Sample Management Essay on Business Ethics and Society

Business Ethics and Society

Part A

Question 1

The need to create a universal set of ethical standards for businesses can be attributed to the similarity between people’s religious, cultural, and social beliefs. The global population is large, and many businesses are run around the world. With this perspective in mind, it is close to impossible and impractical to have a set of ethical standards that are adhered to by every business and everyone around the world. There are thousands of communities around the world, each of which has a distinct or unique understanding of morality or immorality. Besides, every community has a different definition of right or wrong and fair or unfair, which are usually influenced by cultural beliefs (Finnis, 2005). These disparities mean that the universe cannot have a single set of moral standards guiding people and enterprises. Forcing businesses to implement or adhere to a particular code of standards based on the laws and practices of a specific culture is unethical. Businesses ought to adhere to a code of standards irrespective of the cultural laws or practices in place.

Question 2

It is unacceptable for corporations to influence in any way ethics in the countries in which they operate. The attempt of a company to influence or shape the ethics of the said country can best be defined as ethical imperialism. The term “ethical imperialism” occurs when a corporation carries out its operations in a foreign nation the way it does in its country of origin (Macklin 1999). Indeed, such a firm wrongfully assumes that the ethical standards and practices in its home country can apply or are superior to those of the foreign nation in which the corporation operates. Corporations that exercise ethical imperialism act unethically. Every corporation has a duty to ensure that its operations hardly impact local communities and environments in the country in which it operates negatively. As such, it is important for corporations to do ground searches and determine whether they can embrace another country’s norms and practices prior to starting operations in the new country. If they determine that the beliefs of a potential host nation, then they can look for alternatives and save themselves potential losses. It is advisable that in the event corporations identify the issue or ethical imperialism arising, they cross-examine any alignment between their home countries’ ethical standards and those of the new country in which they seek to operate before establishing themselves in the new country.

Corporations that attempt to influence the ethics or values of the areas in which they operate risk losing their customers or even being forced out of such locations. Indeed, people are sensitive about their beliefs; thus, an attempt to change them could lead to resistance. For example, if a clothing enterprise in a Middle Eastern nation tried to influence the women to stop wearing hijabs in favor of fashionable caps, the entity is likely to be resisted by the locals, thus be unable to operate. The government may decide that such a corporation threatens the culture of the nation hence bar it from operating. As such, it is safer for enterprises to conform to the values and beliefs of host nations instead of trying to change them. Nevertheless, firms can subtly support efforts to change negative perceptions or actions. For example, thy can sponsor events that promote healthy practices that are not popular in their countries of operation. That way, the entities indirectly help to shape the beliefs of the nation.

Part B: Walmart and other Retail Giants Establishing Operations in Canadian Towns and Cities

Section 1

Walmart is a household name in the U.S. and around the world. The retail giant was founded in 1994 and has since expanded and operated in various parts of the world, including Canada. Walmart established itself in Canada through acquisition, having bought Woolco Canada, which was initially owned by F.W. Woolworth Company (Hayden, Lee, McMahon, & Pereira, 2002). Today, the corporation has a good number of stores across Canada, which suggests how important it is to Canada’s business environment. Walmart Canada’s success can be attributed to its primary business strategy that allows customers to access its products and services under one roof. Additionally, Walmart Canada has received appraisal and recognition for its efforts to offer not only quality but also convenience to customers. The convenience stems from the ability of customers to access and purchase most of their products and services in one location without having to move from one place to another, thus consuming time and money. The corporation also has a big impact on the livelihoods of Canadian locals and communities; hence it ranks above other foreign companies operating in the country in terms of market share and customer loyalty. Its major impact on locals and communities is evident in the initiatives that it has come up with and implemented to address some of the challenges faced at the local community level. A typical example of such initiatives is the corporation’s engagement in the purchase, distribution, and sale of products that are locally produced.

Another initiative of the company is participating in community projects that benefit the locals. For example, Walmart is also known for its initiative dubbed “Developed in Canada” through which it allows local farmers to supply fresh produce and ingredient to the firm, thus offering them a source of income. Additionally, despite being a leader in the market, Walmart Canada offers relatively low prices for its products and services. An outstanding impact of the firm is the job opportunities created for Canadians. Walmart Canada also impacts locals indirectly through taxes paid to all levels of government. The taxes are then channeled to crucial government projects that, in turn, benefit locals. The corporation further focuses on improving the welfare of suppliers across Canada (Walmart Canada, 2018). Among the stakeholders who are influenced or affected in one way or another by the corporate social responsibilities of Walmart in Canada are local consumers, suppliers, local and regional farmers, businesses, and government authorities. Despite the benefits for locals and communities, the company has been criticized for the negative impacts of its operations and practices on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) within Canada (Basker, 2007). Most SMEs in Canada have become redundant with some closing business as a result of Walmart Canada’s monopoly in the retail market.

Another issue of concern is the environmental impacts attributed to the corporation’s practices and operations. The adverse environmental implications of Walmart Canada’s operations and the practice began with the decision to construct stores when the corporation established itself in the country. The company’s stores released untreated waste into the environment, with this receiving heavy criticism across Canada. However, the corporation now has initiatives in place aimed at addressing such an environmental concern together with others. One of the initiatives of the company is investing and channeling funds to minimizing organic waste released into the environment from its stores that handle groceries. Another one is preventing concerned stakeholders from releasing untreated wastewater into the area set aside by authorities for water disposal. The firm also recycles and reuses waste products from the corporation’s outlets. These initiatives and several others have gone a long way in impacting stakeholders directly at local and regional levels. The initiatives are beneficial to many people from residents to environmentalists and government agencies responsible for the management of waste.

Section 2

Issues surrounding Walmart’s case in Canada can be analyzed from an ethical perspective considering utility ethics, rights, and justice methods of ethical reasoning.

Utility ethics method

According to the utility method, the morality or immorality of an action depends on whether it causes happiness or unhappiness. If a deed causes happiness, then it is ethical and vice versa. In this context, businesses focus on alternatives that can result in net benefits and then resolve the impacts that certain decisions have on stakeholders (Khalid, Eldakak, & Loke, 2017). The utility method of ethical reasoning can be used to determine whether the operations of Walmart Canada are ethical. The corporation sells its products at low prices to attract more consumers and record-high profits (net benefit). While the strategy benefits the corporation’s executives and owners and suppliers, it does so at the expense of employees. The enterprise struggles to support its operations financially; hence it resorts to offering low wages to employees. Nevertheless, the corporation cannot be said to be unethical when other factors that minimize the negative effects it causes some stakeholders to come into play.

In as much as the corporation strives to ensure that the owners enjoy or benefit in terms of profit maximization, it has also come up with initiatives focused on resolving adverse implications of its practices while at the same time improving locals’ livelihoods. For example, the corporation has set up development projects that are aimed at improving the lives of the community, which is a plus for Canada as a whole owing to the fact that the government alone cannot manage to address every concern and demand of the locals and communities. That Walmart Canada will benefit the community for years to come is not in doubt, particularly through its initiatives. Some of the biggest beneficiaries are suppliers and local consumers who have acknowledged the improvement in welfare policies. The utility ethics method of ethical reasoning is concerned with preference satisfaction (Baujard,2013). Preference satisfaction, in this case, is evident as Walmart Canada adheres to policies, laws, and legislation while at the same time providing enough opportunities for employment to the locals and improving their livelihoods by pushing for the purchase of their produce. Although Walmart’s practices have adverse implications as mentioned earlier, there is some level of commitment on its part to resolving the said concerns with a focus on maximization of stakeholder’s satisfaction. Therefore, based on utility ethics, the operations of the corporation are ethical.

Rights Approach

This method of ethical reasoning holds that every individual ought to enjoy a right to something or be treated in a particular way. Therefore, people have the liberty to enjoy their rights to safety, life, and due process among other rights. These rights are usually protected when an individual or corporation decides to act in an ethical manner (Monteiro, 2014). In the case of Walmart Canada, some of its priorities are competitiveness and profitability. The corporation has channeled funds to these priorities and has gone ahead to hire managers to ensure the objectives are achieved. However, it is the duty of the managers to ensure that the said objectives are achieved while adhering to set standards, policies, and regulations. When a corporation goes against the laid down procedures only to benefit specific stakeholders, such as the owners or suppliers, then it can be termed as being unethical. The case study reveals that Walmart Canada prioritizes the safety of stakeholders and champions for following due process. Consequently, the staff members are free to form unions or be represented by unions in disputes revolving around poor working conditions. Moreover, the corporation has in place positive recruitment policies as well as career opportunities that are beneficial to stakeholders. As such, the entity can be said to be ethical from the rights perspective.

Justice Method

According to this approach to ethical reasoning, it is important to treat equals equally and every person equally irrespective of the situation. Additionally, in the event, every person is not treated equally, he or she should be treated fairly based on a defensible standard (Chonko, 2012). Bearing this perspective in mind, corporations are mandated to remunerate staff according to how they contribute or how hard they work because it is fair to do so. A big concern to this effect is the disparity in terms of salaries across organizations today, and whether it is based on a defensible standard. In the case of Walmart, the staff enjoys myriads of benefits and access resources on the basis of their contribution to the corporation.

From a personal viewpoint, utility ethics method of reasoning adequately helps in the evaluation of issues that surround the operations of Walmart in Canada. The giant retailer has a number of obligations to stakeholders, especially customers. One of these obligations is improving the livelihoods of customers. The corporation has met the mentioned obligation since it has established numerous stores across Canadian towns and cities, through which it sells its products and services to customers at affordable prices, thereby contributing to an improvement of their livelihoods. t. The primary interest of Walmart Canada is adapting to conditions in the locations where it operates while at the same time operating in the interest of stakeholders who include owners of the corporation and customers. There are also operational environment expectations for the corporation, which imply that the corporation must use the net benefit approach.

Section 3

Walmart Canada’s operations impact my family directly. My family benefits from one of the corporation’s initiatives of offering affordable and low-cost products because it saves the family some money. Besides, Walmart’s products and services can be accessed and purchased under one roof, which benefits my family in terms of convenience. Indeed, none of my family members have to go to other physical stores, thus spend time and money to access the different items that the organization offers. The firm also benefits my family directly through its community projects. To this effect, the enterprise has implemented healthy environmental programs, such as reuse and recycling of waste products, which minimize potential harmful effects on the environment that could also impact my family members negatively.

Section 4

Walmart’s practices impact the local communities across Canada. For example, locals have benefitted directly from the employment opportunities created by the organization since the establishment of stores in the country. Local communities also gain from the community development programs rolled out by the enterprise. Additionally, the taxes that the firm remits to government authorities at local, provincial, and federal levels indirectly benefits the locals because these funds are channeled to development projects in the local areas and nationally. Walmart’s involvement in the implementation of environmentally friendly programs benefits the community. Additionally, these programs have given the corporation a positive image that makes it stand out among corporations in Canada’s retail industry.

Section 5

The operations and practices of Walmart, as discussed above, have positively impacted Canada. First, the establishment of the retailer’s stores across Canadian cities and towns has boosted the country’s trade in terms of increased competition. Due to the significant increase in rivalry, firms in the Canadian retail sector have resorted to improving product and service quality. Second, through taxes paid to federal, provincial, and local authorities, Walmart has contributed massively to the economic growth of Canada. The increased employment opportunities for Canadians that the corporation has made possible have also promoted the economic growth of Canada. Lastly, Walmart has come up with numerous initiatives that benefit government agencies that deal with waste management and general environmental conservation. It has come up with reuse and recycle policies that have reduced the amount of waste released into the environment.

References

Basker, E. (2007). The causes and consequences of Wal-Mart’s growth. Journal of Economic Perspectives21(3), 177-198. Retrieved from https://pubs.aeaweb.org/doi/pdfplus/10.1257/jep.21.3.177

Baujard, A. (2013). Utilitarianism and anti-utilitarianism. Retrieved from https://halshs.archives-ouvertes.fr/halshs-00906899/document

Chonko, L. (2012). Ethical theories. DSEF, The University of Texas at Arlington, 1-5. Retrieved from https://www.dsef.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/EthicalTheories.pdf

Finnis, J. (2005). Aquinas’ moral, political, and legal philosophy. Retrieved from https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/aquinas-moral-political/

Hayden, P., Lee, S., McMahon, K., & Pereira, M. (2002). Wal-Mart: Staying on Top of the Fortune 500. Washington, DC: The Graduate School of Political Management, George Washington University. Retrieved from http://allman.rhon.itam.mx/~oromero/Wal_Mart_CaseStudy.pdf

Khalid, K., Eldakak, S. E., & Loke, S. P. (2017). A Structural Approach to Ethical Reasoning: The Integration of Moral Philosophy. Academy of Strategic Management Journal. Retrieved from https://www.abacademies.org/articles/a-structural-approach-to-ethical-reasoning-the-integration-of-moral-philosophy-1939-6104-16-1-106.pdf

Lawrence, A. T., & Weber, J. (2017). Business and Society: Stakeholders, Ethics, Public Policy. (15th Edition). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Higher Education.

Macklin, R. (1999). International research: Ethical imperialism or ethical pluralism?. Accountability in research7(1), 59-83. Retrieved from https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/08989629908573942

Monteiro, A. R. (2014). Ethics of human rights. Cham: Springer.

Parada-Contzen, M., & Parada-Daza, J. R. (2013). Utility, ethics, and behavior. Journal of Academic and Business Ethics7, 1. Retrieved from http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.461.1624&rep=rep1&type=pdf

Walmart Canada. (2018, October 11). Walmart Canada Invests $175 Million, Creates 2,500 Construction Jobs in Store Updates to Enhance Customer Experience. Retrieved from https://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/walmart-canada-invests-175-million-creates-2500-construction-jobs-in-store-updates-to-enhance-customer-experience-696872251.html