Case Study 2: GE Healthcare B A CSR Dilemma

The most significant ethical concern faced by General Electric was on how to manage the marketing, sales and distribution of the new compact ultrasound – the Venue 40 carefully. In areas where ultrasound technology was seen to have heightened the problem of the disproportionate number of female fetuses. These abortions were resulting in major concerns about gender imbalance in emerging markets such as China and India where the abortions of female fetuses were running into their millions over a decade or two. For cultures that had glaring preferences for the male child. Therefore, General Electric was at the center stage of protests that arose. As they were a major supplier of the equipment that aided gender identification of fetuses.

As a solution to this ethical dilemma, General Electric should ensure there is a careful, methodical and meticulous stipulation on how the Ultra Sounds they make and where. For instance, the company has the responsibility to ensure they don’t illegally make distributions in areas where the use of their equipment has been illegalized. The company should ensure it strictly operates within the legal frameworks of the countries and markets they seek to enter. This way, controversies and media attention that is likely to mar the brand is avoided.

Secondly, General Electric as a world leader in healthcare has enough resources to spread awareness on the both the importance of gender balance. As well as a disconnect between the ultrasound services the company offers and the negative societal and cultural preferences ingrained in the citizens. As well as being part of General Electric’s social responsibility will serve to re-position. The brand, not as a tool for propagation of negative cultural influences. But as a company that offers healthcare services that aid preparation of birth.

The second ethical issue faced by General Electric was on how to make a smaller more affordable ECG without compromising on quality and safety. The small size and limited features were a direct result of cost reduction so as to serve efficiently the Bottom of the Pyramid markets without observing losses for the firm.

General Electric was methodical in preventing this concern from blowing up into a crisis. Also to the use of local materials as the company did. Considerations should also be put into increased use of local talent and not only in the Research and Development processes. But in all aspects of the production process. Also, the company can consider training their talent who will be dynamic enough to handle multiple aspects of the production process.

Applied ethics is the examination of actions and issues from a standpoint of morality. It’s, therefore, the philosophical analysis that follows the moral judgment. Applied ethics, therefore, attempt to find solutions using the courses of actions widely considered as morally correct. It is thus the expectation to use philosophical methods to recognize the ethically correct course of action in different fields of human life. Bioethics, what General Electric is grappling with, is a segment of applied ethics that focuses on ethical dilemmas that has been as a result of technological progress made in medicine and biology.

On the other hand, professional ethics in an organizational set-up focus on the corporate parameters that are set for professionals especially regarding governed use of knowledge and skills. The relevant training by experts that have not been availed to the general public must be used to make informed and responsible decisions.

Aggressive distribution of ultrasound equipment in areas where the practices of gender identification prior to birth had already been illegalized was a breach of the concept of applied ethics. In many religions and cultures, Abortion is a primary source of moral controversies. In emerging economies where education employing safe abortion practices is still minimal, therefore, practices that encourage abortion are viewed as morally questionable.

On professional ethics, building a smaller ECG device that focused more on cost reduction that with the consistency of features with the high-tech devices could be considered professionally unethical. However, General Electric was fast to remedy this problem by employing local R&D that was better versed with the local consumers. As well as using local materials to make improvements while still maintaining the affordability of the device and consistency of quality.

Aggressive distribution of diagnostic ultrasound products has a big impact not only on the social environment. Where it’s perceived as a cause for the encouragement of further abortions and, therefore, increased gender imbalances but as well in the perception of the consumers to the product in the emerging markets. General Electric’s action’s, therefore, have served to worsen the situation. As such, General Electric must own up to part of the problem as part of their corporate social responsibility. As well, resolving the issue. Ensures that the sales of General Electric stabilizes in emerging markets, and entry to the market has fewer barriers. It’s in the company’s interest, therefore, to resolve the issue.

One strategy for General Electric would be to utilize some of the resources in its possession to form an awareness team. This team will then visit consumers armed with information on the dangers of gender imbalance in any society. As well, the team should teach on advantages of using the ultrasound diagnostic devices that are separate from gender identification. It will serve to boost the image of the brand, as well as counteract the negative presumption that are a direct result of the gender identification features. Also, it will serve as a marketing avenue that identifies new distribution channels and new clientele. This team could, also, involve the local authorities as they are more aware of the information avenues that might work best.


Jeffrey R. Immelt (2009). Vijay Govindarajan and Chris Trimble. How GE is Disrupting Itself. Harvard Business Review October 2009.

Epstein-Reeves, James (2010). Consumers overwhelmingly want CSR.