Publication Details

Dark, D. L. & Rix, M. (2015). Back to the future: using the ethical climate questionnaire to understand ethical behaviour in not for profits. Asia Pacific Journal of Health Management, 10 (3), S122-S131.

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Asia Pacific Journal of Health Management


The ethical climate of an organisation can be described as the lens by which employees determine what comprises 'correct' behaviour within that organisation. As an outcome of the organisation's culture, many factors influence an ethical climate's design and configuration, including the organisation's history, its structure and management systems, the external environment and the individuals working within it. In order to work out the best ethical structure or ethical framework to support ethical behaviour, ethical climate must first be understood. The ethical climate questionnaire, (ECQ) a tool developed more than 25 years ago, has been applied and refined in empirical research with a focus on private and public organisations, but what about not-for-profit organisations? Through a focused literature review, this paper finds that the volume of empirical studies involving the ECQ in not-for-profit organisations is quite limited. Sample size, composition of the populations sampled and corresponding diversity in the intent or focus of these studies also limits broader application of their findings. However, the admittedly limited research findings so far suggest that ethical climates in not-for-profits are different to those found in organisations from the private and public sectors, and cannot be established using a compliance or rule-based approach to instilling ethics and integrity in organisations. Recent regulatory reform in the not-for-profit sector, increased community expectations, and the fact that services are often provided to vulnerable populations suggest a focus on the systems that support and demonstrate ethical decision-making is long overdue.

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