E.W.M. (Isabel) de Bruin Cardoso

Rotterdam School of Management (RSM)
Erasmus University Rotterdam
ERIM PhD Candidate (parttime programme)
Affiliated since 2020

PhD Track The Dark Side of the NGO Halo: Exploring moral goodness as a driver for NGO unethical behavior

There are various examples of unethical behavior in and by nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), yet NGOs are perceived as morally good organizations. Drawing on social identity theory and cognitive dissonance theory I develop a conceptual framework of the NGO halo effect to show that unethical behavior can be explained because of NGO perceived moral goodness. The NGO halo consists of people in NGOs glorifying the moral goodness of their organization’s mission, morals, and people and accordingly prioritizing them over other considerations, the effect of which can lead to NGO unethical behavior. Through 34 in-depth semi-structured interviews of people working and volunteering in NGOs, I find that NGO halo can drive unethical behavior through: (1) prioritizing mission over other organizational considerations, creating an end-justifies-the-means mentality (moral justification); (2) prioritizing the NGO’s morals over legal or social norms, motivating the NGO to trump others’ norms (moral superiority); and (3) prioritizing the NGO’s people over ethics management, leading to unethical behavior being dismissed (moral naivety). I draw on two studies (combined N=804), to develop multidimensional survey instruments to measure the NGO halo effect, to show that the NGO halo has a positive and significant moderate effect on unethical behavior. The NGO halo effect is a new factor that can explain the antecedents of NGO unethical behavior.

NGO halo effect, halo effect, non-governmental organizations, not-for-profit organizations, moral mechanisms, unethical behavior, perception, moral goodness, cognitive dissonance
Time frame
2019 -


Visiting address

Burgemeester Oudlaan 50
3062 PA Rotterdam

Postal address

Postbus 1738
3000 DR Rotterdam