Business, sustainability and society Essay
The main purpose of many businesses is to adhere to the needs and demands of their stakeholders, in reticular to their shareholders, and this puts a huge emphasis on management to maximize profit which can, as has been the case in the past, force the firm to take unethical actions. There are many other unethical issues which occur in the modern day in age but for the duration of this essay I will be using an extended example of Wall-Mart’s irresponsible dumping of hazardous waste, analyzing the firm’s unethical decision using four theories.
Kantian argues a form of deontological ethics which, as defined by Crook are “ethical systems that teach that some acts are morally obligatory without regard for their consequences” (An Intro to Christian Ethics), focuses on non-consequentially ethics Implying that actions are either ethical or unethical, regardless of the outcome of the action and Instead focusing on the motivation. Emmanuel Kant holds that duty, firm obedience towards ethical law, disregarding its potential actions, is the standard of morality.
By Cant’s reasoning, we must all abide by the ‘categorical imperative’; stated by Wolff to be, paraphrased, ‘about what one should do regardless of what their aims or goals are’. Cant’s first
Need essay sample on "Business, sustainability and society"? We will write a custom essay sample specifically for you for only $ 13.90/page
To test Wall-Mart’s actions for unavailability’s, we have to consider whether the universal adoption of such an act would be consistent, or possible, or acceptable to rational beings. Applying this maxim to Wall-Mart’s actions, we are able o see that their actions would be perceived as unethical due to the harm caused, to both the environment and the population as a whole. It is also unacceptable to rational beings as there is no benefit of illegally disposing hazardous chemicals.
The theory second maxim says that we are never to use another, in any form, as a means for our own ends. Kant is a strong supporter of ‘altruism’; this is the ethical principle of placing other’s interests above our own selfish ones which Justifies my earlier analysis of the actions from a Kantian perspective, as Wall-Mart was doing hat they thought best for themselves without taking into account the interest of others, their actions would be seen as unethical.
I view that such practices would violate Cant’s principle of humanity, as stated In ‘Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals’; this holds the view that one’s diddling should never be questioned, not even for maximum utility. Although I agree with most of what Kant says, I do feel that certain situations, obviously not the aforementioned case, what Kant perceives as is one of the main criticisms that he doesn’t Justify how one should resolve conflicting duties. However, one of the most useful aspects of Kantian is that it underpins respect, equality and human rights as everyone is seen as an equal.
The second ethical theory, with which we shall analyses Wall-Mart’s actions, is utilitarianism by Jeremy Beneath; his ethical theory is a teleological theory which is any ethics in which the rightness of an action depends on its results or consequences. Paulsen states that this type of approach “explains the difference between good and bad by the effects which modes of conduct and acts of will naturally produce upon the life of the agent and his surroundings. Acts are called good when they tend to preserve and promote human welfare; bad, when they tend to disturb and destroy it”.
Bantam’s theory puts a large emphasis on the end, or intentions, of one’s actions, as well as the notion that the potential consequences, specifically the pain/pleasure consequence, determine whether an action can be seen as right or wrong. Cant’s theory holds an opposing view to that of Beneath as Kant takes away the inclination or pleasure factor, stating that duty should be the sole reason for one’s actions. Utilitarian analysis comes in two forms, the first is known as ‘act utilitarianism’; this focuses on he consequences of every individual act, calculating the overall utility each time.
The second rule, ‘rule utilitarianism’ looks at potential consequences of the action whilst, once again, calculating the utility of accepting or rejecting the rule. When using Bantam’s theory to analyses a situation, it is compulsory to use both methods as each may give a different outcome. If we are to undertake a cost/benefit analysis for Wall- Mart’s actions from an act utilitarianism perspective, it would seem as if Wall-Mart acted in an utilitarian way, as it would cost less to Just dispose the waste than to allow legal rulings and correctly dispose of the hazardous waste.
From their perspective it could be perceived that the money which they saved by not following the correct protocol may be reinvested into their staff, however as this was not the case and instead they were fined $82 million, this could mean people losing their jobs and therefore the cost far outweighed the benefit and so this would minimize happiness from the firm’s, employee’s, and local economy’s perspective..
However, if we analyses the situation from a rule utilitarianism view, we can see that their actions re unethical as firstly, it is illegal which led to the $82 million fine they received, the health risks that come with the wrongful disposal of the waste could harm the lives of a lot of people which is another cost, finally, as was not the case but, if the company was able to illegally dispose of the waste without being detected, then the other competitors would also be financially worse off by the unfairness of the competition.
On the benefit, as previously mentioned, the money could be used to employ more people and therefore increase the local economy; rule utilitarianism states that Wall- Mart’s actions are unethical as the costs outweigh the benefits. One of the main criticisms of utilitarianism is if we are only doing an ethical act, as perceived by Beneath, as one naturally looks to produce positive consequences, then we are not morally responsible for our own actions as we are not acting freely, or naturally.
By analyzing the intentions alone, it can be argued that utilitarianism disregards Justice as what is ethically wrong may be perceived as right in utilitarianism terms due to the intentions. Justice “bid[s] us to give to each person his or her due” and “to take ay of action which effects [sic] him or her” (Byrne). Finally, it is impossible to accurately predict the future therefore rule utilitarianism is not a precise analysis.
The third ethical theory we shall use to analyses Wall-Mart’s actions will be the Virtue’ theory by Aristotle; his theory argues that virtuous individuals will, due to their character, make ethical or good choices, which has been shaped in the correct manner. Garlic’s interpretation of virtue is “a trait that counts towards someone’s being good in one or another of certain personal role-relationships” (Lies and the Vices of Deception).
According to Aristotle, virtues, which are learned by experience in the pursuit of happiness or flourishing, is a mean between extremes of action or passion, an example being courage being the mean between cowardliness and rashness. Aristotle argument was that our divine element was reason; according to Hutchinson, “we are composed of a rational part and an irrational part, and proper moral character consists in having the irrational elements controlled by the rational elements.
The irrational elements are the emotions: for example, anger, fear, love, gust, thirst, hunger, envy, hatred, ambition, resentment, pity, elation, and in general the mental events and conditions that are accompanied by pleasure and pain. The moral virtues are settled habits of character which express themselves in the correct emotional response”, (Cambridge Companion to Aristotle). Analyzing Wall-Mart’s actions from a virtue ethics, we must in essence analyses those responsible for the actions as opposed to the actions alone; this is a huge contrast from our previous two ethical theories.
The fact that Wall-Mart’s actions broke legal rulings shows that they ere deceitful and so they lacked the virtue of truthfulness. They also disregarded the implications of their actions; the harm caused to the environment and humans shows they have no empathy. The lack of truth showed that those responsible for the actions were happy to cheat the organizations responsible for making sure Wall-Mart followed correct procedures, as well as other competitors who were paying, to correctly dispose of their hazardous chemical waste.
They disregarded their responsibility, showing a lack of consideration to themselves, the authorities, as well as the local public. According the Aristotle theory, the actors, in this case the managers of Wall-Mart, acted unethically due to their behavior. Lacking virtue, Aristotle would argue that those responsible themselves were therefore not virtuous. There are many criticisms of virtue ethics, the first questions whether the unethical actions of a virtuous individual would be acceptable. Another criticism of Aristotle theory is that in some circumstances, extremes would be preferred to the ‘mean’, such as faith, humility etc.
Finally, virtues may vary between different societies which causes confusion as to what virtue really is. The final ethical theory I shall apply to my case is John Rail’s ‘contemporary Social Contract Theory. SCAT states that “morality consists in the set of rules governing behavior, which rational people would accept, on the condition that others accept them as well. ” Justice is seen to be the consequential fair treatment of an individual(s) within a specific situation, the result being that everyone receives what they are due. The main difference between SCAT and Rail’s theory is Rail’s Veil of ignorance’.
His argument is that the two principles of Justice should be the basis for the most rational choice. The first principle is that “each person is to have an equal right to the most extensive basic liberty compatible the continual dumping of hazardous waste would violate one’s right to health; this argument makes defending Wall-Mart’s actions illogical. The second principle states “(a) they are to be of the greatest benefit of the least-advantaged members of society, consistent with the Just savings principle (the difference principle) and (b) offices and positions must be open to everyone under conditions of fair equality of opportunity.
Under the implication of part ‘a’ of the second principle we can see that by not allowing legal rule, the government was at a financial loss and considering that the ‘least-advantaged members of society would be getting some form of benefits, then this would clearly affect them, albeit in the short term. Part ‘b’ could be in reference to how their becomes an unfair playing field between Wall-Mart and its competitors due to the money they saved as well as the fines they would have avoided by not being honest.
They could also attract a ‘better’ work force by offering a higher wage. I feel that Rail’s has got some aspects of his theory correct in an ethical analysis respective; other points can be seen as too fictional’ or unrealistic. The criticisms of this theory include questioning which basis of Justice and choice is correct, in a sense Rail’s theory is similar to Cant’s as it doesn’t take individual morality into account, another problem is the measurement of inequality; by what measurement do we compare the inequality?
Finally, what Rail’s doesn’t state is why we must obey the law now what happens if the contract is not upheld. In conclusion, having Justified the case study from an ethical perspective showing how various theories would receive Wall-Mart’s actions, only act utilitarianism could potentially Justify it as ethical, however the remainder showed, which I agree on, that their actions were unethical.
Taking into account all ‘stakeholders’ we are able to contrast the effects from various degrees to make a fully rounded picture of how their actions will affect others, both short-term and long-term. I feel as if each theory has problems and you can never really understand a situation from one perspective; I do feel that if I was given the choice to analyses a different case study using the aforementioned theories, I would use utilitarianism as it takes into account the most factors.