Module 3 Case- Business Ethics and Virtue Ethics
Ethics provide people with moral principles that guide actions and people’s doings. Virtue ethics is an approach of normative ethics that emphasizes ethics regarding people’s actions and doings. Virtue ethics exist both in personal and corporate lives but it can be showcased, obscured or marginalized by the activities or features of a corporation. An unethical behavior based on virtues and maybe a consequence of a corporation’s self-concept and how it carries itself. This is a case study of Mattel Inc. locating and evaluating the most salient business ethics based on the context of virtue ethics. The paper discusses three virtues and how they might have been used to more appropriately guide the actions, behaviors and policies of Mattel Inc. It also discusses virtue ethics as a normative ethical theory, and how useful it has been to evaluate Mattel Inc.’s case.
Mattel Inc. is the world’s largest toy producer founded in 1945 and it designs, manufactures, and markets toy products that are sold worldwide. The company has offices in 36 countries, with more than 30,000 employees and sells its toy products in more than 150 countries. The company adopted a voluntary code of conduct, the global manufacturing principles (GMP) that detailed the standard of compliance, allowing external monitoring of its compliance, and making a public disclosure of audit findings as well as the company’s response. However, the code of conduct for Mattel Inc. was created, implemented and abandoned within a span of nine years. At first, the success of code compliance and public disclosure made value based ethics a driving force for the company but later, its compliance with GMP code declined steeply with poor working conditions for employees, long working hours and use of technology that destroyed the environment (Mcqueen & Spencer, 2007).
The virtue of honesty is simply refusal to fake reality and stating the facts as they are. Honesty is concerned emotions, emotional reactions, actions, values, attitude, sensibilities, desires and even perceptions. In order for a person to possess the virtue of honesty, he or she should reason out and have choices that uphold honesty, honest actions and truth. Such views should also manifest themselves in respect to other actions as well as emotional reactions. An honest person chooses where to work and associate with honest people and lives an honest live in all actions and choices. Such a person dislikes dishonesty, lies, despises and pities associated with dishonest forces.
Following the adoption of the GMP code by the Mattel Inc. Company, the company was at first very open about its activities, allowed external, and released the findings and responses to the public. In the case of recalling back its products, the company was honest and truthful to the public by saying openly that the products were faulty and that the customers would be refunded their money for all the products returned. This action earned the company applause for their efforts in ensuring their consumers were treated fairly and honestly. Mattel Inc.was also recognized for their honest and open communication and earned them respect from consumers and business community for their honesty and transparency. However, with time, Mattel Inc. did not see any economic benefit of honest actions and the Sethi et al report quoted the company saying… “Our compliance cannot be total or complete – it can only be partial”(Sethi, 2011). The workers interests were not followed to the latter and there were cases of long working hours and poor pay.
The virtue of care involves being tender in giving attention to the people and things in our circles. It goes as far as listening to one another sincerely without giving any form of judgment and being as compassionate witness. In terms of ethical virtues, care based on a point of view that is driven by the notion that people’s needs should be addressed and problems solved (Athanassoulis, 2010). When Mattel Inc. adopted the GMP code of conduct, they made an effort through the voluntary rule to make sure that the public and the society knew the activities they were involved in and that they cared about their concerns.
One thoughtful step that showed that Mattel Inc. cared about the society is when they recalled some of their products that they discovered were defective and posed a potential danger to the consumers. Taking a closer view at this action on the basis of ethics of care, it is clear that the company was engaging in a self-sacrificial action that showed how deeply the company cared about the principles they believed in. different issues arise from the step of recalling products one being the potential loss of customer trust once the products are not recalled as soon as the defect is discovered. Of course customers will always shy from purchasing goods that have ever been considered defective or potentially dangerous.
Another issue that arises is the amount of money the company would loose from the act of recalling the products. Recalling means customers return the products for a full refund of their money and the company stood a chance of losing potential profits. Customers normally purchase a product if it is great and through the internet and word of mouth, they can communicate to other potential customers on the greatness of a product. On the other hand, if the product were faulty, the customers would use the same means to ensure that people do not buy the product. Worse still is when a company sells potentially harmful products and does not recall the products before damage is done. Mattel Inc. carefully thought this principle as they cared for the customer as if he or she was family hence this created a good name for the company.
Another virtue that applied to the Mattel Inc. case is self-centeredness. The concept of self is based on personal and social identity and actions and choices are made for the best consequences for an individual. According to Athanassoulis, “Moral praise and blame is attributed on the grounds of an evaluation of our behavior towards others and the ways in that we exhibit, or fail to exhibit, a concern for the well-being of others” (2010). This means that the actions or character of an individual or a company for this case make the basis for the actions and deeds taken against others.
A person looks after himself or herself first before looking after the well-being of others. In the Mattel Inc. Company, they extended the well-being from self to their customers. When the products were recalled, the well-being of the customers was at stake because they were the ones directly affected by the potentially harmful products. This action posed a question on whether this was a move of necessity or a forced action. By being nice to others, through a show of kindness and consideration, the company did this not because of the best outcome of the individual, but in response to what others would want from that individual (Sethi et al, 2011).
In the utilitarian point of view, the consequences of actions are more emphasized rather than the moral character of an action. The utilitarian might point the areas and actions that made the customers or employees seem happy. This theory would therefore argue that, even if Mattel’s action and moral character were not very compliant, the company treated workers better than an average company in the region did. The deontological theory is the strictest as it emphasizes more on rules and duties. If this theory is used, no worker in the company is to be treated as a means and rather as an end. Virtue ethics however takes context into consideration and based on moral character emphasis, helping a person is charitable or benevolent and so very high standards of the code was to be followed. The most useful normative ethical theory to use in the Mattel Inc. case is therefore virtue ethics as it emphasizes on what is morally right.
In conclusion, the concern for any company is to produce, sell and accumulate more customers. Mattel Inc. had the right to adopt the GMP code and to reject it as they wish. In this event, three virtues appropriately guided the actions of Mattel Inc. including acre, honesty and self-centeredness. The main action that this paper focuses on with Mattel, Inc. Company was the recall and how it affected both the company and the consumers. From the virtue ethics point of view, doing the right thing does not always profit an individual but it encourages piece of mind among all parties involved.