Consider the following scenario: “A politically connected White Western European businessman offers to smooth the way for your company to sell in his country … for a fee.”

Keywords: negative stereotyping, business ethics, vignettes, scenarios


In 2014, Birtch et al published a paper that contained unnecessary negative cultural/racial stereotyping in a vignette presented in the paper’s introduction. Given the potentially harmful consequences of negative stereotyping, and the relatively frequent use of vignettes in the business ethics literature, this prompted us to wonder whether this was an isolated instance or a more widespread occurrence. To investigate this question we conducted a search of the scholarly literature for papers containing the string ‘vignette’ or ‘scenario’, and ‘business ethics’ using the EBSCOhost databases to which our institution subscribes. This search yielded a collection of 154 papers where vignettes were actually presented. Of these, approximately 18% contained negative cultural or racial stereotyping while 38% contained some form of negative gender stereotyping. In our view, these are uncomfortably high frequencies, so uncomfortably high in fact that they prompt us to conclude with a plea to authors, editors and reviewers within the business ethics academic literature to be on guard against this practice.

Author Biographies

Neil Stuart Eccles, Institute for Corporate Citizenship, Unisa
Professor Neil Eccles is the Head of the Institute for Corporate Citizenship at the University of South Africa. His primary research interest is in the field of Responsible Investment, although he also dabbles in the fields of corporate citizenship, business ethics and higher education practice. He is a member of the editorial board for the Journal of Sustainable Finance and Investment. Before joining Unisa he spent six years in the consulting industry in both a mainstream business consulting company as well as a specialist corporate social responsibility consulting firm. He has a PhD in ecology.
Busisiwe Magagula, Institute for Corporate Citizenship, Unisa
Ms Busisiwe Magagula is a Research Assistant at University of South Africa’s  Institute for Corporate Citizenship. She holds a Master’s degree in Research Psychology from the University of South Africa. Her research interests are in corporate social responsibility and teaching business ethics.


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