Ethical relativism: A reason for differences in corporate social reporting?-

Linda Lewis, Jeffrey Unerman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Much research into corporate social reporting (CSR) studies how organisations might account for their positive and negative impacts on society. Implicit in many such studies is an understanding of what members of society regard as positive (or good) and negative (or bad). A key question in moral philosophy is whether ethical rules which determine what is good and bad are absolute, or vary relative to cultural differences or individual beliefs. If ethics are relative then what is considered good at a particular point in time by one society, individual or stakeholder group might not be regarded as good at other times or by other societies, individuals or stakeholder groups, and CSR that addresses these moral values will similarly vary.@e@qThis paper argues in favour of a reasoned form of relativism. While it does not maintain that ethical relativism is the only possible cause of differences in CSR practices, it contends that relativism could be an important cause of such differences and attempts to make explicit the arguments about what is regarded as good and bad in society as a determining influence on CSR and as a way of raising the moral debate on the subject. © 1999 Academic Press.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)521-547
Number of pages26
JournalCritical Perspectives on Accounting
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Aug 1999


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