Reidenbach and Robin's Five Stages of Corporate Ethical Development

Creating a More Ethical Organization

hard hat and safety gloves

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A company should be able to uphold high ethical standards and still make a profit.

Sam's organization imports and markets fashion clothing, and he's just learned that an overseas supplier is employing school-age children in its factories.

When Sam raises the issue, his boss tells him not to worry about it. She says that the company is competing in a narrow-margin industry, and it needs to source its supplies cost effectively. Unless there's a problem, this should be seen as business as usual.

Plenty of organizations are like Sam's – they prioritize profits over people, and growth over ethics.

However, other companies recognize that they can make a healthy profit while also reflecting higher ethical values. These values can include responsibilities to the environment and to communities, as well as to employees.

Organizations can go through observable stages as they become more ethical. In this article, we'll outline what these stages are. We'll also explain how you can identify the stage your organization is currently at, and we'll look at what needs to happen within your organization for it to move to a higher level.

About the Model

R. Eric Reidenbach and Donald Robin developed a conceptual model of corporate moral development, and published it in the Journal of Business Ethics in 1991.

The model outlines five stages that organizations go through as they become more ethical:...

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