Sample Essay on Ethics and Social Responsibility in Business and Society

Part A.

Question 1: Do you feel that it is possible to develop a universal set of ethical standards for business, or do you believe that cultural differences make universal standards impractical and/or impossible? (15 marks)

I believe that it is not only possible, but it is obligatory to develop a universal set of ethical standards for business. This step is of essential importance while building sustainable world with equal opportunities and chances for all, despite their nation and citizenship. Such basic ethic rules like gender and age equality should be put on the first place. This way, all the workforce would be engaged in the production processes, industry, management, education etc. Gender equality on the workplace, in the long term, would allow women to get equality in their families. It does not come as a surprise that one of the contributing or underlying factors of slow economic growth in the world today is gender inequality. Although women are often overlooked when it comes to economic development, there are instances where they have an upper hand over their male counterparts. Gender inequality and gender discrimination go hand in hand, and it is high time the world came together to see the eradication of the same. While some countries are already rather successful on this path, there are many states which do not follow gender equality principles, and this causes social and demographic problems. The idea of equality should also be maintained when it comes to race and ethnicity, as well as to citizenship. Racial discrimination remains one of the greatest challenges that hamper socioeconomic growth, hence the need for its eradication. The achievement of this objective relies on whether businesses, organizations, and institutions will develop a universal set of ethical standards or not. While some nations are perceived by global business as a ‘cheap labor force’, it creates a situation where human rights are significantly violated. We all know example of China, where workers are literally exploited by global companies, where working conditions are tough, and where workers are not given basic rights of labor protection (Donaldson, 1996). The same has been witnessed in parts of Asia where the economically challenged have no place in matters related to economic development. Such challenges can only be solved or addressed through the development and implementation of universal business ethics, which would allow creating a legislative and normative background so as to fight iniquity.

I do not claim that cultural differences should be leveled or reduced, though.  In the real sense, cultural differences are inevitable and they cannot be solved through any intervention. This is an insinuation that the culture of the western world cannot resemble that of the eastern world, and this is a fact that people have to accept. Conversely, employers should be equally integrated to the labor force, provided with the rights of cultural and religion self-expression. The modern business ethics come as an art of management of diverse workforce. The diversity of the population, workforce and markets is a reality that managers must not ignore. All organizations, both small and large, should perform equally well in terms of diversity management. Managing diversity workforce includes recruitment, training and effective use of staff, representing a wide spectrum of society in terms of age, race, gender, disability, ethnic differences, religion, sexual orientation, education, economic status. The embrace of diversity will pave the way for multiple positive perspectives such as global socioeconomic growth, which seemingly is the primary objective of every government in the world today. However, the barriers to achieving global diversity ought to be resolved, and one of the perfect platforms for realizing this dream is the global business sector. Summing it up, there should be developed a universal set of ethical standards for business, which would primarily consider basic human rights. Basic human rights in this case refers to providing the right working conditions for employees in organizational contexts, doing away with malpractices such as gender inequality and discrimination, and ensuring that the global human population has equal and undeniable access to necessities such as food, shelter, and clothing. This way, it would enable to suppress violence and injustice on the workplaces.


Question 2: Do corporations have a right and/or a responsibility to influence ethics in the countries in which they operate? Defend your position. (15 marks)


The promotion of ethics is one of the perspectives that must be taken into consideration by organizations or companies that aim at establishing themselves in new or rather foreign environments. As such, it is often imperative for every best-intentioned or best-informed executive to rethink their assumptions about business practice particularly in foreign settings. This is due to the fact that whatever works and functions effectively in a company’s home country can fail in another country with different ethical conduct standards. The bottom line is that corporations must influence and take responsibility of ethics only in those cases when such foreign ethics somehow violates human rights, health or life. There are several instances where corporations have gone against the promotion of ethics and instead stressed the exhibition of behaviors that are unacceptable in foreign countries. Such corporations have neither been successful nor existed for long due to pressure from organizations and laws in the countries in which they operate. In the 1980s for instance, tanneries and pharmaceutical companies from Europe opened branches in Western Africa, and other than damping highly toxic substances in the region, they failed to uphold ethics as demanded by the countries’ laws as their workers were dressed inappropriately. Most of these European corporations were shut down as a result of going against the ethical regulations in place. I believe that corporations must act as agents of change and development. Organizations must help countries while implementing good, ‘positive’ changes since some states are not powerful enough to implement these changes without external help. Other than not being powerful enough, some countries have a combination of inadequate regulations and ineffective enforcement, which in most cases lead to unacceptable behavior by unscrupulous companies, and this jeopardizes the promotion of ethics. Again, corporations in foreign countries can be powerful when it comes to such values as education, development, implementation of age, gender, ethnic equality. Due to their financial power, corporations often initiate programs that provide opportunities for educating and teaching people about the right and morally acceptable behaviors. One of the biggest vices in society today is corruption, which sees people have access to facilities or enjoy various benefits on the basis of race, gender, tribe, or socioeconomic status. However, with the continuous growth, expansion, and development of corporations in foreign countries, it is anticipated that the exhibition of corrupt behaviors will be on the decline. Multinational corporations are often at the forefront in fighting corruption in state structures, and this is not only beneficial to nations but the world in entirety. It should also be noted that corporations are in a position to point attention to the weak sides of governments, and this could involve championing for government officials who abuse their positions by exhibiting unethical behavior in public platforms. Corporations can enhance the international exchange of students and employees so as to build awareness and trust between nations.

However, corporations should also be mindful on their actions. They should not support rebel or terroristic group inside the foreign countries where they are operating as it happened in case of Chiquita (Chiquita case, p 88-89). Corporations should follow the rule of neutrality and disengagement in illegal processes. They should not favor certain groups and should not discriminate others.


Part B.


Corporations manufacturing and distributing genetically modified foods

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are food and living organisms created by genetic engineering. Genetic modification technology is widely used in agriculture, and this has seen the introduction of new and fast-growing agricultural products. As a rule, GMO plants have high yields and are resistant to pests, although these strengths have been overshadowed by the adverse impacts of GMO products on numerous human perspectives. In the past decade, there has been a significant increase in the global mortality rate, and this has prompted campaigns against GMO products particularly by non-governmental organizations. Our country has recently been confirmed by the significant negative effect of genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) on the biological and physiological characteristics of people (Dona, 2009).

Scientists suppose that foods containing GMO are harmful to human health. GMOs products contain alien to our body proteins. These proteins getting into the body cause a severe allergic reaction, a general weakening of the immune system. This is not noticeable on the early stages, but after the regular use of GMOs people get sick more often (Dona, 2009). That is why, corporations manufacturing and distributing generically modified foods violate the basic human right for health. It is unfortunate that the existence of unethical behaviors such as corruption has paved the way for the manufacture of GMO products despite the effects of the latter on human health as already mentioned. The major stakeholders of this ethical issue are producers (manufacturers), governments, and final consumers. For producers, GMO is a perfect business solution. The exploitation of GMO is profitable for them, and there is no doubt that profit maximization is the primary objective of every business-minded individual, institution, or organization. GMO gives the products certain qualities: changes their taste, color, odor, texture, storage life. Governments are also stakeholders. First of all, governments benefit from sales volumes, which comes in terms of taxes. From the other side, ideally, governments should be interested in that their citizens were healthy and were living long. That is why, the interest of governments in GMO manufacturing and distributing is ambiguous. For consumers, it is important to stay healthy, thus, the confidence of the quality of food is essential. Consumers are those stakeholders, who are not interested in GMO distribution. They require producers to be fair with them when it comes to information regarding food makeup.

In evaluation of ethics of GMO manufacturing and distribution, the utilitarian approach would consider the concept of happiness and reaching the aim (Speicher, 1998).. So that, from the utilitarian perspective use of GMO can be reasonable, since it is aimed at maximization of profits. However, if we consider the point of rights, manufacturing and distribution of genetically modified products is violation of them. By producing such foods, which contain GMO, the rights of consumers are violated. While choosing foods, each buyer wants to be assured of their quality and health safety. Basically, consumers pay attention to the appearance of the product, shelf life, and, of course, the price. However, they often do not pay attention to the information about the manufacturer, product composition and other data specified on the package. Producers are obliged to place following information on packaging:

– the name of the product;

– name and full address and telephone number of the manufacturer, address of facilities of production;

– name, full address and telephone number of the importer;

– the net amount of the food product within specified units (by weight, volume or individually);

– composition of the food product in order advantages components, including food additives and flavorings used in its manufacture;

– calorific value and customer value with an indication of the amount of proteins, carbohydrates and fats in the installed units per 100 grams of food;

– the final date of consumption ‘use by’ date and production and working life;

– production batch number;

– conditions of storage and use, if the food product requires specific conditions of storage and use, to ensure its safety and quality;

– cautions regarding the use of certain food categories of the population (children, pregnant women, the elderly, athletes and patients with allergies), if a product can adversely affect their health when it is used.

Use of GMO implies another ethical issue. It often happens that producers do not indicate this information on packaging so that they hide the potential harmful effect of foods. By this, they violate basic rights of consumers. By making uninformed food choices, the risks to health significantly increase at consumers (Speicher, 1998).

The third perspective, the perspective of justice implies that persons are treated equally and fairly, and moral rights are respected. It considers not just legal, but the moral senses of equality, fairness, and rights (Speicher, 1998). Of course, when companies are conscious of the fact they add harmful components to the products they produce and sell, then it does not imply any morality of action.

From my personal point of view, the second perspective, which considers rights, and consumer rights in particular, is the most relevant to the case. It has an aspect of formality and legal elements, which are not abstract, but are rather concrete. For all the three perspective, benefits to producers come in an unethical way in terms of increased volumes of sold products. The costs customers pay for them are not only financial, but non-material, like health and life.

The potential impacts of the issue are direct to me and my family. The most treating are health risks they can bring: immunosuppression, organ malfunctions, the occurrence of allergic reactions, metabolic disorders as a result of the effect of GMOs, in particular the impact of transgenic proteins. It is already known, for example that Bt-toxin (found in many varieties of modified sugar beet, maize, potato, etc.) is a potential allergen (Smith, 2007).

Scientists believe that as a result of new GMO proteins various health problems are possible. The fact that genetically modified proteins have a multiplier effect makes it impossible to predict how they would behave in a region of the genome and how many copies will appear in the body. Additionally, there is no evidence that all copies of the gene function in the body in the same way. Their behavior is unpredictable: they can produce the protein, can be more or less active; because of irregularities in the exchange reactions can even synthesize unpredictable substances, etc. Studies have shown that by inserting into the plant genome a foreign gene there is observed weakening of the stability of the genome, so that changes in the chemical composition of the GMO are possible, and the appearance of them is quite unexpected (eg, toxic) properties. The presence of ‘technological waste’ (additional genes with whose helping the main gene is introduced) can also have its negative impact on the health of GMOs (Smith, 2007).

Another potential effect of GMOs on the human body is resistance of the intestinal microflora to antibiotics. Experiments have shown that antibiotic resistant genes can enter the human intestinal microflora. This is a big health problem because it then becomes impossible to fight many diseases. Since December 2004, the EEC banned the use of GMO with antibiotic resistance genes, and the WHO (World Health Organization) recommends against the use of such genes. However, manufacturers still fully use them. Oxford Great Encyclopedic Handbook states that this risk is quite significant, and we must acknowledge that genetic engineering is not as harmless as it may seem at first glance (Smith, 2007).

Possible health problems also arise due to the accumulation in the body of herbicides. For example, there is an evidence that a modified sugar beet with resistance to the herbicide glyphosate is able to accumulate in cells and leave toxic intermediate products of its metabolism. Products of genetic engineering are not always complete analogues of the natural content of necessary substances. The most controversial issues are long-term mutagenic and carcinogenic effects. It is based on the fact that each introduction of an ‘alien’ gene is an artificial biological mutation that can cause unpredictable consequences in the genome. That is why, it is impossible to predict what it might result in (Smith, 2007). These threats are both actual to me and to my community since we all purchase products of global food brands in the same supermarkets. Summing it up, I am personally interested in that this issue would be overcome and some lobbying against GMO would be applied.

From the perspective of country, the harmful effect of genetically modified products would be reflected in deteriorated health indicators of the population. As it is known, human health is a valuable capital of each country; therefore, countries are interested in health and well-being of their citizens. In situations where the citizens of a given country experience poor health conditions, one of the sectors that will be affected to a large extent is the economic sector. Once a country’s economic sector is affected, this will gradually extend to the global economic sectors, and economic crises witnessed in the past will resurface. Other than affecting human health, preference for genetically modified products will see the abandonment of naturally produced agricultural products, and this will put the global agricultural sector in jeopardy. Considering the specifics of Canada health care system, country would be forced to direct more funds into health care to fight GMO-related diseases at the state level.

Works Cited

Donaldson, T. (1996, September). Values in tension: Ethics away from home. Harvard Business Review, 74(5), 48–62

Discussion Case: Chiquita Brands: Ethical Responsibility or Illegal Action, p. 88–89

Dona, Artemis, and Ioannis S. Arvanitoyannis. “Health risks of genetically modified foods.” Critical reviews in food science and nutrition 49.2 (2009): 164-175.

Speicher, Marga. “Ethical reasoning and ethical awareness.” Clinical Social Work Journal 26.4 (1998): 427-432.

Smith, Jeffrey M. Genetic roulette. Yes! Books, 2007.