Connections Between Ethics and Cultural Dimensions

  • Ruth Alas Estonian Business School
  • Junhong Gao Estonian Business School
  • Jorge Carneiro IAG Business School, Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro
Keywords: ethics, cultural practices, cultural values, Estonia, China, Brazil.


Ethical issues typically arise because of conflicts between individuals’ personal moral philosophies and values and the values and attitudes of the organizations in which they work and the society in which they live. The research question is: Are there connections between national culture and ethics? This paper adopts a deontological approach by testing the absoluteness of “right” and “wrong” and the importance of the No-harm Principle (cf. Pojman, 2002). Three countries were selected to conduct the investigation – Brazil, China, and Estonia. These three countries are from three different cultural clusters. A scale was developed to measure Ethical Relativism and No-harm Principle. The national cultural connection was stronger with Ethical Relativism, where six cultural practices and two cultural values seem to be related to how people think about what is right and wrong. Concerning the No-Harm Principle one should not psychologically or physically harm another person, nor perform an action which might threaten the dignity and welfare of another individual, only In-Group Collectivism as a value was (negatively) connected with the No-Harm Principle. As a managerial suggestion, organizations ought to pay attention to the following cultural dimensions when doing business in different cultures could be useful: In-Group Collectivism, Institutional Collectivism, Humane Orientation, Performance Orientation, Future Orientation and Gender Egalitarianism.