Skip to main content

The Role of Ethics in 21st Century Organizations


The twenty-first century has seen its share of ethical failures, which brings into question what the role of ethics is. Past experience demonstrates ethics functioning as a reactive measure to a permanent consequence, the equivalent of pointing at an accident and commenting, “The driver should not have been going so fast.” While such an observation may be accurate, it does little to correct the situation or prevent further ones from occurring. Ethics must function as more than a guide; they must be preventative in nature and determine a correct course of action for individuals and organizations. They must teach and serve as a qualitative standard.

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


  1. Austill, A. D. (2011). Legislation cannot replace ethics in regulatory reform. International Journal of Business and Social Science, 2(13). Retrieved from

  2. Bruhn, J. G. (2009). The functionality of gray area ethics in organizations. Journal of Business Ethics, 89(2), 205–214. doi:10.1007/s10551-008-9994-7.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Buchholz, R. A., & Rosenthal, S. B. (2008). The unholy alliance of business and science. Journal of Business Ethics, 78(1–2), 199–206. doi:10.1007/s10551-006-9329-5.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Ciulla, J. B. (2004). Ethics, the heart of leadership. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing.

    Google Scholar 

  5. Gini, A. (2004). Business, ethics, and leadership in a post Enron era. Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies, 11(1), 9–15. Retrieved from

    Google Scholar 

  6. Harden Fritz, J. M., Arnett, R. C., & Conkel, M. (1999). Organizational ethical standards and organizational commitment. Journal of Business Ethics, 20(4), 289–299. Retrieved from

    Google Scholar 

  7. Jennings, M. M. (2008). Some thoughts on ethics, governance, and markets: A look at the subprime saga. Corporate Finance Review, 12(4), 40–46. Retrieved from

  8. Schnebel, E., & Bienert, M. A. (2004). Implementing ethics in business organizations. Journal of Business Ethics, 53(1–2), 203–211. Retrieved from

    Google Scholar 

  9. Schwartz, M. S. (2005). Universal moral values for corporate codes of ethics. Journal of Business Ethics, 59(1–2), 27–44. doi:10.1007/s10551-005-3403-2.

    Google Scholar 

  10. Sims, R. R. (2002). Business ethics teaching for effective learning. Teaching Business Ethics, 6(4), 393–393. Retrieved from

    Google Scholar 

  11. Sims, R. R. (2004). Business ethics teaching: Using conversational learning to build an effective classroom learning environment. Journal of Business Ethics, 49(2), 201–211. Retrieved from

    Google Scholar 

  12. Sims, R. R., & Brinkmann, J. (2003). Enron ethics (or: Culture matters more than codes). Journal of Business Ethics, 45(3), 243–256. Retrieved from

    Google Scholar 

  13. Wallis, S. E. (2010). Developing effective ethics for effective behavior. Social Responsibility Journal, 6(4), 536–550. doi:10.1108/17471111011083428.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Warren, B., Sampson, S. D., & McFee, E. (2011). Business schools: Ethics, assurance of learning, and the future. Organization Management Journal, 8(1), 41–58. doi:10.1057/omj.2011.5.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Weaver, G. R. (1995). Does ethics code design matter? Effects of ethics code ratio. Journal of Business Ethics, 14(5), 367–367. Retrieved from

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to William H. Bishop.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Bishop, W.H. The Role of Ethics in 21st Century Organizations. J Bus Ethics 118, 635–637 (2013).

Download citation


  • Ethics
  • Globalization
  • Organizations