Cross-Cultural Validation of the Moral Spectrum of Corporate Sustainability from Perfect to Imperfect Duty: An Abstract
Grounded in corporate personhood recognized by US law (Dubbink 2014), a recent theory, the moral responsibility theory of corporate sustainability (MRCS), argues that a corporation has moral responsibilities toward the society and the environment, which can determine its commitment level toward meeting its sustainability goals. If a corporation regards sustainability as a perfect duty, its related activities would be strictly regulated and enforced under any circumstances. If it views sustainability as an imperfect duty, its activities may result in inconsistent sustainability outcomes.
To understand cross-cultural consumers’ perceptions toward corporate moral responsibility for sustainability from perfect duty to imperfect duty, we selected Norway, Canada, the USA, Hong Kong, and China which were in different tiers of the ranks in the “Country Sustainability Ranking (2016).” We posited that consumers in countries with a higher sustainability ranking may have higher moral standards than those at a lower rank, which in turn could influence inconsistent moral spectrum of corporate sustainability.
By online survey, we collected 1,508 usable responses (303 Norwegians, 299 Canadians, 302 Americans, 298 Hong Kong Chinese, and 206 Mainland Chinese). Due to nonequivalence between Hong Kong and China samples, they were not analyzed, and Norway, Canada, and USA responses were further tested.
The findings suggested that the moral spectrum from perfect to imperfect duty of corporate sustainability in consumers’ minds was consistent across three countries; working condition support is considered a universal duty of corporations to fulfill, while transparency support was considered relatively a meritorious duty. This proved the potential for the universal moral spectrum of corporate sustainability across countries. We also found that overall consumers’ expectations of MRCS were not influenced by country, but social norms, consumer knowledge, and consumer belief were related to different levels of expectations. Thus, it was concluded that consumers’ different levels of expectation of MRCS are led by individual factors, rather than country per se. With empirical support, this study can help corporations better set their sustainability goals and implement strategies based on greater understanding of cross-cultural consumers.
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