United Kingdom Flower Industry
Flowers are recognized as a symbolism that represents different things, which is mostly about the feelings of people that connote love, new life, forgiveness, and others. However, the United Kingdom flower industry gives a different meaning to flowers that involves ethical debate on their practice of selling flowers that are out of season. Ethics refers to the moral choices and values behind the decisions and actions of individuals.
In addition, ethics also serves as a guide in judging whether a decision or action is good or bad, right or wrong, moral or immoral. The decisions of people are usually regarded as a personal preference, which describes the choice of the person in a certain situation. If personal preference is the only consideration in the decisions of people then, it would not be regarded as moral or immoral. However, ethical debate takes place when the intentions, results, and the values of the decision-makers are taken into consideration.
In line with this, the case of the United Kingdom flower industry has been regarded as an ethical debate because its practice of selling flowers that are out of season raises environmental, labour, and other related issues that affect the country and even the society as
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The greater interconnectedness of countries, especially when it comes to trade and commerce, has paved the way for the flower industry to flourish and this has greatly benefited countries like the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom flower industry is estimated to worth more than two billion pounds per year, especially with the spending of thirty six pounds each year of an average individual for this commodity. Despite the fact that many flowers which are being used by most florists are grown in the United Kingdom, there is still a demand for exotic flowers that the industry needs to address.
The increasing demand for exotic and tropical flowers as well as the popularity of foliage designs entails that large quantities of flowers have to be imported from other countries like Kenya, Israel, and Columbia (Gaikwad, 2008). The development of the United Kingdom flower industry also entails the existence of ethical problems, especially when it comes to labour rights and environmental hazards. During the 1990s, ethical issues about the flower industry brought into mainstream the labour violations of the industry.
The flower industry is heavily dependent on migrant women that are treated unfairly through low salary, excessive working hours, job insecurity, and gender discrimination. In relation to this, BBC even made several featured stories about the ethical issue of the flower industry. BBC reported that labourers in the flower farms in Kenya are exposed to cheap labour and health risks. Furthermore, environmental damage at farms is also observable.
The issue places the United Kingdom flower industry in a bad light because Kenya is the main supplier of flowers to the country (de Neve 2008). On the other hand, the CEO of the Society of American Florists Alexandria, Peter Moran, states that the development of the flower industry, especially in terms of global trade is actually beneficial for workers. Moran stated that Colombian workers are benefiting from stable jobs, more than the average salary, and extended benefits that the flower industry provides (Pohmer 2009).
Moreover, retailers of the United Kingdom argue that the flowers coming from Africa use less energy because they are not grown in heated greenhouses. As such, retailers assert that they are not contributing more damage to the environment because they are importing flowers from countries like Kenya (Pohmer 2009). Consequentialism Ethic The consequentialist ethic approach to moral theories looks at the consequences of specific decisions and actions. Consequentialism judges the morality or rightness of a decision or action based on the good outcome or consequence that it produces.
Utilitarianism is one of the most popular kinds of consequentialism ethic, which identifies a decision or action is moral or ethical if it yields the most happiness or benefit for the greatest number of people (Brooks and Dunn 2009). The retailers of the United Kingdom flower industry can use the major tenets of the consequentialist ethics in order to justify their decision of selling flowers that are out of season. First, retailers of the United Kingdom flower industry assert that they are not exploiting foreign labourers in Kenya, Columbia, and other countries that import flowers to the country.
The retailers actually argue that they are providing stable jobs, above-average compensation, and other benefits such as: medical and dental assistance, child care, pensions, and others. Moreover, the retailers in the United Kingdom also address the environmental criticisms that they are accused of. Retailers point out that they only establish trading agreements with countries that are using clear and stringent legislation when it comes to the use of agro-chemical products and make substantial effort to carefully handle pesticide (Pohmer 2009).
In addition, producers of flowers in other countries do not use much energy because they are not grown in greenhouses and as such, they do not contribute to environmental degradation. By using the consequentialist perspective, it is proven that the actions of the United Kingdom flower industry actually provides benefit to all stakeholders. The workers in flower farm benefit from their respective country’s trade to the United Kingdom because they are provided with a stable job and good benefits.
The United Kingdom retailers are not harming the environment but they are actually doing their part in saving it. Furthermore, providing the consumers with exotic flowers even when it is out of season also contributes to the maximum happiness of the retailers’ clientele. On the other hand, consumer groups that do not agree with the selling of out of season flowers can also use the consequentialist ethic in order to defend their side of the debate. As previously mentioned, workers in countries that export flowers to the United Kingdom are required to work excessive hours and work in harmful conditions.
Despite the fact that foreign workers are given stable jobs, they are actually being exploited because the wages given to them might be actually above-average in their country but the appropriate salary should be more than what they are given. In addition, even though the United Kingdom flower industry are partnering with countries that support agro-chemical products and carefully handles pesticides, retailers cannot properly oversee whether they are being properly implemented.
Moreover, the argument that the United Kingdom retailers are helping the environment by importing flowers that do not use greenhouses is not really doing much for the environment because the processes by which the flowers are planted contribute more to the harm of the environment (de Neve 2008). Being the case, in the consequentialist approach, the practice of the United Kingdom retailers is actually unethical because it does not contribute to the happiness or benefit of the stakeholders.
The workers are exploited and the environment is being degraded, which actually contribute to the unhappiness of the stakeholders. In addition, the consumers of exotic and out of season flowers will also no longer find happiness in buying flowers that are actually produced out of exploited labour and contribute to environmental degradation. Virtue Ethics Consumers actually have the last say when it comes to the debate regarding the selling of out of season flowers by the United Kingdom flower industry.
Consumers who will decide to boycott the out of season flowers will have a huge impact in the operation of the flower industry, which can even lead to its downfall. In relation to this, consumers can use the principle of virtue ethics in order to respond to the arguments of the retailers of the United Kingdom flower industry. Virtue ethics gives emphasis on the character of the moral agent or the decision-maker rather than the consequences of the action.
A decision or action is judged as ethical or not based on the character of the act itself (Brooks and Dunn 2009). In relation to this, consumers can actually judged that the actions of the retailers are unethical if their motivation in selling out of season flowers is only for the purpose of gaining larger profit, which is usually the main motivation in business organizations.
Brooks, L. J. , and Dunn, P. (2009) Business and Professional Ethics for Directors, Executives, and Accountants. New York: Cengage Learning de Neve, G. (2008) Hidden Hands in the Market: Ethnographies of Fair Trade, Ethical Consumption and Corporate Social Responsibility. Wales: Emerald Group Publishing Gaikwad, R. (2008) An Inside Look at the UK Flower Industry [online] available from http://ezinearticles. com/? An-Inside-Look-at-the-UK-Flower-Industry&id=1314741 [accessed 10 May 2010] Pohmer, S. (2009) 2009 State of the Industry [online] available from http://www. floristsreview. com/main/january2009/featurestoryB0109. html [accessed 10 May 2010]