Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 70, Issue 4, pp 327–340 | Cite as

The Effect of Country and Culture on Perceptions of Appropriate Ethical Actions Prescribed by Codes of Conduct: A Western European Perspective among Accountants

  • Donald F. ArnoldEmail author
  • Richard A. Bernardi
  • Presha E. Neidermeyer
  • Josef Schmee
Original Paper


Recognizing the growing interdependence of the European Union and the importance of codes of conduct in companies’ operations, this research examines the effect of a country’s culture on the implementation of a code of conduct in a European context. We examine whether the perceptions of an activity’s ethicality relates to elements found in company codes of conduct vary by country or according to Hofstede’s (1980, Culture’s Consequences (Sage Publications, Beverly Hills, CA)) cultural constructs of: Uncertainty Avoidance, Masculinity/Femininity, Individualism, and Power Distance. The 294 individuals, who participated in our study, were from 8 Western European countries. Their responses to our 13 scenarios indicate that differences in the perceptions of ethicality associate primarily with the participants’ country as opposed to their employer (i.e., accounting firm), employment level, or gender. The evidence also indicates that these country differences associate with Hofstede constructs of Individualism and Masculinity.


Codes of conduct ethical perceptions country culture 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Ahmed M., Chung K., Wichenseher J. (2003). ‘Business Students’ Perception of Ethics and Moral Judgment: A Cross-Cultural Study. Journal of Business Ethics 43(1/2): 89–102CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Allmon D., Chen H., Pritcheet T., Forrest P. (1997). A Multicultural Examination of Business Ethics Perceptions. Journal of Business Ethics 16(2): 183–188CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Arnold D., Bernardi R. (1997). An Examination of British, Irish and U.S. Partners’ Responses to Ethical Dilemmas. Research in Accounting Regulation 11(Supplement): 149–172Google Scholar
  4. Arnold D., Bernardi R., Neidermeyer P. (2001). The Association between European Materiality Estimates and Client Integrity, National Culture, and Litigation. International Journal of Accounting 36:459–483CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Arnold D., Bernardi R., Neidermeyer P., Schmee J. (2002), Underreporting of Audit Time and Premature Sign-off in Western Europe. Irish Accounting Review 9(1): 1–38Google Scholar
  6. Au K. (1999), Intra-cultural Variation: Evidence and Implications for International Business. Journal of International Business Studies 30(4): 799–812CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bernardi R., Long S. (2004). Family Values, Competition and the Environment: An International Study. International Business and Economics Research Journal 3(1): 1–11Google Scholar
  8. Bernardi R., Delorey E., LaCross C., Waite R. (2003). Evidence of Social Desirability Response Bias in Ethics Research: An International Study. Journal of Applied Business Research 19(3): 41–51Google Scholar
  9. Christie P., Ik-Whan J., Kwon G., Stoebert P., Baumhart R. (2003). A Cross-Cultural Comparison of Ethical Attitudes of Business Managers: India, Korea and the United States. Journal of Business Ethics 46(3): 263–287CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cohen J., Pant L., Sharp D. (1992). Cultural and Socioeconomic Constraints on International Codes of Ethics: Lessons from Accounting. Journal of Business Ethics 11(9): 687–700CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Cohen J., Pant L., Sharp D. (1995). An Exploratory Examination of International Differences in Auditors’ Ethical Perceptions. Behavioral Research in Accounting 7: 37–64Google Scholar
  12. Davis M., Johnson N., Ohmer D. (1998). Issue-Contingent Effects on Ethical Decision Making: A Cross-Cultural Comparison. Journal of Business Ethics 17(4): 373–389CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Ferrell O.C., Fraedrich J., Ferrell L. (2002). Business Ethics: Ethical Decision Making and Cases, 6th ed. Houghton Mifflin, BostonGoogle Scholar
  14. Hofstede G. (1980). Culture’s Consequences. Sage Publications, Beverly Hills, CAGoogle Scholar
  15. Hofstede, G.: 1984, ‘Culture Dimensions in Management and Planning’, Asia Pacific Journal of Management January, 81–99Google Scholar
  16. Hofstede G. (1991). Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind. McGraw Hill Publishing, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  17. Husted B. (1999). Wealth, Culture, and Corruption. Journal of International Business Studies 30(2): 233–242CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. International Federation of Accountants (1990), Guideline on Ethics for Professional Accountants. International Federation of Accountants Publishing, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  19. Jackson T. (2000). Making Ethic Judgments: A Cross-Cultural Management Study. Asia Pacific Journal of Management 17(3): 443–472CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Jeurissen R., van Luijk H. (1998). The Ethical Reputations of Managers in Nine EU-Countries: A Cross-referential Survey. Journal of Business Ethics 17(9/10): 995–1005CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Kachelmeier S., Shehata M. (1997). Internal Auditing and Voluntary Cooperating in Firms: A Cross-Cultural Experiment. The Accounting Review 72(3): 407–431Google Scholar
  22. Kaptein M. (2004). Business Codes of Multinational firms: What Do They Say?. Journal of Business Ethics 50(1): 13–32CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Moon Y.S., Franke G. (2000). Cultural Influences of Agency Practitioners’ Ethical Perceptions: A Comparison of Korea and the U.S. Journal of Advertising 29(1): 51–65Google Scholar
  24. Payne D., Raiborn C., Askvik J. (1997). A Global Code of Business Ethics. Journal of Business Ethics 16(16): 1727–1735CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Prasad J., Marlow N., Hattwick R. (1998). Gender-Based Differences in Perception of a Just Society. Journal of Business Ethics 17(3): 219–228CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Robertson C., Crittenden W., Brady M., Hoffman J. (2002), Situational Ethics Across Borders: A Multicultural Examination. Journal of Business Ethics 38(4): 327–338CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Sarwon S., Armstrong R. (2001). Microcultural Differences and Perceived Ethical Problems: An International Business Perspective. Journal of Business Ethics 30(1): 41–56CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. SAS Institute: 2002, JMP Statistics and Graphics Guide, Version 5. (SAS Publishing, Cary, NC)Google Scholar
  29. Siegel P., Omer K., Karim K. (1997). The Role of the Code of Ethics for the Internal Auditing Profession: An International Perspective. Research in Accounting Regulation 11(Supplement): 115–128Google Scholar
  30. Stohs J., Brannick T. (1999). Codes and Conduct: Predictors of Irish Managers’ Ethical Reasoning. Journal of Business Ethics 22(4): 311–327CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Vitell S., Mwachukwu S., Barnes J. (1993). The Effects of Culture on Ethical Decision-Making: An Application of Hofstede’s Typology. Journal of Business Ethics 12(10):753–760CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Waddock S.A., Bodwell C., Graves S.B. (2002). Responsibility: The New Business Imperative. The Academy of Management Executive 16(2): 132–147Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Donald F. Arnold
    • 1
    Email author
  • Richard A. Bernardi
    • 2
  • Presha E. Neidermeyer
    • 1
  • Josef Schmee
    • 1
  1. 1.School of ManagementThe Graduate College of Union UniversitySchenectadyU.S.A.
  2. 2.Gabelli School of BusinessRoger Williams UniversityBristolU.S.A.

Personalised recommendations