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Business Education and Idealism as Determinants of Stakeholder Orientation


This paper based on the distinction between the instrumental and normative views of stakeholder management explores how business education and personal moral philosophies may influence the orientation adopted by an individual. A mediated regression analysis using survey information collected from 206 Spanish university students showed that those exposed to management theories were less willing to consider stakeholders when making business decisions if the consequent economic impacts on the firm were omitted. The results also provided support for a negative effect of business education on idealism and a mediating effect of the latter on the relationship between education and stakeholder management orientation. This study thus raises awareness on the influence of business education on individuals’ ethical decision-making processes and suggests some possible changes for business education.

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We acknowledge the financial support provided by the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation (Project ECO2012-35439) and the Regional Government of Castile and Leon (Project LE004A10-1).

Author information

Correspondence to Jose-Luis Godos-Díez.

Appendix: Measurement Scales

Appendix: Measurement Scales

Stakeholder Orientation

(Likert-type scale, from 1 = strongly disagree, to 7 = strongly agree)

“Firms should take into account their stakeholders’ interests only when such groups may affect firms’ activities and goals now or in the future”.

“Firms should always take into account their stakeholders’ interests because that is the right thing to do, even when such groups are not able to affect firms’ activities and goals now or in the future”.


(Likert-type scale, from 1 = strongly disagree, to 7 = strongly agree)

Idealism 1:

People should make certain that their actions never intentionally harm others, even to a small degree.

Idealism 2:

Risks to others should never be tolerated, irrespective of how small the risks might be.

Idealism 3:

The existence of potential harm to others is always wrong, irrespective of the benefits to be gained.

Idealism 4:

One should never psychologically or physically harm another person.

Idealism 5:

One should not perform an action which might in any way threaten the dignity or welfare of another individual.

Idealism 6:

If an action might harm an innocent other, then it should not be done.

Idealism 7:

Deciding whether or not to perform an act by balancing its positive consequences against its negative consequences is immoral.

Idealism 8:

The dignity and welfare of the people should be the most important concern in any society.

Idealism 9:

It is never necessary to sacrifice the welfare of others.

Idealism 10:

Moral behaviours are actions that closely match ideals of the most “perfect” action.

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Godos-Díez, J., Fernández-Gago, R. & Cabeza-García, L. Business Education and Idealism as Determinants of Stakeholder Orientation. J Bus Ethics 131, 439–452 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-014-2289-2

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  • Business education
  • Idealism
  • Stakeholder management
  • Instrumental orientation
  • Normative orientation

JEL Classification

  • A22