An ethical decision-making model for sustainability in the Hong Kong construction industry : toward corporate social responsibility

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An ethical decision-making model for sustainability in the Hong Kong construction industry : toward corporate social responsibility


Author: Law, On Kay Angel
Title: An ethical decision-making model for sustainability in the Hong Kong construction industry : toward corporate social responsibility
Degree: Ph.D.
Year: 2015
Subject: Social responsibility of business.
Construction industry -- Management.
Construction workers -- Professional ethics.
Business ethics.
Construction industry -- Moral and ethical aspects -- China -- Hong Kong.
Hong Kong Polytechnic University -- Dissertations
Department: Dept. of Building and Real Estate
Pages: xx, 441 pages : color illustrations
Language: English
InnoPac Record:
Abstract: The construction industry is often perceived as unethical due to corruption, health and safety failures, and environment-polluting activities. There is a consensus in the industry that to address these issues, as well as to ensure a sustainable built environment appropriate corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategies are needed. Although governments and built environment professional bodies have introduced policies and regulations for curbing unethical practices and controlling the impact of construction activities it is clear from the literature that they are deficient in scope and movement toward CSR and sustainability. It has been widely suggested that CSR and sustainability should be primarily considered from an ethical point of view and that individuals play a significant role in promoting both within their organizations. The aim of this study was therefore to develop a conceptual ethical decision-making model to explain how demographic factors and ethical climate factors affect the moral judgment of construction professionals in ethical decision-making in relation to CSR and sustainability. This was accomplished by undertaking a comprehensive literature review, holding face-to-face interviews, statistically analyzing questionnaire survey data, and designing and validating a profession-specific test instrument of moral judgment for the construction industry. The researcher's instrument for assessing professional judgment in a construction context, the Construction-specific Moral Judgment Test (CMT), was used in conjunction with an established device for assessing moral reasoning in general, the Defining Issues test-2 (DIT-2). Results from analysis of data gathered from 495 construction professionals and students who responded to a questionnaire involving societal and construction-context ethical dilemma vignettes, show that the majority were either 'conventional' thinkers who emphasize pleasing others and are concerned with obeying social norms, or 'post-conventional' thinkers who focus on what is right for all affected and adhere to universal ethical principles. Underpinned by Kohlberg's (1969) cognitive moral development theory and McCuen's (1979) professional conduct development theory, the CMT identified three types of construction-specific moral judgment: pre-professional judgment which is guided by the direct consequences to individuals and puts self first; fundamental professional judgment, which relies on regulations and standards; and principled professional judgment, which is guided by justice and human rights. The results also reveal that demographic factors of age, gender, education and work experience have varying effects on moral judgment development and that ethical climate factors play a part when construction-specific moral judgments are required. Findings from this research will benefit both practitioners and academics in the construction industry by providing objective data on the moral judgment of construction professionals. The newly developed CMT could be used as an ethics assessment tool for continuing professional development training, and could also be incorporated in the curriculum of university construction programs. The study not only contributes to a better understanding of the factors affecting the moral judgment of construction professionals in relation to ethical decision-making, but also provides an indication of the ethical strategies that organizations need to pursue in order to achieve CSR and sustainability.

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