M.E. Aldazabal, M. Espinosa-Pike, A.M. Martin-Arroyuelos

University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU) (SPAIN)
Society is calling upon universities to produce competent professionals who are capable of responding to change and adapting to new market requirements, who operate from an ethos of responsibility and integrity, and who can develop and promote policies of social responsibility and sustainability at firms. Several documents published by national and international organizations (including the UN Global Compact and PRME) coincide in stressing the importance of training in values and responsibility as one of the main tasks that universities must undertake if they are to encourage students of business studies to behave ethically and responsibly in the future.

Training in ethics and social responsibility is highly important for the future behavior of corporate executives, but it isn´t the only way to influence the ethical behavior of them. The ethical climate or context, in which individuals are integrated, influences their behavior (Treviño, Butterfield & McCabe, 1998; Victor & Cullen, 1988). These authors defend that organizations, as social entities, are responsible for the ethical behavior of their members.
Ethical climate is the perception of what constitutes right behavior in the organization. Ethical climate not only influences which issues organization members consider to be ethically correct.

Universities are immersed in a process of change, in which sustainability and education in values are becoming in a prior objective. In this sense, the ethical climate of universities could influence the development of ethical values of members of the university community.

This paper presents evidence from a survey of 385 faculties of 33 Business Higher Education Institutions in Spain. They answered to the revised Ethical Climate Questionnaire (ECQ) of Victor and Cullen, which is the most widely used and accepted measure of ethical climate in previous researches. Results show that the predominant ethical climate is the Instrumental one. This type of ethical climate implies that individuals take decisions based on their own interest, they see their organizational unit as having norms and expectations that encourage ethical decision-making from an egoistic perspective. Results suggest that faculties perceive that self-interest guides behavior, even to the possible detriment of others. So, it is a type of climate which does not enforce the ethical behavior, neither the compromise to the organization. Implications of this study are relevant for academic institutions because evidence must serve to think about which is the real state of the ethical climate and context in our universities.
Research on the ethical climate in organizations is very wide and has important contributions about the behavior of its members. However, literature about ethical climate in higher education institutions is very scarce. This research advances the knowledge of the ethical climate in different contexts to business organizations. This is the first study of these characteristics in the Spanish university, so, this study contributes to the limited literature about the ethical climate in this context.