1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Moral reasoning practices at different levels within an organization
  4. Conceptual underpinnings
  5. Framework for the transfer of best practices in moral reasoning
  6. Discussion and conclusion
  7. References

In this paper, we develop a conceptual framework of the intra-firm transfer of best practices in moral reasoning by integrating three streams of literature: internal knowledge transfer in strategic management, moral reasoning and epistemology in philosophy and business ethics, and leader–member exchange in human resource management. We propose that characteristics of moral reasoning (nature of moral knowledge, tacitness of moral reasoning and causal ambiguity), source characteristics (moral development of leaders), target characteristics (integrity capacity and moral development of subordinates), leader–member exchange and internal ethical climate influence the transfer of best practices in moral reasoning.

Recently, ethical behavior of managers in organizations has come under increasingly closer scrutiny by business researchers, government, popular press and society. In today's complex global environment, organizational members often have to deal with a bewildering array of diverse ethical behaviors at various levels (individual, group, department and business unit) within a firm. Therefore, one of the biggest challenges facing firms is to achieve consistency in ethical behaviors at any level. That is, members of an organization need to act in unison and with a common purpose without much ambiguity as to the course of action to be taken, when confronted with an issue involving an ethical dimension.

Achieving consistency in ethical behaviors also means transferring best ethical practices internally from one part of an organization to another. The term ‘practice’ refers to an organizational routine, and ‘best practice’ refers to a routine that is performed in a superior way, and considered to be superior to alternative internal routines, as well as known alternatives outside the firm (Szulanski 1996). Stated differently, the transfer of best practices within a firm involves internal replication of a best routine (Szulanski 1996). Organizations often engage in internal transfer of best practices for purposes of synergy and competitive advantage (Kostova 1999). Therefore, it is important to examine the antecedents and impediments to such a transfer in firms.

The purpose of this paper is to develop a conceptual framework that examines the factors influencing the transfer of best practices in moral reasoning from the organizational level to the business unit level so that there is consistency across business units. The focus on the organizational and business unit levels is consistent with the literature on the transfer of best practices in a firm (e.g. Van Wijk et al. 2008). Moral reasoning refers to interpreting the effects of individual actions on the self and others, judging the moral righteousness of an action, prioritizing the actions that are judged to be morally right and following through on the intentions to behave morally (Rest 1986). Indeed, it forms the cornerstone of ethical behavior (Piaget 1932, Kohlberg 1969, Treviño 1992, Weber & Wasieleski 2001, Treviño & Weaver 2003, Cohen 2004). When confronted with a situation about choosing from a host of possible moral choices, some organizations have exemplary guidelines and institutionalized processes that allow their managers to engage in superior moral reasoning. These processes, that is ‘best practices’, provide their managers an opportunity for moral deliberation, so that they can gain insight for ethical decision making. As an example, several firms have adopted environmentally ethical best practices that involve a firm proactively anticipating the environmental impact of its operations, taking measures to reduce waste and pollution in advance of regulation, and taking advantage of business opportunities through adopting environment-sensitive practices and moral choices (Berry & Rondinelli 1998).

In this paper, we adapt a model of internal knowledge transfer from the strategic management literature that sheds light on the factors that facilitate the transfer of knowledge and the attendant reasoning processes (e.g. Szulanski 1996). We further invoke the literature on moral reasoning and epistemology in philosophy and business ethics (e.g. Kohlberg 1969, Treviño & Weaver 2003, Zimmerman 2010) to underscore the moral aspects of the knowledge and reasoning transfer within a firm. Finally, we draw on the leader–member exchange theory (LMX) (e.g. Dansereau et al. 1975, Dulebohn et al. 2012) to examine the role of leaders and members in the transfer of moral reasoning processes. Integrating the above streams of literature may be necessary for appreciating the complexity underlying the transfer of moral reasoning practices in a firm. Our framework outlines four antecedents to the transfer of best practices in moral reasoning: (1) characteristics of moral reasoning, (2) characteristics of the source or the leader (organization), (3) characteristics of the target or the member (business unit) and (4) the ethical climate of an organization.

Specifically, this paper contributes to the existing literature in at least three ways. First, it addresses a topic – the transfer of best practices in moral reasoning in a firm – that has not been adequately examined, in spite of its significance. Furthermore, most studies on moral reasoning have focused on the individual level of cognitive moral development, and relatively few on the group or organizational level. In this paper, we attempt to integrate different levels of analysis in that we investigate the transfer of moral reasoning practices from a source (organizational level) to a target (business unit level).

Second, this paper adapts a well-known model of organizational knowledge transfer (e.g. Szulanski 1996, Van Wijk et al. 2008) to the transfer of moral reasoning processes in firms. However, the nature of ‘knowledge’ differs significantly in both frameworks. Much of the existing literature, especially in the positivist philosophical tradition, views that all tenable knowledge – that is ‘justified true belief’ – is the result of systematic scientific analysis of our sensory experience of a knowable external reality (Nonaka & Takeuchi 1995). However, this kind of epistemology muddles the age-old debate between Platonic ideas about truth and Aristotelian ideas of the results of experience. An epistemology must address the correspondence between knowledge and reality. Some scholars have suggested that the focus on a firm's processes (or activities) may help us move closer to addressing such correspondence (Nonaka et al. 2008). Accordingly, we view the firm as a system of epistemological activities (moral reasoning processes or practices) rather than a system of applied abstract knowledge (e.g. Spender 1996).

Third, our framework highlights the role of LMX in transferring the moral reasoning processes from the organization to a unit, an area that has not been adequately studied. Leader–member exchange refers to how leaders (managers and supervisors) maintain their position through a series of interactions with the members (subordinates) in an organizational hierarchy (Ilies et al. 2007).

The remainder of the paper is organized as follows. First, we outline some examples of moral reasoning practices within an organization at different levels for illustrative purposes. We refer to a firm's environmentally ethical best practices wherever possible because of their moral and economic importance in today's world. For example, a growing number of researchers have asserted that the interconnectedness of a firm's business practices with the natural environment has profound philosophical implications (e.g. Epstein 2008). In addition, US companies are expected to spend about $60 billion on environmentally ethical practices by the year 2014 according to Verdantix, an independent analyst firm. Second, we discuss the conceptual underpinnings of our framework. Third, we develop the framework and outline some propositions. Finally, we discuss the paper's contributions and directions for future research.

Moral reasoning practices at different levels within an organization

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Moral reasoning practices at different levels within an organization
  4. Conceptual underpinnings
  5. Framework for the transfer of best practices in moral reasoning
  6. Discussion and conclusion
  7. References

Inherent in all ethical management practices is a moral issue, an ethical dilemma and a moral reasoning process that underscores the significance of norms, values and moral judgment (Treviño 1986). A moral issue is present when a person's actions have consequences (harmful or beneficial) to others and involves volition or choice on the part of the individual (Jones 1991). An ethical dilemma involves a value conflict. This may be a conflict of an individual's values with his or her own moral preferences or a conflict with those of the organization and society (Glover et al. 1997).

Moral reasoning is the cognitive process by which an individual reacts to an ethical dilemma (Treviño 1986). Moral reasoning is at the center of ethical decision making because the emphasis in the evaluation of an ethical dilemma is on the cognitive or reasoning aspects of the ethical management practices – that is the reasons an individual uses to justify a moral choice rather than the decision or the outcome itself. The moral reasoning process usually involves the identification of a moral issue, and confronting an ethical dilemma based on different moral frameworks, which leads to a moral judgment (Rest 1986). Once a moral judgment is established, this reasoning leads to the formulation of ethical behavioral intentions (Treviño 1986). In other words, moral reasoning serves as a guiding light for arriving at a solution to a moral dilemma in a firm's ethical practices. The importance of moral reasoning in a firm's ethical practices is underscored in numerous studies (e.g. Hosmer 2003, Treviño et al. 2006).

Ethical management practices are established at the organizational level that support or reinforce the aforementioned steps of several individuals' moral reasoning processes (Valentine & Bateman 2011). Even though much of the early research on moral reasoning focused on the individual level, a number of scholars have argued that moral reasoning also takes place at higher aggregate levels, such as the group and organizational levels (Treviño 1992). This is because complex decision making is often accomplished in collective settings in organizations. Organizations have institutionalized processes that help employees deal with an ethical dilemma and streamline the moral reasoning process. Such processes may involve several steps, such as recognizing and clarifying the dilemma, getting all the possible facts, listing the options, testing each option by asking if it is legal, beneficial and right, and making a decision (Sims 1992).

Furthermore, past research suggests that there are significant differences in moral reasoning at various aggregate levels, such as groups, departments, managerial levels and business units (Forte 2004). For example, Dukerich et al. (1990) outlined a consensus-oriented group discussion of ethical dilemmas in organizations. Further, the authors discovered that the collective process generally had a positive impact on moral reasoning.

Some researchers found significant differences in the ethical orientations among various functional managers (Higgins & Kelleher 2005, Wasieleski & Weber 2009). Their findings suggest that human resource managers are generally more disapproving of unethical conduct than marketing managers. Human resource managers usually view themselves as responsible for imparting ethical conduct in organizations. Their primary activities (e.g. training, compensating and staffing) can significantly benefit or harm people. Marketing managers, on the other hand, are particularly vulnerable to unethical practices surrounding revenue maximization, advertising and competition.

Just as each organizational department has different functional tasks, each business unit in an organization has distinct responsibilities for initiatives and achievements. Different experiences in executing these responsibilities and confronting the underlying ethical dilemmas give rise to different moral reasoning outlooks (Collier & Estaban 1999). Ongoing daily work transactions and positive performance feedback further reinforce the moral reasoning differences across different business units. Differences in the business unit norms and reward systems encourage or impede the moral reasoning process by which business unit managers confront an ethical dilemma (Treviño 1992). Coupled with differences in the unit structure, size and access to information, the moral reasoning processes vary significantly across the business units of an organization (Baucus & Beck-Dudley 2005).

As another example, consider two companies – AES Corporation, a large private electric utility, and Semco S/A, a Brazilian multinational firm – that have institutionalized uniform ethical practices across different units (Baucus & Beck-Dudley 2005). AES executives realized that the structural differences among the business units could seriously hamper ethical decision making and conversations among the employees regarding company values. Therefore, the company introduced a ‘honeycomb’ design, consisting of ‘small families of 10–15 employees’ each that allowed the employees to assume moral responsibilities more effectively. Similarly, Semco's ethical practices across its business units revolve around a ‘circular structure’ that consists of three levels and it is consistent with the company values of ‘wholeness, integrity and fair treatment for the stakeholders’.

The differences in value systems and moral reasoning can also manifest themselves at the subsidiary level. For instance, consider Shell's attempt to dispose of Brent Spar, an obsolete oil storage platform in the North Sea in 1995. While the UK office of Shell approved the disposal plan on economic grounds, it sparked off a staunch opposition from the German unit because of its potential environmental impact (Fisher & Bonn 2007). This incident points out the importance of the value systems at the subsidiary level, and the surrounding moral reasoning processes.

Moral reasoning is also evident in environmentally ethical best practices in a firm, such as total quality environment management (Shrivastava 1995), environmental management systems (e.g. the chemical industry's Responsible Care Program) and ISO 14000. Inherent in all environmental management practices is a moral reasoning process that underscores the significance of norms, values and moral judgment (Seligman et al. 1994). For instance, a study of wine manufacturing operations found that managerial norms regarding environmental stewardship significantly influenced the adoption of environmental management systems in firms (Cordano et al. 2010). In another study of metal finishing industry, Flannery & May (2000: 644) found that the treatment of hazardous wastewater contained an ethical dimension because, ‘if not treated adequately prior to release, the hazardous wastewater … can jeopardize the health and welfare of living species, and damage their habitats’. They also found that managers' ethical intentions were dictated by their attitudes, subjective norms and behavioral control factors. Such ethical practices involve a moral issue and reasoning where a person's actions, when performed out of his or her own choice, may harm or benefit others (Treviño 1986, Jones 1991).

Interestingly enough, the degree of environmental sensitivity often varies across a firm's business units. For instance, a study of a Swiss pigment manufacturer found that not all business units were equally ‘green’, as measured by the amount of pollution added per kilogram of pigment (Ilinitch & Schaltegger 1995). The pollution units were calculated at the business unit level by multiplying the discharges of toxic substances to the air, land and water by a pollutant-specific weighting factor derived from environmental regulation standards. Using this methodology and the Boston Consulting Group's approach to corporate planning, the business units were categorized as ‘dirty cash cows’, ‘green stars’, ‘green question marks’, ‘dirty dogs’, etc. The study recommended that firms should increase their environmental sensitivity throughout the organization and not merely in some of the business units. The issue revolves not only around the use of appropriate technology but why such technology should be adopted in the first place, and the attendant norms and values. Given the heterogeneity in ‘greenness’ within a firm, the main challenge is to transfer the norms and values from one part of the organization to another.

Similarly, another study of five industries found that some of a firm's business units were more environmentally proactive than others, based upon an ‘environmental proactiveness index’ (Mitra et al. 2008). The authors developed an environmental proactiveness index that reflected whether the unit had an environmental policy, active environmental department, procedures for regulatory compliance, environmental management systems certification, environmental audit and cost management practices. The results of the study indicate the need for a uniform commitment on the part of a firm across its business units to environmental norms and values.

In general, there are several elements of moral reasoning practices that could be transferred within a firm. Some of these elements may include ethics needs assessments, formal statements of prioritized values and written codes of conduct, ethics policies and procedure manuals/handbooks, ethically oriented human resource systems, formal and informal communication processes, ethics training and education programs, ethics audit and evaluation systems, ethics reporting and conflict resolution processes, and ethics officers, committees and task forces, among others (Petrick & Quinn 2000).

Furthermore, the moral reasoning process may be consciously or subconsciously embedded in the ethical management practices. In other words, individuals (or business units) that make a moral decision when facing an ethical dilemma are considered a moral agent even though they may or may not recognize that moral issues are at stake (Jones 1991). However, the initial decision to transfer the best practices in moral reasoning is largely a conscious one because of the explicit ethical considerations underlining the issues involved.

Conceptual underpinnings

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Moral reasoning practices at different levels within an organization
  4. Conceptual underpinnings
  5. Framework for the transfer of best practices in moral reasoning
  6. Discussion and conclusion
  7. References

The conceptual underpinnings for our paper may be found in the well-known ‘model of intraorganizational knowledge transfer’ in the strategic management literature (Szulanski 1996, Van Wijk et al. 2008). Furthermore, we adapt this model to the transfer of best practices in moral reasoning by drawing on the literature on moral reasoning and epistemology in philosophy and business ethics (e.g. Kohlberg 1969, Treviño & Weaver 2003, Zimmerman 2010), and the LMX theory (Dansereau et al. 1975, Dulebohn et al. 2012).

According to the model of intraorganizational transfer of knowledge, the knowledge transfer process is influenced by the characteristics of the knowledge, source (firm), target (business unit) and the internal environment (Van Wijk et al. 2008). For example, one of the important characteristics of knowledge is causal ambiguity. Causal ambiguity refers to not knowing what the knowledge components are, and how they interact. Causal ambiguity has a negative effect on the ease of knowledge transfer because it is difficult to understand and explain the specifics of knowledge. In addition, the motivation and trustworthiness of the source is considered to influence the knowledge transfer favorably. Absorptive capacity of the target can also facilitate knowledge transfer positively. Absorptive capacity is the ability to recognize, assimilate and apply new external knowledge (Cohen & Levinthal 1990). Finally, the arduousness of internal environment can impede the knowledge transfer. Arduousness refers to the difficulty of communication and the lack of intimacy between the source and the target (Szulanski 1996).

We believe that the model of knowledge transfer in the strategic management literature has great potential for adaptation in business ethics. Because of our focus on the ethical aspects of best practices transfer, we are primarily interested in ‘moral knowledge’ underlying such practices. Therefore, we invoke the literature on moral reasoning and epistemology in the philosophy and business ethics tradition (e.g. Fallon & Butterfield 2005, Zimmerman 2010). Our framework, although adapted from the strategic management model, is conceptually distinct because of at least two aspects. Although we will discuss these aspects later in detail, the upshot of our arguments is as follows.

First, moral knowledge is philosophically very different from the technical knowledge that is usually the focus of strategic management. Given the epistemological challenges that accompany the notion of ‘moral knowledge’ (Sinnott-Armstrong 2006), we have focused on the moral reasoning processes or practices in a firm rather than abstract moral knowledge itself. It is not our intention to resolve the debate between what is right or wrong – an issue that is at the core of ‘moral knowledge’ – but rather focus on the process of raising and attempting to address moral questions. Second, the characteristics of knowledge, source, target and the internal environment assume a different meaning in the moral context as opposed to the technical context. This is because the origins and consequences of the aforementioned characteristics in a moral context are significantly different from those underlying a technical context. In this paper, the characteristics of knowledge in the moral context refer to the ‘nature of moral knowledge’, ‘tacitness of moral reasoning processes’, and the ‘causal ambiguity’ in these processes. The target characteristics refer to the absorptive capacity of the target as far as ethical decision making, also called ‘integrity capacity’ (Petrick & Quinn 2000). The characteristics of the organizational environment refer to the arduousness of the ‘ethical climate’ (Victor & Cullen 1988). Furthermore, we included the ‘stage of moral development’ as a pertinent characteristic of the source and target in the transfer of moral reasoning processes because of its importance in the moral reasoning literature (e.g. Kohlberg 1969).

Finally, we believe that the literature on LMX relationship can provide additional insights into how a leader (source) and a member (target) may engage in high quality transfer of moral reasoning practices. Therefore, our framework integrates the research on LMX relationships (e.g. Dulebohn et al. 2012), and the moral development of leaders and members in the transfer of best practices in moral reasoning.

Figure 1 shows our framework which outlines the antecedents of the transfer of ethical best practices in a firm. The boxes in the figure also show the primary intellectual heritage underlying the constructs.


Figure 1. Transfer of best practices in moral reasoning in a firm

Note: The superscripts in the boxes show the primary intellectual heritage underlying the constructs.

aLiterature on internal knowledge transfer in the strategic management tradition (e.g. Szulanski 1996, Van Wijk et al. 2008).

bLiterature on moral reasoning and epistemology in philosophy and business ethics (e.g. Kohlberg 1969, Treviño & Weaver 2003, Zimmerman 2010).

cLiterature on leader–member exchange theory (e.g. Dansereau et al. 1975, Dulebohn et al. 2012).

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Framework for the transfer of best practices in moral reasoning

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Moral reasoning practices at different levels within an organization
  4. Conceptual underpinnings
  5. Framework for the transfer of best practices in moral reasoning
  6. Discussion and conclusion
  7. References

We now describe each part of the framework for the transfer of best practices in moral reasoning.

Characteristics of moral reasoning

Nature of ‘moral knowledge’

The term ‘practice’ connotes an organization's routine use of knowledge. According to the philosophy literature, there are usually two types of knowledge in an organization: technical and moral (Romar 2004). The domain of technical knowledge may often be defined by the Aristotelian term ‘techne’. Traditionally, techne is often interpreted as art or craft-like activities, as well as scientific and engineering activities, although some scholars have argued that the scope of techne may be somewhat more inclusive, so as to include a deliberate application of human intelligence to some part of the world (Nussbaum 1986: 94–121). As an example of technical knowledge, consider Rothenberg's (2003) study of the environmental practices at the New United Motor Manufacturing automobile plant. Rothenberg (2003) found that employee knowledge of production processes (e.g. understanding the mechanical and chemical properties of the processes), intraorganizational (e.g. plant logistics, scheduling and technical interactions) and external factors (e.g. knowledge of supplier's or competitor's new technology) was critically important for environmental improvements.

Moral knowledge is the knowledge of propositions that concern moral truths (Pritchard 2010: 112). Moral truths are also termed ‘moral principles’. The notion of moral knowledge has been scrutinized by numerous scholars. According to the ‘moral skeptics’, moral propositions may not be factual but rather linguistic in character (Ayer 1936). Therefore, the moral skeptics have questioned the very existence of ‘moral facts’ and ‘moral knowledge’ (Sinnott-Armstrong 2006).

One of the objections to the existence of moral knowledge is the nature of moral epistemology that raises the question of whether moral beliefs are justified. This argument refers to the relative lack of objectivity underlying moral principles. For example, in the case of technical knowledge, chlorofluorocarbons are empirically known to pollute the environment. However, the moral principles as to why it is ethically wrong to pollute the environment may not be verified independently. Therefore, the critics argue that the moral principles are more ‘moral judgments’ than ‘moral facts’ that contribute to moral knowledge.

In addition, sometimes different approaches to morality have very different views of moral knowledge, that is what is moral. For instance, Snell (2000) contrasts the Aristotelian and genealogical perspectives. The Artistotelian perspective on morality defies precise description and measurement, and it is relative to the way of life of a particular individual. However, for a genealogist, there is no truth as such about the world.

In view of the foregoing discussion of the nature of technical and moral knowledge, let us now consider the transferability issues. A key requirement for the knowledge transfer process is the ease with which knowledge can be codified and communicated (Grant 1996). Given the difficulties in identifying independently identifiable moral facts, codifying and communicating moral knowledge may involve significant challenges.

One of the crucial features of technical knowledge is the amount of control in the application and transfer of knowledge, and the anticipation of contingencies. For example, Nussbaum (1986: 89) states that techne is an element of human existence that humans can control to a large degree. On the other hand, moral knowledge often involves judgments or perceptions that may not afford the same degree of control. In view of the relative lack of control in the transfer of moral knowledge, coupled with the epistemological challenges, we propose the following:

  • Proposition 1:Technical knowledge is easier to transfer within an organization, compared with moral knowledge.

Organizations often work as epistemic communities that have established processes for arriving at knowledge (Cohendet & Llerena 2003). Several scholars have championed different types of moral epistemology in view of the objections raised by the moral skeptics (Pritchard 2010). For instance, consider two types of moral epistemology: classical foundationalism and coherentism. According to classical foundationalism, moral knowledge is founded on universal moral truths or principles. For example, that one should respect all living and nonliving things in the environment may be regarded as a moral truth. Another type of moral epistemology is coherentism. This view holds that the starting point for moral knowledge may be one's judgments about a range of cases that a particular action is morally right or wrong. One then formulates a general moral principle that captures the commonalities among the moral judgments.

The above two types of moral epistemology are particularly relevant to our paper for three reasons. First, classical foundationalism has been the historically preeminent approach to moral epistemology for several millennia. Therefore, it is often considered a traditional benchmark for comparing other epistemological approaches. Second, coherentism has been considered a widely held epistemological approach in organizations (Miller & Lin 2010). Furthermore, this approach emphasizes the moral reasoning process – a focus of our study – more than the moral outcome. Third, the notion that ‘individuals adopt beliefs and practices because they appear to fit with one another over time’ is central to both coherentism and the transfer of best practices. Indeed, even though it is not the focus of our paper, models of the transfer of best practices have primarily been preoccupied with the historical persistence of such practices.

One of the advantages of coherentist epistemology over classical foundationalism is that no particular moral belief plays a pivotal role in it. It does not claim to represent reality. The beliefs merely need to be internally consistent. Therefore, coherentism relaxes the stringent condition of falsifiability that universal truths have to meet. Another advantage of coherentism is that it is particularly suitable when moral epistemology is pursued using the ‘method of levels’ (Zimmerman 2010: 23). For example, zero level inquiry consists of a description of our moral beliefs. First level inquiry involves a description of the differing epistemological evaluations of our moral beliefs. Second level inquiry consists of an assessment of the epistemic evaluation uncovered at the first level. Coherence is a particularly useful tool to deal with second-level epistemology because it involves discovering the consistencies among various beliefs and practices.

Let us consider Monsanto's marketing of genetically modified Roundup Ready rapeseed GT73 in Europe in 1998 (Forsberg 2007). A coherentist view of the underlying morality would involve evaluating the consistency among certain principles, such as consumer choice, consumer health and environmental impact, among others. As discussed earlier, a search for consistency among existing beliefs may be relatively easier than the foundationalist search of absolute truths in, say, marketing of genetically modified products.

  • Proposition 2:Moral knowledge is easier to transfer within a firm that is dominated by coherentist epistemology, compared with classical foundationalist epistemology.
Tacitness of moral reasoning

Although some moral epistemologies may be somewhat more defensible than others, the nature of ‘moral knowledge’ is generally far too complex to resolve (Spender 1996). Therefore, we focus on the ‘moral reasoning processes or practices’ within a firm rather than ‘moral knowledge’. Adapting Spender's (1996) arguments, we state that moral reasoning reflects an individual's or a group's ability to cognize about the experience of leveraging resources, particularly where moral issues are involved.

In addition, the focus on moral reasoning practices is desirable because the fundamental thrust in the corporate world is practice or the process. For example, consider environmentally ethical management. Here, we echo Gladwin et al.'s (1995) assertion that the primary epistemological concern in environmental management in the corporate world is not finding the absolute truths. This is because the arguments about truthfulness and rightness in promoting a sustainable environment are only recently starting to develop, especially in contrast with the technology-based views of environmental protection that have had a long opportunity to become established in our collective psyches. Therefore, it is desirable to have a focus on moral reasoning practices that continually evaluate the practical assumptions that are most likely to yield sustainable development, when put into practice. Stated differently, such practices evaluate the assumptions that are most consistent with our prescriptions of inclusiveness, connectivity, equity, prudence and security in connection with a sustainable environment. It follows, therefore, that moral reasoning practices – as evident in the case of environmental management – underscore the importance of ‘knowing how’ – how to act, react and feel appropriately, rather than ‘knowing that’ – that injustice is wrong, courage is valuable and care is due (Sayre-McCord 1996). Therefore, any epistemological attempts to emphasize the ‘knowing about’ aspects of knowledge undermine the intimate connection between morality and action.

The distinction between ‘knowing how’ and ‘knowing about’ is famously captured by the notion of ‘tacitness’ and ‘explicitness’ (Polanyi 1962), where tacitness refers to the know-how, and explicitness refers to knowing about. The difference between tacit and explicit activities is of particular importance to the transferability of moral reasoning practices within organizations (Grant 1996). Knowing about refers to the generally explicit facts, theories and instructions that comprise a set of knowledge. Explicit knowledge can often be transferred to organizational members through communication. On the other hand, knowing how refers to the skills that are expressed in their performance. Such skills are generally tacit in nature in that they involve individuals learning by doing the tasks over time. Such skills cannot be codified easily. Polanyi (1962) also stated that explicitness and tacitness of a process may be more a matter of degree on a continuum, as opposed to a distinct experience.

For instance, the environmentally ethical practices in a firm may involve numerous tacit components. As an example, total quality environmental management (TQEM) involves ecological performance optimization of the entire corporate system, just as total quality management involves improvement in each step of the design and production process (Shrivastava 1995). The fundamental aspect of TQEM is the understanding of the linkages between an organization and its natural environment. It identifies and deals with ecological impact of inputs, throughputs and outputs. The input management involves using renewable materials, energy reduction, and developing ecologically sensitive inventory management systems. The throughput stage involves improving efficiency, eliminating emissions, effluents and accidents. Outputs include both products and wastes.

In every stage, individuals need to continually learn not only the production and technological features but also the moral aspects of a firm's processes that influence the natural environment by actively engaging in the processes. Furthermore, the idiosyncrasies of the moral reasoning practices may only be revealed to individuals over a period of time.

  • Proposition 3:Best practices in moral reasoning with a higher level of tacitness are more difficult to transfer than those with a higher level of explicitness.
Causal ambiguity

A firm may be driven by either normative or instrumental business philosophy. For example, the normative emphasis reflects the need for a firm to adopt an environmental management practice because it is morally the right thing to do (Donaldson & Preston 1995). The instrumental focus, on the other hand, connotes that the firm needs to pursue an action because it serves another purpose, such as higher corporate performance or better corporate image. For example, a study of British and Japanese companies found that companies often decide to go green because of instrumental considerations, such as competitiveness and industry legitimacy or normative reasons, such as ecological responsibility (Bansal & Roth 2000). There are several sources of ambiguity regarding the connection between the cause and effect in firms motivated by either normative or instrumental reasons.

For instance, consider an environmentally ethical firm that is primarily driven by the normative philosophy. The ever changing normative landscape in environmental management has a bewildering variety of paradigms (Gladwin et al. 1995). Some of these include animal rights activism, spiritual ecofeminism restoration ecology, organic farming, bioregionalism, steady state economics, Gaia hypothesis, Aldo Leopold's ‘land ethic’, deep ecology and sustainable development, to name a few. These paradigms differ in terms of inclusiveness, connectivity, equity, prudence and security (Gladwin et al. 1995). Inclusiveness refers to the unity of environmental and human systems. Connectivity denotes interconnectedness of the world's environmental problems. Equity deals with fair distribution of resources. Prudence calls for keeping the environmental life-supporting systems resilient and preventing them from becoming irreversible. Security considerations may dictate providing a safe, healthy and a high quality of life for present and future generations. For a manager, the interconnections among these elements of various environmental paradigms may not sometimes be readily apparent. Further, their importance may change from time to time. In other words, the complexity of paradigms and their interconnectedness may be a source of high ambiguity in the moral reasoning practices, making the transferability of such practices difficult.

Now, consider an instrumentally motivated environmentally ethical firm. Here, the managers may seek to understand the relationship between ethical environmental management practices and corporate performance. However, the research in this area has been somewhat inconclusive. Some studies show a positive relationship between environmentally ethical management and financial performance, whereas some studies show no relationship, and some other studies show a U-shaped relationship, in which the middle polluters outperform firms that pollute the most and least (Christmann 2000). One meta-analytical study showed a positive relationship between environmental management and firm performance (Orlitzky et al. 2003). However, the study acknowledges the inconclusive findings by some previous researchers regarding the relationship between environmental management and firm performance. In view of such mixed evidence and ambiguity, the managers of a firm may sometimes be perplexed about whether the environmental practices will actually enhance the firm performance or prove to be a financial burden. Therefore, the transfer of moral reasoning practices may be fraught with difficulties in view of causal ambiguity.

  • Proposition 4:Best practices in moral reasoning are more difficult to transfer at higher levels of causal ambiguity than at lower levels.

Characteristics of the source (leader)

There is a growing body of literature that addresses the ethical dimension of leadership, and how it influences a variety of organizational outcomes, such as decision making, pro-social behaviors and work attitude (Brown & Treviño 2006). Ethical leadership is defined as the ‘demonstration of normatively appropriate conduct through personal actions and interpersonal relationships, and the promotion of such conduct to followers through two-way communication, and reinforcement and decision making’ (Brown & Treviño 2006: 595).

Ethical leaders make proactive efforts to influence the followers' ethical behavior. Therefore, it is conceivable that leaders would play a significant role in transferring the moral reasoning practices to the followers. To examine this issue, we rely on Kohlberg's (1969) well-known model of cognitive moral development. In addition, we are interested not only in the moral development of leaders but also the followers, as transferability may be affected by both the leader's and subordinate's stage of moral development.

Building on Piaget's (1965) work, Kohlberg (1969) outlined six stages of moral development of an individual that correspond to three levels. It highlights the reasons that underlie an individual's moral choice and hence, it is a model of moral reasoning and judgment (Treviño 1992). Although moral judgments are prescriptions of what is right and wrong, it is the underlying reasoning that is important. Indeed, the most distinguishing characteristic of morality is the human capacity to reason, according to Kohlberg (Arnold 2000).

Kohlberg's stages of moral development are as follows. Level 1 is the pre-conventional level, and it includes two stages: obedience and punishment, and instrumental orientation. The focus at the obedience and punishment stage is to minimize personal losses, and avoid punishment. The focus at the instrumental stage is maximization of rewards. Level 2 is the conventional level that includes stage 3 (interpersonal accord, conformity and mutual expectations) and stage 4 (social accord and system maintenance). At this level, the right choices refer to what is considered acceptable to the society or some peer group of the individual. Level 3 is the principled level. This level includes stage 5 (social contract and individual rights), and stage 6 (universal ethical principles). This level goes beyond the existing laws and societal norms. Kohlberg's model has been extensively studied and validated (Treviño 1992).

Although Kohlberg originally developed his model to study the moral development of individuals, some scholars have extended his model to higher organizational levels, such as the group (Nichols & Day 1982) and the firm (Sridhar & Camburn 1993). There is some merit in studying moral development at higher levels for several reasons. One of the reasons is that one would often expect to see a group or a business unit collectively deal with moral issues because of their complexity (Nichols & Day 1982). Another reason for studying moral development at a higher level of analysis is that organizations, like individuals, develop into collectives of shared cognitions and rationale over a period of time (Sridhar & Camburn 1993). Recently, Miller & Lin (2010) explored the philosophy of an organization. According to them, an organization's philosophy is the philosophy of the dominant coalition of individuals (or leaders) that can promulgate its beliefs throughout an organization.

Logsdon & Yuthas (1997) suggested that an organization's moral development may parallel an individual's. Adapting their suggestion, we propose that there may be a correlation between the stage of organizational (leaders') moral development and environmentally ethical practices. For example, environmental leadership, a type of ethical leadership, has been defined as ‘the ability of an individual or group to guide positive change toward a vision of an environmentally better future’ (Berry & Gordon 1993: 3). However, leaders at different levels of moral development may exhibit different views of environmental leadership.

For instance, leaders in stage 1 may engage in environmental management, so as to avoid painful consequences primarily to themselves. Perhaps they may act out of fear for losing their job if they do not comply with the stipulated policies. Leaders in stage 2 may follow environmental practices, so that they can further their own interests, perhaps out of a desire to gain some rewards. Stage 3 managers may be driven by a motivation to gain a competitive advantage, meet peer pressures or meet some industry or local community norms. Stage 4 leaders may be motivated by government regulations. Because government regulations themselves are a reflection of the societal expectations, the managers are really complying with the societal demands. For example, the United Nations 1962 Declaration of the universal norm of National Permanent Sovereignty over Natural Resources asks for a fourth stage moral behavior from multinational company executives (Guerette 1986). In stage 5, the leaders may act to achieve social consensus on issues not fully addressed by legal standards. Finally, stage 6 leaders truly seek to identify, communicate and apply moral principles in decision making. Here, the leaders may be engaged in understanding the epistemological connotations of a sustainable environment. Regardless of the organizational or government policies, they may be engaged in reexamining old paradigms and discovering new truths about a sustainable environment.

As discussed above, leaders in advanced stages of moral development are more likely to engage in moral reasoning practices that are focused on others and finding the truth. Furthermore, leaders in higher stages of moral development are also likely to communicate the truth to others in the organization, and influence them. Interestingly enough, it was found that groups often reason at a significantly higher moral stage than the average of the individual group members (Nichols & Day 1982). This is because leaders that function at higher stages of moral reasoning influence the group more than persons functioning at lower stages. In other words, group members recognize higher stage reasoning and adopt it.

Furthermore, leaders that are more advanced ethical reasoners are likely to stand out as salient ethical leaders whose ethics-related communication and behavior is noticed by followers (Jordan et al. 2013). Such leaders are also likely to become role models. Therefore, leaders in higher stages of moral development are more likely to transfer their reasoning processes to other parts of an organization.

  • Proposition 5:Leaders in higher stages of moral development are more likely to transfer best practices in moral reasoning than those in lower stages.

Leader–member exchange

We draw upon the LMX theory (Dansereau et al. 1975; see Dulebohn et al. 2012, Henderson et al. 2009 for a review) to examine the influence of leader (source)–member (target) relationships on the transfer of moral reasoning practices in an organization. Leader–member exchange refers to how leaders maintain their position through a series of interactions with the members in an organizational hierarchy (Ilies et al. 2007). Although LMX theory was originally developed at the individual level, some researchers have proposed that the traditional dyadic focus of LMX can be expanded to different organizational levels (Cogliser & Schriesheim 2000). This is because the adoption of a multilevel synthesis can potentially offer a richer and deeper picture, especially by highlighting the importance of ‘internal context’ in a variety of organizational decision-making processes at different levels. Therefore, the term ‘leader’ may also refer to the ‘organization’ (source) and the term ‘member’ (target) may refer to a ‘business unit’.

The central thesis of the LMX theory is that organizational members accomplish their work through ‘roles’ (Graen 1976). According to LMX theory, the members' roles are assumed to be only incompletely specified by the organization and that the immediate supervisor of an employee has considerable influence in defining and clarifying subordinates' roles. This theory assumes that a leader's vested interest in the performance of the subordinates will exert pressure in the form of role expectations. The interpersonal exchange between the leader and the subordinate (e.g. the degree of emotional support and exchange of valued resources) largely determines the type of role the subordinate will play (Sparrowe & Liden 1997). ‘High quality exchanges’ are characterized by high levels of support, interaction, formal and informal rewards, as opposed to ‘low quality exchange’ relationships. Hence, the role of a leader is to provide support to the subordinates, so as to encourage stewardship behaviors.

There is some evidence that supervisory support can be crucial in positively influencing employee eco-initiatives. For instance, a survey of employees in six companies revealed that supervisory support positively influenced eco-initiatives or proactive employee actions that would reduce the environmental impact of the firm through recycling, pollution prevention, reducing the need for hazardous waste disposal, eliminating chemicals harmful to the environment, and by improving energy efficiency (Ramus & Steger 2000).

Furthermore, the reciprocal exchange between leaders and subordinates may be characterized by certain assumptions about human nature and individual values. Several studies have examined the relationship between the leader–member value closeness and the quality of LMX relationship. For example, Deluga (1998) found that similarity of conscientiousness influences the LMX process. Leaders and members at closely related moral development stages are likely to have similar values and cognitive moral reasoning processes. They are likely to work toward similar goals. Furthermore, it reduces role uncertainty for the members in that the members have precise anticipation of the leaders' expectations about what is important (Deluga 1998). Based upon this research, we would expect that the moral reasoning processes would be easier to transfer when the leaders and members are at similar (i.e. ‘high/high’ or ‘low/low’) stages of moral development.

However, we would also argue that the LMX quality is not only dependent on the similarity of moral development stages and the attendant ease of transfer but also on the levels of moral development of the leaders and members. The concept of LMX quality is much more than a simple agreement, and it involves shared agreement of deeper beliefs and values, both, at the dyadic and organizational levels (Markham et al. 2010). Values reflect important cultural norms under which the leader–member relationship develops, and they can serve as important boundary conditions for the LMX process and the quality. The LMX quality is known to be associated with norm exchange (Uhl-Bien & Maslyn 2003). When there is closeness of leader–member norms, coupled with high levels of moral development, the leaders and members may be more open to help out others (Egri & Herman 2000), facilitating high quality LMX and the transfer of moral reasoning practices.

  • Proposition 6:Closeness in the moral development stages of the leaders and members, coupled with high levels of moral reasoning will be associated with high quality LMX.

Characteristics of the target

The absorptive capacity of a target is an important influence on the transfer of best practices in an organization (Szulanski 1996). Traditionally, absorptive capacity has been defined as ‘the ability to recognize the value of new external knowledge, assimilate it, and apply it to commercial ends’ (Cohen & Levinthal 1990: 128). The absorptive capacity may have an influence on a firm's environmentally ethical practices. For example, a study showed that firms can significantly increase their chances of improving their environmental practices by focusing on three parameters of absorptive capacity for ‘green’ innovations: acquisition, assimilation and transformation (Gluch et al. 2009).

Much of the literature on absorptive capacity has largely focused on the transfer of technical knowledge. Relatively few studies have explored the notion of absorptive capacity in the context of business ethics. Of particular relevance here is the concept of ‘integrity capacity’, a notion that is closely related to absorptive capacity (Petrick & Quinn 2000, Kulik 2005). Integrity capacity is ‘the individual or collective capability for repeated process alignment of moral awareness, character and conduct that demonstrates balanced judgment, enhanced sustained moral development, and promotes supportive systems for moral decision making’ (Petrick & Quinn 2000: 4). In general, it can be conceptualized as a difference between latent (or unrealized) and realized capacity, with a greater emphasis on the latter (McAlister 2004, Zahra & George 2002). Whereas the latent capacity reflects the level of managerial knowledge, the realized capacity reflects the amount of energy expended by organizational members to solve the ethical problems, given prior managerial knowledge levels.

Petrick & Quinn (2000) describe several aspects of integrity capacity. For instance, the first aspect refers to the process of aligning moral awareness, character, deliberation and conduct. The second aspect deals with being able to exercise moral judgment. That is, the individuals need to be able to make a balanced use of ethics theories in decision making. The third aspect refers to being able to progress along the moral development stages that we discussed earlier.

Adapting the arguments from the absorptive capacity literature (Zahra & George 2002), we argue that being able to realize the integrity capacity may be more important than merely possessing it. In this regard, a normatively driven target (business unit) needs to strengthen the link between its integrity capacity and corporate social responsibility (Robin & Reidenbach 1987). On the other hand, an instrumentally motivated target needs to foster the connection between integrity capacity and financial performance, so as to realize the desirable ends.

  • Proposition 7:Best practices in moral reasoning are easier to transfer to targets with high levels of integrity capacity realization than targets with low levels of integrity capacity realization.

Arduousness of internal ethical climate

Kohlberg (1984) stated that the socio-moral atmosphere of an organization had a significant impact on the moral decision making of individuals. On a related note, Victor & Cullen (1988) defined the ethical climate of an organization as an organization's shared perceptions of what constitutes ethically correct behavior and how ethical issues should be handled.

The notion of arduousness is closely associated with the degree of communication and collaboration or intimacy between the source and target (Szulanski 1996). One of the reasons for the arduousness of ethical climate of an organization is the differences in the belief systems of different individuals or groups or business units. For instance, there are usually three types of moral belief systems: egoism, benevolence and principle-based. Whereas egoism focuses on the maximization of self-interest, and benevolence on the maximization of joint-interest, the principle-based belief systems (e.g. deontological) emphasize moral principles. Coupled with the belief systems are different ‘loci of analysis’, such as individual, local and cosmopolitan. The individual locus focuses on an individual as a referent. The local locus emphasizes the organization, whereas the cosmopolitan locus highlights the community or society at large. A combination of the belief systems and the loci of analysis give rise to different distinct dimensions of ethical climate (Victor & Cullen 1988).

An organization often has multiple ethical climate dimensions because of the diversity of individual belief systems and the loci of analysis. Although there may be some overlap among these dimensions, they are nevertheless conceptually very distinct at the core, and they have also been found to be empirically distinct (Martin & Cullen 2006). For instance, a climate that is characterized by egoism as a moral belief system and an individual locus of analysis may encourage self-interest-seeking behavior. On the other hand, a climate with principle-based moral belief systems and a cosmopolitan locus of control can promote adherence to laws and professional codes. Such divergence in the ethical climate dimensions can contribute to arduousness by hampering the communication and collaboration between the source and the target, and it can substantially impede the transfer of best moral reasoning practices in an organization.

Arduousness of ethical climate can also be characterized by the laborious and distant nature of relationships (e.g. Szulanski 1996). In other words, there may not be much reciprocity of norms (Gouldner 1960) across the groups or units having different ethical climate dimensions. Reciprocity denotes the pattern of exchange through which the mutual dependence of people, brought about by the division of labor, is realized (Gouldner 1960: 169–170).

Organizations often establish certain processes for making the ethical climate more conducive to the exchange of norms. These processes often include communication and empowerment (Parboteeah et al. 2010). The communication may consist of meetings, intranet or other internal information sharing media, as well as informal communication channels. Empowerment may consist of soliciting employee feedback regarding important matters, as well as having the employees involved in critical decisions. However, significant differences in the ethical climate may affect the extent to which the norms may be received, and the time period that it takes for the exchange of norms. The underlying arduousness can significantly influence the transfer of moral reasoning practices within an organization.

Sometimes, organizational group boundaries may create actual as well as perceptual sharing and variation in ethical reasoning (Granitz & Ward 2001). Often, the group boundaries may be defined by functional departments that the individuals belong to. Cognitive sharing may be especially strong among departmental members because they may share common values, a common functional context and intergroup biases. Therefore, organizational group boundaries may also contribute to the arduousness of internal ethical climate and impede the transfer of moral reasoning processes. As an example, some firms, such as Shell, DuPont and Hewlett Packard have deeply engrained cultures that include environmental consciousness (Toffel 2004). Furthermore, such cultures pervade the entire organization, so that norm-sharing and internal transfer of best practices become easy.

  • Proposition 8:Best practices in moral reasoning within a firm are easier to transfer at low levels of arduousness of internal ethical climate than at high levels.

Discussion and conclusion

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Moral reasoning practices at different levels within an organization
  4. Conceptual underpinnings
  5. Framework for the transfer of best practices in moral reasoning
  6. Discussion and conclusion
  7. References

Our paper develops a conceptual framework for the transfer of best practices in moral reasoning in a firm. It proposes that factors, such as moral reasoning characteristics, moral development of leaders (source) and members (target), LMX, integrity capacity of the target and the arduousness of internal ethical climate may be critical in facilitating the transfer of best practices in moral reasoning within a firm.

One of the contributions of our study is that it integrates such diverse streams of literature as knowledge transfer in the strategic management tradition, epistemology and moral reasoning in the philosophy and business ethics tradition, and LMX in the human resource management tradition. Such integration may be necessary for understanding the richness and complexity underlying the transfer of moral reasoning practices in a firm.

Another contribution of our study is to address different levels of analysis. For instance, much of LMX research has focused on dyadic relationships between supervisors and subordinates at the individual level. Similarly, a large body of research has addressed the moral development of individuals. However, our paper integrates the individual and organizational levels of analysis.

Our paper also suggests various avenues for future research. First, the transfer of best practices in moral reasoning within a firm may enable managers to better utilize the moral reasoning processes throughout the firm. This may result in synergy across different parts of a firm, which in turn, may have a significant impact on firm performance (Orlitzky et al. 2003).

Second, future researchers may explore the conditions for persistence of a firm's moral reasoning practices. Many scholars have acknowledged that a firm's practices often set historical paths (e.g. Arthur 1989, Sydow et al. 2009). The ensuing path dependencies over a period of time eventually result in the persistence of the practices. These considerations are especially important because a firm's superior or inferior moral reasoning transfer practices may get embedded in an organization over time. Future researchers may explore the possibility whether the persistence of moral reasoning practices has a significant impact on the sustainable competitive advantage for a firm (e.g. Sydow et al. 2009).

Third, it is worth investigating the retentive capacity (Szulanski 1996) of the target and how it influences the transfer of best moral reasoning practices in a firm. The retentive capacity may include not only the retention of technical knowledge over time but also the relative stability of the values and norms over time.

A fourth research possibility is to investigate the transfer of best ethical practices from the business unit to the parent. Although our paper primarily focuses on the transfer of best practices from the parent (source) to the business units (target), it is also conceivable that the business units may engage in a reverse exchange process. For example, divisional managers may champion environmental causes by actively scanning the environment, framing the issues suitably and promoting them to higher organization level managers (Andersson & Bateman 2000).

Fifth, future researchers may investigate the role of moral intensity in the transfer of ethical practices. Moral intensity has been defined as an issue-related moral imperative in a decision situation (Jones 1991). We have not included moral intensity as a variable in our framework for two reasons. First, we have assumed ceteris paribus conditions, as far as moral intensity of an issue because a detailed analysis of its influence is beyond the scope of this paper. Second, the moral reasoning practices of an organization can also enhance or diminish the moral intensity of an issue. For example, some researchers have argued that the standard accounting practice of treating labor as an ‘expense’ without looking at the human aspects is similar to the dehumanization through a process of categorization, reducing the moral intensity of the issue at hand (McPhail 2001: 288).

Our paper also has several implications for managers. An increasing number of companies have adopted a philosophy/ethics-based approach in various managerial functions (e.g. Miller & Lin 2010). For instance, John Allison, the ex-CEO of Branch Banking & Trust Corporation (BB&T) was often characterized as a ‘philosopher king’ in the way he harnessed philosophy, ethics and values in BB&T's operations (Parnell & Dent 2009). Managers in today's world face several complex dilemmas in ethical decision making. Such dilemmas need to be addressed through moral reasoning processes. Therefore, it is imperative for a firm to transfer the best practices in moral reasoning to business units for the sake of synergy and competitiveness. As such, managers need to be aware of the factors that may facilitate or impede the transfer of best practices in moral reasoning.

Our paper also highlights the role of ethical leadership, and how leaders can influence the transfer of best moral reasoning practices. It outlines the conditions that are conducive to a high quality exchange relationship between the leaders and subordinates.

This paper underscores the role of integrity capacity of a business unit. Although leaders play an important role in transferring the best practices in moral reasoning, they may not be entirely responsible in this matter. The variations in the integrity capacity of the business unit may also have an influential role. In addition, our paper points out the importance of having a supportive internal ethical climate in a firm. It is important for an organization to provide the necessary resources and the support for developing an ethical climate that is characterized by close relationships.

Some of our paper's limitations stem from its theoretical bases. For instance, Kohlberg's model of cognitive moral development has been criticized for its androcentric focus, cultural bias, and inadequate attention to emotion and intuition. However, Kohlberg et al. (1983) and subsequent researchers (e.g. Treviño 1992) have addressed some of these criticisms, and the model remains one of the highly tested and validated theories of moral reasoning. Some researchers have argued for a need to refine Kohlberg's model, and incorporate a more pragmatic approach for making everyday decisions (Krebs & Denton 2005). The use of such an extensive model is beyond the scope of our paper.

Another limitation of our paper is that it views internal transfer of practices as grounded in moral reasoning. Although this process-based view derives its strength from being practical, it is also subject to epistemological challenges – especially while defining the content of knowledge – for example ‘what is the right thing to do’. Our argument then is limited to one of coherent persuasiveness in the absence of truth, rightness or beauty (Gladwin et al. 1995).


  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Moral reasoning practices at different levels within an organization
  4. Conceptual underpinnings
  5. Framework for the transfer of best practices in moral reasoning
  6. Discussion and conclusion
  7. References
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