduction in its β.
 
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Extortion and bribery are regularly identified as well–nigh insoluble ethical problems for business, especially on an international scale, yet there are many initiatives being steadily pursued to combat them. One of the most impressive is the work of the International Chamber of Commerce, which published an important Report on the subject in 1977, the first such document prepared by the business community. Now that Report has undergone an in-depth revision which was published last year and is the subject of this study. Professor Argandoña is Secretary General of IESE [the International Graduate School of Management of the University of Navarre], Av. Pearson 21, E–Barcelona, Spain (email: argandona@iese.es), and an Associate Editor of this Review. The article is a revised version of the presentation made to the Nineth EBEN Annual Conference held in Frankfurt in September last year.
 
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The ‘Hutton Prize for Professional Ethics’ of The Chartered Institute of Bankers in Scotland is awarded annually to the author of an essay that addresses most convincingly the question, ‘what do you now do?’ in response to an ethically sensitive, case-study scenario. This paper makes available the Scenarios from 2004 and 2005, together with commentary thereon. Scenario 2004 stresses the importance of moral imagination and empathy. It addresses borrowing arrangements for a mother and daughter where illness has created past and continuing problems and there is the possibility that a wealthy relative will be made an unwitting guarantor. Scenario 2005 explores the boundaries inhibiting an opportunity for showing ‘mercy’ by one employee for another. Particular attention is paid to the difficulties that practising this ethical virtue could cause in a professional context, including tracing back to similar ambiguities discernible within foundational texts for Christian ethics.
 
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By trying to see how one can use African values to fight against fraud, the paper attempts to bring out the structural dimension of this moral cancer by showing how it is linked to the ethical and economic/business systems where it thrives. I start by making some theoretical remarks about how values are to be placed in each socio-cultural setting. An analysis of how the free market economy as a system creates conditions where fraud becomes possible then follows. This is contrasted with an analysis of the African worldview and economic system where the starting point is that material and human resources abound, provided they are shared. The paper ends by suggesting ways in which African ethical values can be merged with the dominant economic system.
 
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The industrial border region between Mexico and the USA is notorious for its physical, social and moral squalor. But is it entirely a matter of total exploitation or is the answer to the title’s question more complex than a simple yes? The author is completing his MBA degree at London Business School, is an American citizen and has a background as a consultant in information technology.
 
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Corporations have been investing in academia to an extent that could be classified as a corporate takeover of universities. Intra-university critics see this as an ethical problem, because of the degree of business control over university policies and decisions which accompanies the funding. University critics rarely suggest that the corporate funding be given up, returned, or even limited. What they protest against is corporate control, which they see as threatening university autonomy, and as inimical to the public good. Multi-university conferences have been held focusing on this problem, and the most serious solution proposed thus far is to construct a relevant code of ethics regulating and limiting corporate involvement, through standards and guidelines which corporations will then have to subscribe to, in order to fund universities. However, there is a conflict of interest here. Universities have a public trust and a fiduciary duty not to compromise education. This implies a covenant not to cede power to outside interests, not to use university resources, or faculty and students, as a means to an educationally irrelevant end. Universities cannot sell out. However, it seems equally dishonest not to offer their students a well-funded first-rate, quality education in applied fields with current skills, maximum research opportunity, and the corporate ties that would allow them to obtain jobs. We examine three cases showing errors made by universities in ceding control to corporate investment, and draw some policy conclusions.
 
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In his address to the conference Norman Bowie contrasted the business ethics climate in the US with that of the UK. He highlighted the adversarial nature of US corporate cultures and the heavy emphasis on compliance-based programs, and contrasted this with the more collaborative relationships in the UK – and in Europe generally – which lead to partnerships with NGOs as a way to resolve ethical issues. However, the growing insistence that business ethics should pay is common to both business environments. Professor Bowie raised two further issues of concern. One was the increasing professionalisation of the business ethics ‘business’, and the other was the reluctance of students to opt for business ethics courses. Taking these factors together suggests that the role of academics in business ethics is shrinking fast.
 
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What are financial institutions' social responsibilities in developing countries? On the one hand, these institutions share the generic responsibilities of all human organizations and business enterprises. However, their specific social responsibility is the performance of the social function of financial intermediaries, which, in the case of emerging countries, consists mainly of contributing to economic growth and solving the problem of poverty. This paper describes a number of technical-economic and moral problems that take us to a consideration of the performance of banking operations in microfinancing, with special reference to Latin America. The paper also provides a series of recommendations that, in addition to contributing to solving the development and poverty problems in emerging countries, help define financial institutions' social responsibility in such countries.
 
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‘Responsibility’, ‘accountability’ and ‘governance’ are key terms within business ethics. This paper aims to construct a framework to help us understand the relationships between these terms. I first of all analyse the concept of responsibility to show the place of accountability within it, then move to analyse accountability as a sub–concept of responsibility, then finally attempt to show how accountability along with responsibility in general figures within governance structures. While obviously not as complex as the concept of responsibility of which it is part, the sub–concept of accountability is somewhat more complex than often seems to be supposed. The view taken of governance is that as a concept it is relatively straightforward. It acquires complexity only with the involvement of responsibility along with accountability and other aspects of responsibility. The vexed questions as to how these are to be applied lie at the heart of disputes about corporate governance. Though not offering a solution to those disputes, the fact that they arise from the involvement of responsibility, accountability and related matters means that the analysis of concepts given here does offer a framework for thinking about these disputes more clearly.
 
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This paper explores the type of stakeholder engagement currently being undertaken by many organisations as part of social and ethical accounting, auditing and reporting (SEAAR) processes. Specifically, the paper seeks to determine the extent to which current corporate practice iteratively promotes stakeholder participation in collaboratively designing accountability programmes, or whether it merely is a new term for canvassing stakeholder opinions. Arnstein’s Ladder of Citizen Participation is used as a conceptual model for positioning contemporary methods of stakeholder dialogue. The findings from interviews with representatives from twenty-nine UK and transnational organisations actively engaged in stakeholder dialogue are presented. This paper concludes that contemporary organisations seem to be seeking to engage with stakeholders in partnerships, yet their attempts still fall short of what Arnstein called Citizen Control, the level of achievement that non-governmental organisations would like stakeholder engagement to attain.
 
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This paper explores the relationship between accountability, trust and corporate reputation building. Increasing numbers of corporations are mobilising themselves to put more and more information out into the public domain as a way of communicating with stakeholders. Corporate social accounting and stakeholder engagement is happening on an unprecedented scale. Rather than welcoming such initiatives, academics have been quick to pick faults with contemporary social auditing and reporting, claiming that in its current form it is not about demonstrating accountability at all, but rather about building corporate reputation. Academics argue that ‘accountability should hurt’, that if accountability is an enjoyable process, then the organisation isn’t doing it right. For organisations that are currently engaging with stakeholders and ostensibly becoming more transparent about their corporate social performance, this kind of critique is likely to be bewildering. This paper argues that central to the notion of accountability and to contemporary social accounting practice is the concept of trust. Accountability is based upon a distrust of corporate management, whereas corporate reputation building is about strategically seeking to establish trust in stakeholder relationships in order to negate formal accountability requirements. Using a split trust continuum, the paper seeks to explain and synthesise what seem to be two very different paradigms of organisational transparency.
 
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In all the literature about ethical dilemmas facing the accounting practitioner little attention has been paid to those which arise from the accountant's role in the process of accounting regulation. This treatment explores that role in the light of differing national modes of accounting regulation, economic impact issues in accounting regulation, some ethical principles and a number of different national illustrations. John Blake is Professor of Accounting in the Department of Accounting and Financial Services at the University of Central Lancashire, Preston PR1 2HE, in which Catherine Gowthorpe is Principal Lecturer, while Julia Clarke is a member of the Department of Business Studies, Manchester Metropolitan University, Aytoun Building, Aytoun Street, Manchester M1 3GH.
 
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This paper explores how managers and professionals from two functional areas, finance and accountancy and human resource management, perceive, think about and act upon ethical conundrums at work. The study is based on 43 interviews in which respondents were asked to report on ethical issues and incidents they had experienced at work. A conceptual framework is presented which is used to analyse the critical incidents.
 
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An initial review of the Draft Guidance produced in response to the Cadbury Report by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales. The author is Principal Consultant, Corporate Social Responsibility Consultants, 86 Iffley Road, London W6 OPF.
 
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The dominant managerial discipline in U.K. companies is finance. Accountants are often viewed as being concerned with what is measurable, definite and controllable. The emphasis is on professional conduct, independence, objectivity, technical competence and confidentiality. This paper explores the concept that the growth of professionalism has created an environment in which functional specialists have different ethical perspectives. The pre-eminence of accountants is now being challenged by the marketers, a profession that takes a much wider view of business ethics. This development is bound to have implications for corporate perspectives on business ethics. The paper gives the views of a focus group of managers from other disciplines on the relations between accountants and marketers, and analyses the potential for better understanding between the two groups and the implications of this for business ethics.
 
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Can the use of focus groups be helpful to get to the roots of ethical issues in the accounting profession? The activities of one such group at Cranfield throws considerable light on the pressures to which individual accountants can be subjected. Professor Vyakarnam has recently been appointed to the Chair of Enterprise at Nottingham Trent University. Sri Srikanthan is Senior Lecturer in the Finance and Accounting Department at Cranfield University School of Management, where Sharon Fitzsimons is Research Officer in the Economics Group.
 
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This paper discusses the legitimacy of accountants’ recent involvement in social and ethical accounting, auditing and reporting (SEAAR). Support for accountants’ legitimacy is proposed by highlighting some of the technical skills they offer to the SEAAR process as conceived in AA1000. It is argued that the relevance of these skills is strengthened within a conception of SEAAR which principally perceives it as a risk/stakeholder management process focused primarily on the concerns of corporate management as opposed to those of the wider society. However, the paper moves on to maintain that if we wish to promote a conception of SEAAR primarily focused on accountability to stakeholders (denoted as ‘true accountability’) as opposed to risk/stakeholder management, then, particularly in the domain of external social audit, the legitimacy of accountants’ participation may be disputed. The paper therefore concludes by cautioning against facilitating the unquestioned entry of accountants into the realm of SEAAR.
 
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This paper reports findings from a study into national associations of accountants from the perspective of the model code of the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC), Code of Ethics for Professional Accountants. Using data collected from a survey document, the paper analyses the extent of the model code’s influence in an international process of harmonisation of ethical rules for accountants. Obstacles to the adoption of the model code are examined, as is the impact that government supervision of codes has had on harmonisation efforts. Particular attention is paid to the relationship between professional independence and close family relationships and culture. Findings are also presented on other issues of code content, and the most appropriate body for interpreting national codes is identified. These items were included as matters of then current concern to the Ethics Committee of IFAC.
 
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This paper analyses the ethical cultures of the international accounting profession by using the concept of ‘mainstreaming’ to describe the commitment of an organisation to the ethical function in its operations. The objective of the research on which the paper is based was to rate the efforts of 62 respondent national associations of professional accountants worldwide to incorporate the ethics function into the core operations of their organisations. Sixteen environmental factors were used in the analysis. They were set up as a group of criteria to assess the ethics procedures and systems of the accounting associations, and were divided into two categories. The first group was code based and contained items on code of ethics development and functions which would indicate whether ethically-friendly management attitudes and systems were in place as a central focus of operations. Some of these elements were capable of fostering a ‘proprietary interest’ attitude on the part of members towards their codes of ethics, which in turn encourages code compliance. With the second group, other key operational aspects were examined to provide a balanced set of criteria. Interrelated elements among factors important to an ethical environment are included in the findings. The study concludes that on average the international accounting profession has attitudinal and systemic approaches that are ‘mainstream’. In general addressees were involved in code authorship and the public had adequate access to codes. However, increased use could be made of ethics professionals in the development of codes, of professional development courses to further the ethics skills of members, and of communication channels to foster a unifying approach to ethics. The study provides criteria for individual associations to assess their mainstreaming status against the international findings.
 
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Recent research has shown that, although still on a limited scale, the teaching of business ethics in UK higher education has been increasing in recent years. This paper reports on a postal questionnaire survey conducted to investigate the extent to which ethical issues are covered in the teaching of management accounting in higher education. The principal findings are that the majority of management accounting lecturers in the British Isles do not incorporate ethics. About a third of the respondents to the survey do address ethical issues, although about half of those say they do so only implicitly. Various factors underlying the findings and prospects for the future are discussed.
 
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This study provides empirical evidence in relation to a growing body of literature concerned with the ‘socialisation’ effects of accounting and business education. A prevalent criticism within this literature is that accounting and business education in the United Kingdom and the United States, by assuming a ‘value-neutral’ appearance, ignores the implicit ethical and moral assumptions by which it is underpinned. In particular, it has been noted that accounting and business education tends to prioritise the interests of shareholders above all other stakeholder groups. This paper reports on the results of a set of focus group interviews with both undergraduate accounting students and students commencing their training with a professional accounting body. The research explores their perceptions about the purpose of accounting and the objectives of business. The findings suggest that both university and professional students' views on these issues tend to be informed by an Anglo-American shareholder discourse, whereby the needs of shareholders are prioritised. Moreover, this shareholder orientation appeared to be more pronounced for professional accounting students.
 
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This paper compares attitudes towards achievement and power orientation as between Turkish, British and Irish managers and discusses the issue from a business ethics point of view. The concept of achievement and power orientation and its impacts on business ethics is discussed. This research is part of a larger cross-cultural study that examines leadership styles and managerial attitudes in Britain, Turkey and Ireland. Intensive structured interviews were conducted for data gathering process. Results revealed that Irish and Turkish managers show a higher achievement orientation level than their British counterparts. On one hand this situation may give some advantages to Turkish and Irish managers in developing leadership qualities, on the other hand, it can also lead to some difficulties in ethical business practices. Therefore, corporate social responsibility becomes a more important issue to be pursued in Turkey and Ireland. British and Irish managers, however, showed a higher power orientation level than Turkish managers. The low level of power orientation of Turkish managers can be explained by cultural and historical conditions that still affect modern Turkish society. Previous cross-cultural studies support the results of this paper.
 
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More companies are publishing environmental and social reports, but concerns remain about the extent to which these reports reflect a genuine intention of businesses to make themselves accountable for their social and environmental performance or whether they are merely a way of maintaining corporate reputation in the face of external criticism. Dialogue with stakeholders lies at the heart of Corporate Social Responsibility practice. While questionnaire surveys are a main method for consulting large stakeholder groups, little has been written about how the data used in CSR reports are generated. This paper argues that the survey method can be adapted in ways to promote dialogue and hence stakeholder inclusion, without loss of technical rigour. It presents a case study of how one company conducted a large-scale multinational employee survey and identifies key design features of the survey process that were used to enhance the quality of dialogue between the company and its employees. The purpose of stakeholder consultation and dialogue is to find mutually agreed solutions to identified issues of concern. It can only claim to be an ethical business practice if it strives to achieve this overarching purpose.
 
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Information cultures consist of the values, beliefs and behaviour relating to information ownership and management, while information ethics applies to the moral application of data. The author’s experience of Russia and its information culture provides a striking case study of the disastrous social and business consequences of an absence of information ethics. This paper was delivered in its original form at the First World Congress of Business, Economics and Ethics of the International Society of Business, Economics and Ethics (ISBEE), held in Reitaku University, Tokyo, in July 1996. The author is Associate Professor of Information Systems in the School of Business, Fairfield University, Fairfield, Connecticut 06430–5195.
 
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This article investigates how companies make sense of CSR. It is based on an explorative comparative case study of 18 companies in the Netherlands using background information, interviews and annual reports. Initially, the sensemaking process of CSR is guided and coordinated by change agents who are specifically appointed to explore the implementation of CSR in their company. These change agents initiate the CSR process within their own organisations. The meaning they develop stems from their personal and organisational values and frames of reference. By attuning the vocabulary of CSR to the language of their colleagues, they aim to gain support for this undertaking in their organisation. This sensemaking procedure can be divided into pragmatic, external, procedural, policy-oriented and value-driven processes. The capability of an organisation to embed CSR is the result of trial and error, personal preferences and the use of language by the change agent that fits the (dynamic) situation at hand. Thus, each organisation needs a tailor-made approach to implement CSR successfully.
 
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This article seeks to show how Human Resource Management and Development practitioners can develop an ethics of practice by adopting a Humanistic Action Research approach toward their Continuing Professional Development (CPD). Central to this approach is the development of reflective practice skills, in itself a journey of development. I aim to give a flavour of what this practice has meant for me as a professional educator by sharing an account of my own CPD using this approach. This approach is for the mature practitioner and it is located within Humanistic Action Research: to be appropriate, it necessitates a maturity of ego and not simply professional maturity and status. The article will discuss what this maturation process involves and will show its centrality to reflective practice. Within this framework of human inquiry, CPD requires an undertaking to engage in first person Action Research, where ‘I’ am the subject and object of my inquiry. At the heart of this approach is the pragmatic question at the centre of any approach to CPD ‘How do I improve my practice?’
 
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In this paper we review recent UK literature on HRM and ethics and suggest that implicit in many accounts is a perception of a ‘moral hole’ appearing within the employee relations landscape which is based on external, reflective observations of HRM policies and practices. We argue that the investigation of HRM and ethics could be broadened by locating HRM and ethics research more explicitly within the social and cultural realities of organizations and their employees. Finally, we outline and illustrate what a social constructivist approach might add to research in this field and how it might provide insights that help bridge the gap between theory and practice.
 
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There is a fundamental tension in business ethics between the apparent need to ensure ethical conduct through hierarchical control, and the encouragement of individuals' potential for autonomous moral judgement. In philosophical terms, these positions are consequentialist and Kantian, respectively. This paper assumes the former to be the dominant position in practice, and probably in theory also, but regards it as a misplaced extension of the more general managerial tendency to seek and maintain control over employees. While the functions of such control are recognized, the arguments in favour of individuals' moral autonomy are pursued from both a Kantian and a social–theoretic perspective. Reference is made to Kohlberg's research on moral development that provides an insight into how individuals, through participation in debate with colleagues, might become more effective moral agents within organizational settings. This is contrasted with a managerial perspective, which pays lip service to individuals' right to such genuine involvement. The paper considers psychological manipulation and the legitimacy of managerial authority on matters of ethics, as opposed to in the purely technical context. The wider societal significance of such hierarchical power in organizations constitutes an important background to the paper. It is concluded that genuine, non-manipulative, participation by employees (and others) is the way forward for the ethical management of business ethics.
 
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What is unique about the development of business ethics in the USA, and how does it compare with various countries of Europe and with Japan? Institutional, legal, social and cultural factors are identified by the Professor of Business and Public Policy at the Haas School of Business, University of California at Berkeley. An earlier version of this article titled “The Globalization of Business Ethics: Why America Remains Distinctive” was published in the Fall 1992 issue of the California Management Review, Vol. 35, No. 1. Reprinted by Permission of The Regents of the University of California.
 
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Leaving an editorial chair provides an opportunity for the departing incumbent to deliver a final message to his readers. Seven years after founding Business Ethics. A European Review the editor can offer no better valedictory than to explore the role of moral courage in the ethical conduct of business. Not only does this provide an excellent illustration of the recent recovery of the subject of “virtue” ethics in moral philosophy in general, as well as in the application of morality to business. It also serves to highlight the important difference between ‘business ethics’ as a term applied to the study of right and wrong behaviour in business, and ‘ethical business’, which is business actually conducted on ethical lines. For the difference between behaving rightly and wrongly in any area of human activity, including that of business, is not simply a matter of knowledge, or of finding the “correct” answer. There is a crucial psychological gap between knowing what one ought to do and then actually doing it; as Ovid ruefully observed, we see and approve the better things, yet we follow the worse. This is where courage comes in, for the gap between ethical perception and ethical performance is bridged by moral courage, as the following article suggests. More colloquially, the author is accustomed to conclude his classroom teaching on business ethics by observing that it is one thing to work out, often laboriously and hesitantly, what is the correct line of behaviour to follow; it is quite another thing to have the guts to follow it. An early version of this paper was delivered in Gresham College, London, while a more developed account dates from the First World Congress of the International Society of Business, Economics and Ethics, held in Tokyo in 1996. The following is reprinted from International Business Ethics: Challenges and Approaches , edited by George Enderle earlier this year and published by the University of Notre Dame Press and Hong Kong University Press.
 
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The NHS differs from a private business in not aiming at profits and in being obliged to provide only the single product of health care. How radically does this affect the requirement to be “business-like” and adopt business values? Dr Draper is Lecturer in Biomedical Ethics at The Medical School, The University of Birmingham, Birmingham B15 2TT. She wishes to thank Tom Sorell for his comments on the first draft of this article.
 
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The versatility and adaptability of information technology offer many potential benefits to society, its organisations and its citizens; but there are also many associated risks. The social and ethical implications of this technology warrant special attention and have resulted in the creation of information ethics as a discrete area complementary to business ethics. Simon Rogerson is Director of the Centre for Computing and Social Responsibility at De Montfort University, The Gateway, Leicester, LE1 9BH, UK. (email: srog@dmu.ac.uk and web site http://www.cms.dmu.ac.uk/CCSR/)
 
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Successful business activity in the market is commonly likened to evolution and the survival of the fittest, in which there is little, if any, place for ethics. The author questions various assumptions underlying this view, and suggests that competition can bring out the best as well as the worst in human character. He is a member of the Department of Philosophy in the Faculty of Letters, Reading University, Whiteknights, Reading RG6 2AH. This paper was first presented at a Seminar on Teaching Business Ethics held at London Business School on Friday, 10 March, 1995.
 
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Many traditional conceptions of ethics use categories and arguments that have been developed under conditions of pre-modern societies and are not useful in the age of globalisation anymore. I argue that we need an economic ethics which employs economics as a key theoretical resource and which focuses on institutions for implementing moral norms. This conception is then elaborated further in the area of business ethics. It is illustrated in the case for banning child labour.
 
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Advertising presents special difficulties for business ethicists. Ads are trivial entertainments, yet advertising culture has been held up as a metaphor for a general moral degradation in the post-modern epoch. Ads confuse us since they are a new and unfamiliar form of communicative discourse which we find difficult to place in an ethical category. This, mainly conceptual, paper attempts to explore how ethics in and of advertising may be subject to examination within a broadly social constructionist perspective. The paper sketches out a view of social constructionism which draws significantly on the ‘turn to language’ in psychology. It then attempts to discuss how ads might work, or rather, as the paper suggests, how ads mean. The social constructionist view point entails a rejection of cognitivist schemes of advertising psychology in favour of a mutualist framework within which ads and consumers jointly construct meanings which are essentially indeterminate. This ontological perspective has implications for ethical treatments of the field. The notion of meaning making as a psychological principle leads the discussion into an initial consideration of how normative approaches to advertising ethics might be framed. The self regulatory system obtaining in the UK is offered as an appropriate example. An underlying theme of the paper is that discussions of ethics in relation to advertising cannot rest upon a simplistic cognitivist notion of how ads ‘work’ upon consumers’ minds. The paper tries to show that a broadly social constructionist approach may offer a richer scheme for examining advertising ethics in its local, mediated, indeterminate and socially constructed character.
 
Article
The Israeli approach to advertising consists of two complementary sets of norms, legal norms and moral-ethical norms. Advertising legislation demands honest disclosure. The Israeli legislator refrains from intervening in fundamental rights such as freedom of expression, free trade, occupation, and liberty of contract in advertising. However, there are also few interventions to prevent phenomena that are dangerous or abusive, especially to groups needing protection. The Israeli courts do try to apply moral considerations in cases tried by them, but living up to moral responsibilities is different from complying with legal obligations. Advertisers in Israel have a(i) Treatise(r), consisting of ten ethical guidelines, which neither sums up advertising ethics in its entirety nor is legally binding. Sociological and psychological features of the culture need to be examined in order to spell out what truth and honesty in advertising actually mean in this society, and the manner in which these values are practised. Lacking sanctions in public law against misleading consumers or manipulation based on false facts, consumers must find remedy in civil actions which rely on moral and ethical rules.
 
Top-cited authors
Mette Morsing
  • Stockholm School of Economics, Copenhagen Business School
Majken Schultz
  • Copenhagen Business School
Nicola Misani
  • Università commerciale Luigi Bocconi
Laura J. Spence
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
Fiona Tilley
  • Schumacher College