Study Finds MBA Graduates Seek Ethical Employers

Ninety-seven percent of MBA graduates willing to take 14% pay cut to work for ethical businesses

| August 5, 2004

The corporate world has garnered some bad press recently. The fall of Enron has provided the public with an archetypal image of corporate greed and corruption, and the disgust fueled by this scandal has made its way into the business world itself. A survey of more than 800 MBAs from eleven leading North American and European schools found that a substantial number of graduates viewed social responsibility and ethics as being somewhat higher priorities than financial benefits when choosing an organization for which to work.

While the study of graduating MBAs is a time-honored tradition, expressing interest in their ethical standards when choosing a business is not. 'There were no previous empirical studies that indicated how important these additional job choice-related factors might be,' said one of the researchers. The study found that a company's reputation for ethics and caring about employees both placed in the top third of a list of 14 factors, and that over 97 percent of MBAs would be willing to forgo some financial benefits to work for a more ethical, socially responsible company. How much money were they willing to sacrifice? Fourteen percent of their income. Not surprisingly, these numbers are an increase from the preliminary, pre-Enron study, which found that only 94 percent of MBAs would give up 12 percent of their income to work for ethical businesses.

The awareness of this new trend means that companies may become more socially and ethically responsible to woo talented new recruits. But human resources professionals have already been touting ethical responsibility for years; the new survey is most shocking to conventional wisdom, which holds that MBAs are profit-driven corporate marauders with little regard for ethics or accountability. Thankfully, the newest batch of MBAs portends hope for the corporate world, even as Enron forecasts doom.
-- Brendan Themes

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