Ethics Concerns at 30-year High for Future Business Leaders



DETROIT — A new study to be published in the Journal of Business Ethics finds that ethical concerns among future business leaders are at a 30-year high, but that the nature of their concerns has shifted considerably.

A survey of more than 2,000 college students at 23 universities across the United States finds their top concern is how lower ethical standards may affect their personal finances, including savings and retirement funds. Other top student concerns are how ethics may impact the overall economy and that they may face increased pressure to participate in unethical business practices to succeed. New concerns raised in the study also include personal Internet privacy and the environmental impact of ethical decisions.

Students were also surveyed in 1984 and 1991. In the previous studies, also published in the Journal of Business Ethics, students were most concerned with the possibility of improving ethics in business and the general improvement or decline of business ethics in the future.

The new study’s authors attribute the shifting attitudes toward self-interest to a radically shifting business environment influenced by globalization, technological advancements and increased government regulation.

The study was conducted by researchers Will Drover and Jennifer Franczak of Southern Illinois University, and Richard Beltramini of Wayne State University, who is co-author of all three studies.

“This population accepts ethical challenges as part of the modern workplace,” said Beltramini, an advertising and marketing professor. “While some concerns of earlier decades have been replaced by newer issues, our future business leaders still worry that to succeed in fulfilling business profit objectives, they will have to participate in unethical behaviors.”

The authors say it’s important to understand ethical attitudes because they translate into the behaviors of the forthcoming generation of employees, entrepreneurs, executives and policymakers.