Business ethics and the influence on the development of intellectual capital
: A study of the auditing profession

  • Olle Schultz
  • Dennis Tran

    Student thesis: Master, one year


    The purpose of this study is to explain how managerial and professional ethics of auditors affect the development of intellectual capital in audit firms. The dependent variable, intellectual capital, has been derived from previous studies and includes under-concepts human capital, organizational capital and social capital. The independent variables are inspired from Sylvander (2015) and consist of the two ethical aspects: managerial ethics and professional ethics.

    The sample of this study consists of 64 auditors geographically spread in Sweden. The respondents stem from both Big 4 audit firms as well as smaller firms. The participants are members of the Supervisory Board of Public Accountants in Sweden where we gathered our 3066 email addresses from. These auditors where then asked to answer the questionnaire provided through SurveyMonkey.

    The design of this study is based on a fundamental positivistic philosophy with a deductive approach. As a result, an empirical quantitative method with a cross-sectional design was chosen. The theoretical framework provided in this study is in general based on social exchange theory, behavioural theory, upper-echelon theory and profession theory.

    The findings of the study indicate that a stronger reliance on managerial ethics in decision-making is positively related to the development of human capital. This was found in the original testing in through regression. However, in the explorative statistics, our tests by using factor analysis have also found that auditors perceive business ethics and intellectual capital differently from what was expected from our literature review. The findings indicate that auditors perceive business ethics, not as managerial and professional ethics, but rather as internal and external ethics. Also, auditors do not perceive intellectual capital as three under-concepts; instead they tend to perceive what we refer to tacit individual capital and collective organizational capital.

    Date of Award2015-Jun-23
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorTimurs Umans (Supervisor), Johanna Sylvander (Supervisor) & Torbjörn Tagesson (Examiner)

    Educational program

    • Degree of Bachelor of Science in Business and Economics

    University credits

    • 15 HE credits

    Swedish Standard Keywords

    • Business Administration (50202)


    • business ethics
    • intellectual capital
    • managerial ethics
    • professional ethics
    • human capital
    • social capital
    • organizational capital
    • audit firms
    • auditors
    • profession theory
    • upper-echelon theory
    • behavioural theory of the firm
    • internal ethics
    • external ethics
    • tacit individual capital

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