Ethical Dilemmas Faced by Senior Managers in Manufacturing Companies
In a perfect and ethical world, business organisations and their employees are envisaged to always be engaged in doing the right things. However, it is unfortunate that in the real world of business ventures, ethical dilemmas have become a common occurrence in determining many decisions taken by these organisations (Frisch and Huppenbauer, 2014 p. 24). According to Brown and Corder (2011), dilemmas are problems or situations where an individual or an organisation has to make a difficult or challenging choice between diverse options either, and ethical dilemmas are problems or situations where a choice has to be made between an immoral and a moral act.
Senior managers must often deal with pressures to deliver and help the companies they work for succeed irregardless of their decision choices and personal temptations to uphold business ethics by ensuring that they only decide to choose moral actions whenever faced by an ethical dilemma (Schwartz, 2016 p. 757). As a result, senior managers working in manufacturing companies are likely to often face numerous issues that conflict between the business interests, professional ethics and ethical business practices, and this makes it important for them to rely on ethical theory in order to arrive at the best ethical solutions to such issues (Marques, 2012 p. 5).
Part 1: Breaking Down the Case Study Problem to Expose the Ethical Conflict
As a senior manager in the company, it is important to breakdown the problem caused by the business practice provided in the case study for the purpose of exposing the challenge faced in making an ethical decision, which is necessary to enable a moral action to be taken in order to solve the issue.
A consideration of the business practice presented in this case study; it is undoubtedly evident that this is scenario of scandalous dumping of hazardous children’s sleepwear garments which have been treated with TRIS, a potentially carcinogenic agent. This is an unethical business practice that has been common in corporate circles without the knowledge of consumers, and only occasionally attracting the attention of conscientious citizens.
This is because most cases of dumping, especially to underdeveloped countries are performed quietly, in which the products move unnoticed from the countries they are manufactured and not authorised for sale to underdeveloped countries where such bans do not exist.
For instance, after it was found that TRIS used as a fire retardant in clothes could possibly cause cancer and sleeping clothes for children that had been made from clothing materials treated with TRIS were not allowed for sale in the UK, the manufacturing company decided to dump its huge stock to countries that are less developed in Asia, Latin America and Africa.
Although the bottom-line motive of dumping is always profit, products that are hazardous are usually dumped to solve varied problems. For non-manufacturers including the brokers, wholesalers, retailers, exporters and importers, the problem is generally just a matter of inventory. However, for the manufacturers who have invested capital in tools, machines, personnel, dies, assembly plants and land; the problem is not that simple.
Thus, they often embark on dumping millions of manufactured units to underdeveloped countries because they have been banned from sale in countries where they have been manufactured either because they are substandard or hazardous; through a process which often involves voluntary withdrawal of the product and closing up shop.
According to Edwards and Kirkham (2014), there is need to always comply with these principles of ethics which clearly demonstrates ethical dilemmas faced by senior managers of business organisations that often involve complex situations that commonly lead to an apparent mental conflict about making choices between moral imperatives. Often, a decision to obey one option commonly results in the transgression of another (Elm and Radin, 2012 p. 315). As a result, ethical dilemmas sometimes referred to as ethical paradoxes from a philosophical perspective are mostly invoked in an attempt of improving a moral code or an ethical system to solve the paradox, or refuting it (Dion, 2012 p. 6; Shah and Amjad, 2016 p. 58).
For instance, the principle of beneficence which is also closely related to the concept on universal love provides guidance to the decision maker in order to ensure that he/she makes the decision to do what is good or right guided by the principle of loving neighbours as oneself (Perle, 2014). This prioritisation of doing what is good which is anchored on ethical theory allows a possible solution that is acceptable from an ethical perspective to be developed and implemented for an ethical dilemma (Eisenbeis et al., 2015 p. 637).
This principle of beneficence stipulates that, it is essential in any action to strive to achieve the greatest amount of good through ethical theories because the most good is always beneficial to the people; hence, the principle of beneficence is associated with the utilitarianism (Hollingworth and Valentine, 2015 p. 458).
Similarly, the principle of least harm which is also associated with utilitarianism deals with problems or situations in which no particular choice among the possible options appears beneficial; this forces the decision maker to embark on seeking to make a choice likely to cause the least harm and the fewest number of people (Huhtala et al., 2013 p. 255).
Snellman (2015) reiterated that justice ethical principle or respect for basic human rights requires a decision maker to be focused on ensuring that their actions are fair to the people involved. As a result, there should be consistency between ethical decisions and the ethical theory unless justifiable extenuating circumstances exist in the case (Susong et al., 2013). A consideration of the problem presented in our case study from the perspective of the principles of beneficence, least harm and justice; it is undoubtedly clear that, there is an ethical dilemma between either destroying the TRIS treated textiles leading to loss of revenue or exporting the huge stock of these hazardous garments to underdeveloped countries where they were not banned (Shin, 2012 p. 301).
Based on the background set in the principles of ethics discussed above, it is possible to use ethical theories in order to make sure that the best and ethical action is taken to solve the problem or situation observed in the business practice under consideration. For instance, the Kantian ethics which is a form of deontological ethical theories is closely related by the rights ethical theory and it states that, for any action to be good it must be based on goodwill and a duty of the moral law. Thus, through the Kant ethical theory one believes that other people should be free or even forced to take similar actions that are good in similar situations (Marques, 2012 p. 5).
This means that this ethical theory can be used to make sure that obligations and duties of employees are followed to without violating the basic rights of other people such as liberty, life and the pursuit of happiness. As a result, the course of action should cause the least harm and to the fewest number of people (Huhtala et al., 2013 p. 255). In addition, the utilitarian ethical theory which is closely related to the Aristotle Virtue ethics requires that the action taken, to be the one that brings the highest level of benefits and this can help to enable an ethical decision is made to take the best and morally correct action by demonstrating wisdom, integrity, courage and compassion.
Therefore, based on these ethical theories the best action to be taken and that is correct in terms of ethics and morals would be to destroy the remaining garments and also recall all the exported garments manufactured using the clothing materials that had been treated with TRIS, a flame retardant that had been found to cause cancer. Therefore, since these garments have been banned for sale in the domestic market because of their potential hazardous human health impacts; destroying the remaining stocks and also recalling the exported stocks for destruction would achieve the greatest good to customers while causing the least harm and to the fewest number of people as stipulated in both utilitarian and rights ethical theories (Shin et al., 2015 p. 45).
Additionally, the Kantianism ethics which is a form of deontological ethical theories can also be used to ensure appropriate policies and frameworks to prevent this scenario occurring in future are formulated based on the stipulated obligations and duties of a senior manager; and ensure that they are strictly followed without violating the basic rights of other people (Martinov-Bennie and Mladenovic, 2015 p. 191).
Part 2: Implementation of the Best and Ethical Action to Solve the Discussed Issue
As a senior manager in the company, it is important to make sure that the best action in terms of correct ethics and morals is taken to address the problem or challenge caused the business practice that has been carried out by the company. This is because the company which manufacturers sleeping garments for children had sold huge stocks of its hazardous clothes made from clothing material treated with TRIS, which can cause cancer countries that are less developed in Asia, Latin America and Africa because they were already prohibited for sale in the UK.
As a result, it is not known the number of children likely to develop cancer in underdeveloped countries considering that several millions of sleepwear garments treated with the flame retardant agent had already been exported to these countries after they were banned from sale in the domestic market. Thus, there is need to systemise, defend and recommend concepts outlining right and wrong business practices that are unethical in order to determine the best moral standards through implementation of the best action in terms of ethics and morals in order to solve the problem (Weiss, 2013).
When a company employees at all levels are faced with ethical dilemmas, ethical theories are important in providing a foundation for decision-making, especially when ethics are at play since they inform or guide the viewpoints from which business organisations or individuals make decisions to take moral or immoral actions (Albert, Reynolds and Turan, 2015; Annas, 2015; Crews, 2015).
The ultimate goals of using these ethical theories as guidance in making business decisions include least harm, beneficence, justice, and respect for autonomy (Bedi, Alpaslan and Green, 2016 p. 518). The need to ensure that a quick resolution of the discussed problem or challenge is achieved by implementing the best action in terms of ethics and morals in order to solve the problem is threefold because it involves the following:
1) this is a form of dumping because the stocks sold to underdeveloped have already been banned from sale in domestic market for reasons well known to the manufacturer;
2) the children’s sleepwear garments are made from textiles treated with TRIS which is likely to cause cancer; and 3) the hazardous garments are specifically manufactured for children who cannot decide what is good or bad for them.
Thus, the appropriate ethical theories should be employed in order to make decisions emphasising on the aspects of an ethical dilemma imperative to them, which is critical in ensuring that a correct resolution or course of action that is most ethical is implemented according to the guidelines stipulated in the ethical theories used (Shaikh and Reich, 2011 p. 745).
In particular, the ethical theories likely to be used in determining the best action in terms of ethics and morals to ensure that the issue under consideration is addressed all levels such as individual level, organisational level, industry or sector level and institutional level include Kantianism ethics which is a form of deontological ethical theories, utilitarianism, Aristotle Virtue ethics and respect for basic human rights (Shah and Amjad, 2016 p. 57).
As a result, a consideration should be taken in order to decide the most appropriate approach of implementing the best action to solve the problem, and which is correct both ethically and morally. However, the best actions chosen to solve the issue should be implemented at different levels such as individual level, company level, industry or sector level and also the level of institutions.
At individual level and my role as a senior manager in the company, I would ensure that the action taken to solve the problem is the best one in terms of ethics and morals; which I would push for its quick implementation in order to achieve the highest level of benefits are delivered to customers while causing the least harm and to the fewest number of people as stipulated in the Kantianism ethics in deontological ethical theories, utilitarian ethical theory, Aristotle Virtue ethics and respect for basic human rights.
For instance, I will recommend a recall and destruction of all the garments made from the textiles treated with TRIS which is carcinogenic that had already been sold to underdeveloped countries to ensure that the hazardous garments the least possible number of children which would subsequently lead to a significant reduction of the number of children who could have developed cancers as a result of this scandalous and unethical business practice.
As a senior manager working at the company’s top management level, I would always adhere to what is ethical as stipulated in my obligations and duties in order to promote protection of innocent people by convincing decision-makers and the company board to avoid these unethical business practices, which are a threat to health and well-being of people living in countries that are less developed.
Therefore, as a senior manager with passion for ethical business practices, my personality involves making very consistent decisions based on the obligations and duties set for my position. I will make a reference of my previous workplace and make substantial examples with reliable referees for the decision makers to confirm; then plead with them to adopt my proposal by encouraging them to weigh between the money to be made from the sales of the hazardous stocks and the far reaching health implications likely to be caused by those garments to innocent children in underdeveloped countries.
As they ponder on which option makes sense to them, I will also make them aware of the fact that, those children never chose to be born in their respective countries and it is our responsibility not to harm due to our greediness for money by deliberately selling to them things we know are harmful.
At organisational level, I will develop more systemic changes in organisation culture in addition to proposing a collaboration framework between the company and other stakeholders. For instance, I will formulate and facilitate implementation of the company guidelines and standard operating procedures that would prohibit dumping of potentially hazardous products to the underdeveloped countries in future.
This will help to ensure that, a ban on a particular harmful or substandard product in developed countries is universally applied even in the underdeveloped countries which may have not enacted a policy to ban such products due to the potential human health risk they pose. In order to achieve compliance with this course of action, I will push for a framework for collecting overseas data and highlighting findings of the negative human health impacts directly associated to the TRIS treated garments, and subsequently provide an opportunity for the affected people to seek reparations or compensation in confirmed cases.
Furthermore, I will strive to establish a corporate social responsibility (CSR) for the company in collaboration with other stakeholders including non-governmental organisations and other companies in the sector in order begin development projects as well as creation of awareness and empowerment in affected communities.
At industry or sector level, I will strive to ensure that I provide my recommendations on the appropriate policy changes that would be applied in the general oversight of the usage of chemicals in the sector through proper examination of their classes rather than considering them individually, conducting sufficient health safety research, proper product labelling, assessment of alternative materials and methods, as well as ensuring formulation of stronger and stringent regulations. This is an imperative and ethical course of action because it will provide a harmonised platform to address the challenges facing the sector presently and in future.
At institutional level, which includes engagement with national and global non-governmental and governmental organisations I will liaise with stakeholders and donors to organise a conference among scientists, policy makers, as well as manufacturers with interests in flame retardant chemicals and apparel sectors in order to give them a chance to evaluate the challenges they face and learn from past adverse or difficult experiences so that they can be enabled with ability to take more swift actions to control or limit use of chemicals that may be potentially hazardous.
In conclusion, it can be clearly observed that through the arguments and discussions developed throughout the essay that ethical theories can play an important role to ensure that ethical business decisions are made followed by moral action, especially when a problem caused by a conflict between business interests and ethics arises. Implementation of the actions to solve the problem has been considered at individual level, organisational level, industry or sector level, as well as institutional level.
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