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Journal cover: Social Responsibility Journal

Social Responsibility Journal

ISSN: 1747-1117

Online from: 2005

Subject Area: Business Ethics and Law

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Developing effective ethics for effective behavior

Document Information:
Title:Developing effective ethics for effective behavior
Author(s):Steven E. Wallis, (Director of the Foundation for the Advancement of Social Theory and Fellow of the Institute for Social Innovation, Fielding Graduate University, Petaluma, California, USA)
Citation:Steven E. Wallis, (2010) "Developing effective ethics for effective behavior", Social Responsibility Journal, Vol. 6 Iss: 4, pp.536 - 550
Keywords:Corporate social responsibility, Ethics, Individual behaviour, Philosophy
Article type:Research paper
DOI:10.1108/17471111011083428 (Permanent URL)
Publisher:Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Acknowledgements:The author would like to thank Carl Slawski for his suggestions on earlier versions of this paper. He would also like to thank the anonymous reviewers whose suggestions led to greater clarity.

Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to investigate the internal structure of Gandhi's ethics as a way to determine opportunities for improving that system's ability to influence behavior. In this paper, the author aims to work under the idea that a system of ethics is a guide for social responsibility.

Design/methodology/approach – The data source is Gandhi's set of ethics as described by Naess. These simple (primarily quantitative) studies compare the concepts within the code of ethics, and their relationships to one another.

Findings – Gandhi's ethics are robust at the 0.25 level (the scale is zero to one – zero is lowest). This is consistent with theories of the social sciences (that do not work well in practice). Gandhi's success might be ascribed to his leadership ability.

Research limitations/implications – Some suggest this approach is reductionist because of its superficial similarity to approaches of physical science. The implications for research are profound. First, this approach provides an objective method for comparing (and so, advancing) systems of ethics. Second, this paper suggests the opportunity to compare the internal structure of ethics with “external” aspects – the implementation of ethical systems.

Practical implications – By itself, Gandhi's system of ethics cannot be reliably applied in practice - it cannot be expected to change behavior more than any other system of ethics. This raises concerns about other ethical codes as well. The practical implications of the form of analysis presented in this paper are immense because it provides a way for practitioners to objectively compare two codes of ethics and determine which one will be more effective.

Originality/value – The approach documented in the paper has never been applied to the field of ethics. It is unique in that it addresses the “internal” structure of a system of ethics (compared to the “external”, or application, of ethical systems).

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