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Business

Ethics enhanced by clean smells

I wonder if this is something businesses (including accounting firms) might want to look into: A study at Brigham Young University has found that people are “unconsciously fairer and more generous” in clean-smelling environments.

The research found a dramatic improvement in ethical behavior with just a few spritzes of citrus-scented Windex.

The researchers see implications for workplaces, retail stores and other organizations that have relied on traditional surveillance and security measures to enforce rules.

“Companies often employ heavy-handed interventions to regulate conduct, but they can be costly or oppressive,” said [Katie Liljenquist, assistant professor of organizational leadership at BYU’s Marriott School of Management], whose office smells quite average. “This is a very simple, unobtrusive way to promote ethical behavior.”

I wonder if the persistence of a citrus smell at a business would affect the assessment of audit risk for that business? Maybe a cost-effective way to justify reduced audit testing? I can see it now: “Well, the assessment says we test a sample of 25, but does anyone else smell lemons?”

The study is at this point still “soon to be published,” but the article at BYU’s website details the tests performed to support the conclusions.