Academic journal article Journal of Business and Entrepreneurship

An Exploratory Examination of the Ethical Decision Making Process of Entrepreneurs through the Theory of Planned Behavior Lens: A Multi-Criteria Approach

Academic journal article Journal of Business and Entrepreneurship

An Exploratory Examination of the Ethical Decision Making Process of Entrepreneurs through the Theory of Planned Behavior Lens: A Multi-Criteria Approach

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Economic gain has long been a motive of human interaction, and has been defined as the mission of entrepreneurship (Austin, J., Stevenson, H., & Wei-Skillem, J., 2006). For decades, the impact of entrepreneurship has been significant in the United States and a positive influence on the economy. It has been stated that, "the entrepreneur is the single most important player in a modern economy" (Audretsch & Keilbach, 2004). For this reason, there has been an explosion of interest in the research of entrepreneurship and entrepreneurs. Using the Business Source Complete database and searching for the terms "entrepreneurship" or "entrepreneur" within the abstract of scholarly articles prior to January 2000 reveals nearly 1,900 articles. That same search from January 2000 to present reveals over 7,300 articles, and nearly 3,900 of those have been published since January 2010.

More recently, societal concerns have become a consideration of entrepreneurs and organizations (Austin et al., 2006). It has become an accepted terminology to refer to a socially motivated organization as a social entrepreneurship. When discussing both the traditional form of entrepreneurship and social entrepreneurship as this study does, the term "commercial entrepreneurship" has been readily adopted by scholars (Estrin, Mickiewicz, & Stephan, 2013b) to clearly distinguish which form is being discussed. Although similar to commercial entrepreneurship in many ways, social entrepreneurship differs by its mission. While the mission of a commercial entrepreneur is to create a profitable organization for private gain, the mission of a social entrepreneur is to create social value for the public good (Austin et al., 2006). Today social entrepreneurship is a significant economic and social phenomenon at the global scale ( Dacin, Dacin, & Matear, 2010) that has become accepted as a unique and sustainable use of resources to exploit opportunities in efforts to solve specific societal problems (Perrini, F., Vurro, C., & Costanzo, L. A. 2010b).

Another area of study that continues to be of significant research interest is business ethics. This can be seen in Solomon's (1992) statement that ethics are imperative in most organizational settings if excellence is to be achieved. Various researchers have explained why Solomon might have made that statement by linking high ethical standards and practices to better organizational performance (Vitell, Ramos, & Nishihara, 2010), job satisfaction (Valentine & Fleischman, 2008), and leadership performance (Mayer, Kuenzi, Greenbaum, Bardes, & Salvador, 2009). However, unethical business practices happen all too often. In fact, Hannafey (2003) stated that, "While today's entrepreneurs are greatly admired, many of these business leaders are also often perceived as willing to do almost anything to succeed."

STATEMENT OF PROBLEM

Ethics, commercial entrepreneurship, and social entrepreneurship are areas of research that currently have academic interest due to their practical applications. Given the aforementioned concerns (Austin et al., 2006; Chikweche & Fletcher, 2013), it is clear that social entrepreneurship research is in need of more quantitative empirical studies, while both commercial and social entrepreneurship research is in need of more studies that focus on ethics. Also, given the different mission and motivations of commercial and social entrepreneurs, as well as the different constraints each face, an ethical comparison of commercial and social entrepreneurs is necessary for the advancement of the literature. Gras, Mosakowski, & Lumpkin, (2011) called for research to the question, "Under what conditions are social entrepreneurs willing to cut ethical comers?" This study investigates this question through a quantitative comparative analysis of the ethical decision making of commercial and social entrepreneurs within different ethical situations. …

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