Cultural values and international differences in business ethics

Bert Scholtens*, Lammertjan Dam

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

202 Citations (Scopus)


We analyze ethical policies of firms in industrialized countries and try to find out whether culture is a factor that plays a significant role in explaining country differences. We look into the firm's human rights policy, its governance of bribery and corruption, and the comprehensiveness, implementation and communication of its codes of ethics. We use a dataset on ethical policies of almost 2,700 firms in 24 countries. We find that there are significant differences among ethical policies of firms headquartered in different countries. When we associate these ethical policies with Hofstede's cultural indicators, we find that individualism and uncertainty avoidance are positively associated with a firm's ethical policies, whereas masculinity and power distance are negatively related to these policies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)273-284
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Business Ethics
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2007


  • Business ethics
  • Codes of ethics
  • Cultural values


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