Conceptualizing the determinants of ethical decision making in business organizations

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Understanding the role of the determinants of the ethical decision making in business organizations has become increasingly appealing to the field of business ethics. Various ethical decision making models put more emphasis on a narrow set of determinants. In concert with other contextual factors, these determinants appear to drive the ethical decision making in business organizations. However, in the literature there seems to be room for a more holistic set of determinants, which can explain effectively and holistically the diverse ethical rationales underlying the decision making more effectively. In this paper, the authors set out several ethical models and extract the predominant determinants. After portraying the main literature, the authors conclude that the most recent models are based on the first generation of ethical models, which tend to be more theoretical than empirical. They note the lack of empirical research in this area, which can be explained by both the nature and the intricateness of business ethics. They find that empirical analysis, when it exists, tends to focus on specific variables. The authors highlight at the end of the paper the need for integrative ethical models, which tackle not only the “how” but also the “why” of ethical decision making.

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