Skip to main content

Characteristics of Ethical Business Cultures


The purpose of this study was to identify general characteristics attributed to ethical business cultures by executives from a variety of industries. Our research identified five clusters of characteristics: Mission- and Values-Driven, Stakeholder Balance, Leadership Effectiveness, Process Integrity, and Long-term Perspective. We propose that these characteristics be used as a foundation of a comprehensive model that can be engaged to influence operational practices in creating and sustaining an ethical business culture.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.


  • Bird F., J. Waters: 1989 The Moral Muteness of Managers. California Management Review 32(1), 73–88

    Google Scholar 

  • Bolman L. G., T. Deal: 1997, Reframing Organizations: Artistry, Choice and Leadership, 2nd edition. (Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, CA)

    Google Scholar 

  • Brown M., L. Trevino: 2006 Ethical Leadership: A review and Future Directions. The Leadership Quarterly 17(6), 595–616

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Brown M., L. Trevino, D. Harrison: 2005 Ethical Leadership: A Social Learning Perspective for Construct Development and Testing. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes 97(2), 117–134

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Cohen D.: 1993 Creating and Maintaining Ethical Work Climates: A in the Workplace and Implications for Managing Change. Business Ethics Quarterly 3(4), 343–358

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Creswell J.: 1998, Qualitative Inquiry and Research Design: Choosing among Five Traditions. (Sage Publications, Thousand Oaks, CA)

    Google Scholar 

  • Frederick W. C.: 1995 Values, Nature, and Culture in the American Corporation. (Oxford University Press, New York)

    Google Scholar 

  • Freeman R. E.: 1994 The Politics of Stakeholder Theory: Some Future Directions. Business Ethics Quarterly 4(4), 409–421

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Friedman, M.: 1970, ‹The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase its Profits’, New York Times Magazine September 13, 1970

  • Grbich C.: 2007 Qualitative Data Analysis: An Introduction. (Sage Publications, Thousand Oaks, CA)

    Google Scholar 

  • Kumar N., J. Anderson, L. Stern: 1993 Conducting Interorganizational Research Using Key Informants. Academy of Management Journal 36(6), 1633–1641

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Meyers C.: 2004, Institutional Culture and Individual Behavior: Creating an Ethical Environment. Science and Engineering Ethics 10(2), 269–276

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Miles, M. and M. Huberman: 1994, Qualitative Data Analysis: An Expanded Sourcebook, 2nd Edition (Sage, Thousand Oaks, CA)

  • Schein E. H.: 1985 Organizational Culture and Leadership. (Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, CA)

    Google Scholar 

  • Schein E. H. (2004). Organizational Culture and Leadership, 3rd edition. (Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, CA)

    Google Scholar 

  • Trevino L.: 1986 Ethical Decision Making in Organizations: A Person-Situation Interactionist Model. Academy of Management Review 11(3), 601–617

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Trevino L.: 1990a A Cultural Perspective on Changing Organizational Ethics. In R. Woodman, W. Passmore (eds.), Research in Organizational Change and Development. (Jai Press, Greenwich, CT), pp. 195–230

    Google Scholar 

  • Trevino, L. K.: 1990b Developing and Changing Organizational Ethics: A Cultural Approach. Research in Organizational Change and Development 4, 195–230

    Google Scholar 

  • Trevino L., M. Brown: 2004 Managing to be Ethical: Debunking Five Business Ethics Myths. Academy of Management Executive 18(2), 69–83

    Google Scholar 

  • Trevino L., K. Nelson: 2004, Managing Business Ethics: Straight Talk About How to Do it Right. (Wiley, New York).

    Google Scholar 

  • Trevino L., G. R. Weaver: 2001 The Role of Human Resources in Ethics/Compliance Management: A Fairness Perspective. Human Resource Management Review 11(1), 113–134

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Trevino L., G. R. Weaver, D. Gibson, B. Toffler: 1999 Managing Ethics and Legal Compliance: What Works and What Hurts. California Management Review 41(2), 131–150.

    Google Scholar 

  • United States Sentencing Commission: 2004, ‹2004 Federal Sentencing Guidelines: Effective Compliance and Ethics Program’, November 27, 2007 (available at

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Alexandre Ardichvili.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Ardichvili, A., Mitchell, J.A. & Jondle, D. Characteristics of Ethical Business Cultures. J Bus Ethics 85, 445–451 (2009).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: