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BSS007-3 Assessment 2: Individual Advances Report (60%)

Degree Degree pathways: General


Pathway(s) (e.g.
General / Finance)
Advances Topic There is no such thing as an ethical business! Compare and
(Main questions we contrast the ethical issues surrounding two contrasting business
want students to sectors (e.g. banking and retail) and evaluate the impact these
address) issues should have on the business strategies and operations

Points to
Explore the nature of business ethics from both the
consider
(Scaffolding of corporate and the individual perspective.
related issues, which o The relevance of ethics in business
should be related to o Comparison of ethics, corporate responsibility and
the research topics sustainability, using examples from the real world
for Phase 3) o Who is responsible for business ethics?
o Should ethical considerations become legally
binding?
What can the well publicised corporate failures of the last
10 years tell us about the current state of business ethics?
Are there contrasting ethical considerations within different
sectors of business and if so should this be the case?
Discuss, using examples from the real world, some of the
key issues in ethics facing businesses today
How can ethics be measured?

Suggest ways in which to increase awareness and


improve the overall impact of business ethics

Note You should choose 1 of the above points to focus on, and a few
additional, related points to cover in your essay. The above
points are not exhaustive but can be considered in constructing
the report. You should consider other issues wherever necessary
and relevant.
Instructions Submission: Friday 7 April 2017 (10:00hrs) One electronic
submission through BREO.

You are expected to write a 5,000 words individual report on the


business topic. In this report you need to critically analyse the

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issues presented in this business topic and support your
arguments with various secondary data or information. It is very
important that you include academic literature sources in support
of your arguments.

Depending upon the topic selected, you may choose to write from
the perspective of a business consultant, independent analyst,
academic or researcher.

You will need to do some wider reading to address this article


adequately. Various sources of information should be considered,
such as academic journals, books, newspapers, and magazines.
Digital libraries should also be considered as important source of
information and data.

Your report should be logical, balanced, concise, focused and


well structured with no more than a maximum of 5,000 words in
length. It should be word-processed (12 points Arial, 1.5 line
spacing) and the highest levels of presentation are expected. See
unit handbook appendix 4 for the marking grid and criteria of the
Advances Report.

One electronic copy of this report should be submitted through


BREO.

Initial Readings See Below

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Journal of Business Ethics

June 2016, Volume 136, Issue 1, pp 89100

The Moral of the Story: Re-framing Ethical


Codes of Conduct as Narrative Processes
Matt Statler,
David Oliver

Abstract
This paper re-frames business ethical codes (BCEs) as narrative processes
by reflecting critically on key ontological assumptions underpinning the
existing research, and introducing new and relevant concepts based on
alternative assumptions. The first section draws on recent decision-making
research to develop a theoretical account of BCEs as complex, socially
embedded sensemaking processes. The second section addresses the
content of codes, and differentiates between narrative and logico-scientific
modes of reasoning. The third section focuses on the quality of code
communication and identifies several distinct types of narrative process. We
provide research directions for how this new understanding of BCEs may be
further developed, as well as implications for practitioners. In response to the
call for new conceptual models (OFallon and Butterfield, in J Bus Ethics
59:375413, 2005), the paper provides organizational researchers with a
more nuanced understanding of how BCEs enable or constrain ethical
behavior in organizations.

Keywords
Code of conduct Business code of ethics (BCE) Sensemaking Narrative
Storytelling

Ethical Codes of Conduct: Challenges and Opportunities

Section 406 of the SarbanesOxley Act of 2002 stipulates that the Securities
and Exchange Commission (SEC) should require publicly traded companies
to disclose whether or not they have adopted a code of ethics designed for
corporate officers responsible for accounting and financial management.
Since the implementation of these guidelines by the SEC, corporate codes of
conduct have proliferated among public as well as private firms in the US, and
they have increasingly been implemented not just in the areas of finance and
accounting, but additionally across the enterprise. Casual readers of the
business press over the last decade would nevertheless have ample cause to
wonder why, even with the proliferation of such codes of conduct, we continue
to see such prominent examples of unethical behavior.

Questions about the effectiveness of ethical codes of conduct animate a


series of ongoing debates among organizational researchers as well. The
Journal of Business Ethics alone has since 2005 published no fewer than 50
articles focused on some aspect of codes of conduct. Yet according to two

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recent reviews, organizational research focused on the relationship between
codes of conduct and ethical decision making has yielded mixed and
inconclusive results.

OFallon and Butterfield (2005) analyze this extensive literature in terms of


Rests (1986) theoretical framework for describing ethical decision making
(i.e., moral awareness; moral judgment; moral intent; and moral behavior).
Their analysis suggests that although codes of ethics can help one raise
moral awareness in firms (Weaver and Trevino 1999), they may (Stohs and
Brannick 1999; Adams et al. 2001) or may not (Udas et al. 1996; Nwachukwu
and Vitell 1997; Douglas et al. 2001) positively influence organizational actors
moral judgment. Similarly, moral intent may (Granitz 2003) or may not
(Paolillo and Vitell 2002) be positively influenced by an ethical code of
conduct. Finally, research focused on moral behavior remains inconclusive,
with seven studies suggesting a positive relationship (McCabe et al. 1996;
Adams et al. 2001; Somers 2001; Trevino and Weaver 2001; Schwartz 2001;
Greenberg 2002; Peterson 2002), four studies suggesting a negative
relationship (Cleek and Leonard 1998; Hume et al. 1999; Weaver and Trevino
1999; McKendall et al. 2002), and one study yielding mixed results (Sims and
Keon 1999). Reflecting on the status of the research literature dealing with
codes of conduct, OFallon and Butterfield identify a need to move beyond
Rests (1986) framework, and suggest that if the field of descriptive ethics is
to move forward to strengthen our understanding of the ethical decision-
making process, it is imperative that future studies focus more attention on
theory development (2005, p. 399).

Kaptein and Schwartz (2008) extend the scope of relevant considerations by


examining additional empirical evidence and by looking at a variety of
conceptual studies of codes of conduct. According to their review of 79
studies, 35 % have found codes to be effective in promoting ethical decision
making, 16 % have identified a weak relationship, 33 % have found no
significant relationship, 14 % have found mixed results, and one study has
shown codes to be counterproductive (113). Kaptein and Schwartz (2008)
attribute this confusion to the lack of a clear definition of what a code is, to the
variety of data samples analyzed by researchers, and to the different
methodologies used to determine findings. Based on these reflections,
Kaptein and Schwartz articulate a series of propositions to inform and guide
future research and, importantly, present the following definition of a business
code of conduct:

A business code is a distinct and formal document containing a set of


prescriptions developed by and for a company to guide the present and future
behaviors on multiple issues of at least its managers and employees toward
one another, the company, external stakeholders and/or society in general
(2008, p. 113).

Kaptein and Schwartz justify their decision to define a code as a distinct and
formal document by claiming that if informal norms could additionally be
labeled as codes of conduct, the concept would be diluted, making it difficult
for empirical researchers (as well as practitioners) to generate meaningful
results.

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However, Kaptein (2011) has more recently extended the scope of relevant
factors by conducting an empirical study of code-related factors impacting
unethical behavior and finding that the embedment of the code in the
organization, its content, and the quality of its communication are factors
impacting unethical behavior in organizations. He calls for future research to
develop strong and coherent theories to better explain and predict the
effectiveness of BCEs. We agree that these findings compellingly suggest a
way forward for such research, but require additional theoretical development.
How exactly, and in what sense, are codes embedded in organizations, or
not? How can we identify and differentiate between various types of content?
Of the many dimensions of human communication, which ones are most
relevant and appropriate to consider in terms of quality? What criteria should
be used to judge that quality, and by whom?

The work of Helin and Sandstrm (2008) illustrates the range of potential
answers to these questions by identifying storytelling as a potential unit of
analysis in the study of the relationship between codes of conduct and ethical
decision making. Reflecting on the same literature reviewed above, Helin and
Sandstrm cite a lack of studies of processes in practice, as well as a lack of
theoretical frameworks appropriate for describing how codes function in
complex, culturally diverse, global contexts. They suggest that researchers
should focus less on the formal document, and more on how individual
organizational actors make sense of the code, while shedding additional light
on the organizational culture within which the code is socially embedded
(Helin and Sandstrm 2008).

Helin and Sandstrm (2008) position their contribution within the tradition of
narrative inquiry in organizational studies (Boje 2001; Czarniawska 1998;
Gabriel 2000). They present and discuss a case in which a code of conduct
from a US-based corporation is made sense of by managers in a Swedish
subsidiary, finding that the introduction of the code triggers values associated
with Swedish national identity, and furthermore, that conformance to the code
was actively resisted by managers through the performance of cross-cultural
differences (288; emphasis in original). By interpreting stories gathered in
interviews with managers in the subsidiary, Helin and Sandstrm (2008) move
beyond Kaptein and Schwartzs theoretical definition of code as the distinct
and formal document containing a set of prescriptions (2008, p. 113). Their
findings suggest that the effectiveness of a code in promoting ethical decision
making cannot be fully understood without taking into consideration the
narrative processes through which codes are formulated and implemented.

In this paper, we respond to the call for new theoretical models (OFallon and
Butterfield 2005) by developing a more subtle theoretical account of codes of
conduct in organizations, building from Helin and Sandstrm (2008) and
drawing directly on Kapteins (2011) findings. The first section of the paper
seeks to extend the concept of embedment by drawing on recent decision-
making research that frames decisions as complex, socially embedded
sensemaking processes. The second section builds on these ontological
assumptions about ethical decision making and analyzes the content of codes
in terms of a distinction between narrative and logico-scientific modes of
reasoning. The third section introduces new considerations relevant to the

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quality of BCE communication by identifying several distinct forms or types of
narrative reasoning. In keeping with our attempt to encourage research that
draws on both propositional and narrative modes, we close each section with
a proposition to guide future empirical research. Ultimately, the paper
contributes a new theoretical understanding of what BCEs are and how they
function (or not) in organizations, while raising questions for future research,
and suggesting possible implications for practice.

Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

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