Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 142, Issue 1, pp 83–91 | Cite as

Knowledge Stewardship as an Ethos-Driven Approach to Business Ethics



As a field spanning interests among researchers and business professionals, business ethics aims to provide guidance on what can be considered morally right, socially acceptable and legally transparent dealings in the human activity of providing goods or services for trade. Yet, cohesive theory of the ethics of business is lacking, and current ethical practices often fall victim to fluctuating business conditions and circumstances. Thus, stewardship theory is proposed as a more enduring and empowering orientation to more mindful business ethics that is borne out of organizational character, and knowledge stewardship is introduced as a set of practices that can support improved ethical behavior in organizations from an ethos-driven perspective. A definition of knowledge stewardship is provided in this article, and its associated outcomes of authenticity, authority and advocacy are highlighted. Practical recommendations are put forward to assist organizations in their development of stronger stewardship behavior, and exploratory research questions that heighten attentiveness to knowledge stewardship are presented.


Business ethics Learning organizations Knowledge stewardship Organizational ethos 



Civil society organization


Corporate and social responsibility


Knowledge management


Knowledge stewardship


Non-governmental organization


Organizational learning


Compliance with ethical standards

This article is conceptual in nature and does not include methods, procedures, or data related to human or animal subjects. The manuscript has been prepared in accordance with the appropriate ethical standards for research.


  1. Argote, L. (2005). Reflections on two views of managing learning and knowledge in organizations. Journal of Management Inquiry., 4(1), 43–48. doi: 10.1177/1056492604273179.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Argote, L., McEvily, B., & Reagans, R. (2003). Managing knowledge in organizations: An integrative framework and review of emerging themes. Management Science, 49(4), 572–582.Google Scholar
  3. Authorship in practice, practical authorship. (2015). Organizational learning and knowledge capabilities conference. Retrieved from
  4. Avital, M., et al. (2006). Design with a positive lens: An affirmative approach to designing information and organizations. Communications of the Association for Information Systems., 18, 519–545.Google Scholar
  5. Bedford, A. D. (2013). Knowledge management education and training in academic institutions in 2012. Journal of information and knowledge management 12(4), 1350029 (16 pages). doi: 10.1142/S0219649213500299.
  6. Bouckaert, L., & Vandenhove, J. (1998). Business ethics and the management of non-profit institutions. Journal of Business Ethics, 17, 1073–1081.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bright, D. S., & Godwin, L. N. (2010). Encouraging social innovation in global organizations: Integrating planned and emergent approaches. Journal of Asia-Pacific Business, 11(3), 179–196.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Caza, A., Barker, B. A., & Cameron, K. S. (2004). Ethic and ethos: The buffering and amplifying effects of ethical behavior and virtuousness. Journal of Business Ethics, 52(2), 169–178.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Crossan, M. M., & Berdrow, I. (2003). Organizational learning and strategic renewal. Strategic Management Journal, 24, 1087–1105. doi: 10.1002/smj.342.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Crossan, M. M., Lane, H. W., & White, R. E. (1999). An organizational learning framework: From intuition to institution. Academy of Management Review, 24(3), 522–537.Google Scholar
  11. Cummings, S. (2003). Strategy as ethos. In Stephen Cummings & David Wilson (Eds.), Images of strategy. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing Ltd.Google Scholar
  12. Cunliffe, A. (2002). Managers as practical authors: Reconstructing our understanding of management practice. Journal of Management Studies, 38(3), 351–371. doi: 10.1111/1467-6486.00240.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Cunliffe, A. L., & Jun, J. S. (2005). The need for reflexivity in public administration. Administration and Society, 37(2), 225–242. doi: 10.1177/0095399704273209.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Davis, J. H., Schoorman, F. D., & Donandson, L. (1997). Toward a stewardship theory of management. The Academy of Management Review, 22(1), 20–47.Google Scholar
  15. Garavelli, C., Gorgoglione, M., & Scozzi, B. (2004). Knowledge management strategy and organization: A perspective of analysis. Knowledge and Process Management., 11(4), 273–282. doi: 10.1002/kpm.209.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Haddad, L. (2007). The ethics of business and the business of ethics. The Middle East Business and Economic Review., 19(1), 56–67.Google Scholar
  17. Halliday, M. A. K. (2005). On matter and meaning: Two realms of human experience. Linguistics and the Human Sciences., 1(1), 59–82.Google Scholar
  18. Handy, C. (2002). What’s a business for? Harvard Business Review, 80(12), 49–55.Google Scholar
  19. Hernandez, M. (2008). Promoting stewardship behavior in organizations: A leadership model. Journal of Business Ethics, 80, 121–128. doi: 10.1007/s10551-007-9440-2.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hovland, I. (2003). Knowledge management and organizational learning: An international development perspective. (Working Paper 224). Overseas Development Institute, London.Google Scholar
  21. Huysman, M., & de Wit, D. (2004). Practices of managing knowledge sharing: Towards a second wave of knowledge management. Knowledge and Process Management., 11(2), 81–92. doi: 10.1002/kpm.192.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Jackson, M. C. (2005). Reflections on knowledge management from a critical systems perspective. Knowledge Management Research & Practice., 3, 187–196.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Keller-Krawczyk, L. (2010). Is business ethic possible and necessary? Economics & Society., 3(1), 133–142.Google Scholar
  24. Kline, W. (2006). Business ethics from the internal point of view. Journal of Business Ethics, 64, 57–67. doi: 10.1007/s10551-005-4666-3.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Knechtli, B., Stoll, A., Hofer, D., Lee, D., & Mikos, M. (2009). Evaluation of knowledge management and institutional learning in SDC (Evaluation 2009/2). Bern, Switzerland: Commissioned by the Evaluation + Controlling Division of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC). Retrieved on December 29, 2014 from
  26. May, V. (2011). Self, belonging, and social change. Sociology, 45(3), 363–378. doi: 10.1177/0038038511399624.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Nonanka, I. (1994). A dynamic theory of organizational knowledge creation. Organization Science, 5(1), 14–37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Nonanka, I., & Takeuchi, H. (1995). The knowledge creating company: How Japanese Companies create the dynamics of innovation. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  29. O’Connell, V. (2007). Reflections on stewardship reporting. Accounting Horizons., 21(2), 215–227.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Robin, D. (2009). Toward an applied meaning for ethics in business. Journal of Business Ethics, 89, 139–150. doi: 10.1007/s10551-008-9990-y.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Schreyogg, G., & Geiger, D. (2007). The significance of distinctiveness: A proposal for Rethinking organizational knowledge. Organization., 14(1), 77–100.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Segal, L., & Lehrer, M. (2013). The conflict of ethos and ethics: A sociological theory of business people’s ethical values. Journal of Business Ethics, 114, 513–528. doi: 10.1007/s10551-012-1359-6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Vince, R. (2002). The impact of emotion on organizational learning. Human Resource Development International., 5(1), 73–85. doi: 10.1080/13678860110016904.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Vo, L. C., & Mounoud, E. (2014). Developing knowledge management implementation frameworks: Implications from translation perspective. The Journal of Applied Business Research., 30(1), 83–92.Google Scholar
  35. Weick, K. E., & Sutfliffe, K. M. (2006). Mindfulness and the quality of organizational attention. Organization Science, 17(4), 514–524. doi: 10.1287/orsc.1060.0196.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Wellum, J. M. (2007). Long-term stewardship and our capital markets. Management Decision, 45(9), 1387–1396.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The George Washington UniversityWashingtonUSA

Personalised recommendations