BUS 309 Business Ethics
Become an advocate for either the consumer or the industry. Prepare an argument explaining the major reasons why you support either the consumer or the industry.
There is a definite association between smoking and various diseases. Society does not generally appreciate the extent of the risks of smoking, which exceed those attributable to all other reliably established causes of death. The use of tobacco, then, is both dangerous and addictive and for those reasons its production, distribution and consumption raise ethical issues which merit examination.
Implicit in this discussion is the belief that human beings are autonomous, exercise freedom of choice, take moral responsibility for their actions and ought to pursue good ends for themselves and for others, including happiness, well-being and good health. This includes making every effort to ascertain the probable outcome of one’s actions.
Most philosophers would hold that addiction is harmful because not only does it normally undermine health, but also the addict’s capacity to act as a free agent (Berry, 1986). So, is it morally wrong to produce, distribute and sell a harmful commodity? A utilitarian, whose aim is to secure the greatest happiness of the greatest number, might conclude that the benefits of tobacco production outweigh its ill-effects (Berry, 1986).
In a free society the State has two obligations which sometimes conflict. The first is to protect the liberty of the individual and the second to restrain him from harming others. John Stuart Mill insisted, in his essay On Liberty, that the consumer should be made fully aware of the harmful effects of any dangerous product offered for sale and he saw clearly the need to protect minors and others incapable of rational and mature judgment from the consequences of their ill-considered actions.
As in many respects, tobacco companies are simply not like other companies. Tobacco products are legal. But they are also lethal. Tobacco is the only consumer product available that kills one-half of its regular users. As such, in terms of CSR activities, they cannot simply figure among the ranks of other consumer goods companies.
Explain the role capitalism plays in corporate decision-making.
Capitalism can be defined as an economic system in which the major portion of production and distribution is in private hands, operating under what is termed “profit” or “market” system (Shaw, 2014). The United States is the capitalist nation par excellence. That is to say, it is not merely the case that capitalism has flourished here more vigorously than, for instance, in the nations of Western Europe. The point is, rather, that the Founding Fathers intended this nation to be capitalist and regarded it as only set of economic arrangements consistent with the liberal democracy they had established (Kristol, 124).
The Firestone case, as mentioned in chapter 4, peaks a very interesting point about capitalism and the corporation. A misrepresentation by the media was left uncorrected, when Firestone was asked, the spokesperson said that Firestone’s policy was to ask for corrections only when it was beneficial to the company to do so. Expressions like “Firestone’s policy” and “beneficial to the company” reflect one key feature of capitalism: the existence of companies or business firms separate from the human beings who work for and within them (Shaw, 2014).
A second characteristic of capitalism that speaks of corporate decision-making is in the motive of the company: to make a profit. A company’s life-blood is to make money, and profit in the form of money is the life-blood of the capitalist system. Companies and capitalists alike are motivated by a robust appetite for money profit (Shaw, 2014).
Discuss whether or not you believe it is possible for a company to cater to both its best interest and that of the consumer conjointly or if one always has to prevail.
It is not possible for a company to cater to both its best interest and that of the consumer. Particularly the tobacco companies, they have proven many times that they are working for their profits and not their consumers.
Despite the tobacco industry’s thinly-veiled attempts to gain corporate respectability and companies’ claims to have changed their practices, they continue to use a vast array of unethical and irresponsible strategies to promote its products, expand markets and increase profits (WHO, 2003).
Images of sleek, young bodies, taut and tanned, engaged in heroic athletic feats illuminate the page on which the words ‘Performance Counts” loom large. But appearing in a small box in the right hand corner of the page is the Surgeon General’s warning: “Smoking Causes Lung Cancer, Heart Disease, Emphysema, and May Complicate Pregnancy” (Andre, 2014).
These big tobacco companies appear to have conformed to the laws and regulations threatening their profits, however, their attempt is transparent. Tobacco companies hover on the edge of morality to do what is right for their consumers, when in reality they are only concerned with lining their pockets. If they were truly concerned with the community and their consumers’ health they wouldn’t market these products at all. Tobacco makes us a slave to our addictions, and many philosophers would hold that addiction is immoral because it undermines the addict’s capacity to act as a free agent.
Casswell, S. (2013). Vested interests in addiction research and policy. Why do we not see the
corporate interests of the alcohol industry as clearly as we see those of the tobacco industry?. Addiction (Abingdon, England), 108(4), 680-685. doi:10.1111/add.12011
Dorfman, L., Cheyne, A., Friedman, L. C., Wadud, A., & Gottlieb, M. (2012). Soda and tobacco industry corporate social responsibility campaigns: how do they compare?. Plos Medicine, 9(6), e1001241. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001241
Friedman, L. C. (2009). Tobacco industry use of corporate social responsibility tactics as a sword and a shield on secondhand smoke issues. The Journal Of Law, Medicine & Ethics: A Journal Of The American Society Of Law, Medicine & Ethics, 37(4), 819-827. doi:10.1111/j.1748-720X.2009.00453.x
Lindorff, M., Prior Jonson, E., & McGuire, L. (2012). Strategic Corporate Social Responsibility in Controversial Industry Sectors: The Social Value of Harm Minimisation. Journal Of Business Ethics, 110(4), 457-467. doi:10.1007/s10551-012-1493-1