Consumer Concerns versus Stakeholder Concerns - Ethical Considerations in a Media Driven World – Case Study Example
Consumer Concerns versus Stakeholder Concerns - Ethical Considerations in a Media Driven World
When a company is faced with the possibility of having provided a contaminated product to the public the reaction is not as simple as pulling the product and releasing warnings. In the case study of Nutritional Foods, one of their naturally created, unpasteurized products is under investigation for a connection to poisoning of children. The reaction of the company would seem obvious, but in a world that is driven by the impression left within the media, the needs of the stakeholders beyond the consumer must also be taken into consideration. The economic position of the company is in jeopardy after such an event and that puts the livelihoods of all the workers, the status of all financial obligations, and the existence of the company under a threat. Taking responsibility for the problem is an issue of the futures of all stakeholders, which consists of more people than have been poisoned. While it is still only a possible connection to the food out in the market by Nutritional Foods, it is difficult to determine how much active response should be made within the press.
The first reaction to any news that children have been poisoned is to believe that one should respond through swift warnings and by pulling the products off the shelves. Virtue ethics suggests that it is essential to respond by doing what is right. The Principle of No Harm, or PNH, suggests that any product or service put into the market must first adhere to the idea that it will bring no harm to the public and that through that sense of no harm, be provided at the highest needed quality. Zack (2011) states that PNH provides for the idea that “at the base of avoiding harm for both legal and moral reasons is the positive value of human well-being” (p. 17). Nutritional Foods, above many others, operates with the idea that they are providing healthier products and through strict standards and practices they have created a product that is free from contaminates. In the case of the problem presented with potential poisoning of consumers, however, they have yet to be certain that their products are responsible (Hanson, 1998).
The problem that Nutritional Foods faces is that if they assert themselves in a public way that implies liability, their company may be at risk. The question of a company being at risk is not as simple as a corporation trying to avoid responsibility. If responsibility is taken and it diminishes the overall performance of a company then the stakeholders are affected. The daily needs of the workers, such as the fruit pickers, those who process the fruit, and the ones who drive the trucks with the products, are not as easily put back together should the company fail. The stakeholders are all not multi-millionaire leaders of the industry who might have to cut back on the number of cars they buy per year. Additionally, however, a slow response to the problem will compound the level of consumer backlash should the products prove to be contaminated (McDougall & Popat, 2010). The action that Fred James, CEO of Nutritional Foods, faces is that stakeholder interests must be balanced against consumer interests.
The problem that is defined by the issue is that at the point of the case study it is unclear as to whether or not Nutritional Food products are to blame for the outbreak. From a marketing perspective, however, Nutritional Foods bases its production on the idea of creating wholesome, untainted foods for the public. With concern to the problem that has surfaced, by the time the discussion of whether or not Nutritional Foods should be speaking to the media is presented, it is too late. John Healy, Vice President of Production has heard from his daughter that the buzz on the internet is that Nutritional Foods has poisoned products. The response from the company from the onset should have been to discuss its role in the investigation and to suggest that they are taking an initiative to investigate the quality of the products from the production point of view. Through creating their own public relations campaign to show that they are interested in the welfare of the children, above all else, they divert the accusatory tone of the media to one that suggests heroism as they aggressively pursue the matter.
At this point, they are behind the curve as they have missed the opportunity to control the message in the media. Therefore, their role as advocates for the stakeholders is tenuous. The virtue ethics framework for business suggests that all actions should be conducted with the intention of doing good. Trevino and Nelson (2011) suggest that integrity, as it relates to virtue ethics in business, is comprised of honesty, rule following, and the acceptance of consequences. While Nutritional Foods has conducted its investigation and participation in this manner, they have not created the appearance of heroism in the public eye where their products are concerned by discussing their involvement in working towards discovering what has caused the poisoning of the food.
The issue of the responsibility to the consumer as it is balanced against the interests of the stakeholders is more often framed by virtue ethics than any other form of ethical consideration. By doing what is right and intending that right outcomes are the goals of production and consumer interaction, the reputation of a company becomes associated with honesty and integrity. Through making a public display of the concern over such a matter as the poisoning, the company gains public credibility which will be exchanged for further consumer relationships. Through being too cautious and trying to avoid implication, they risk the assumptions of others to rule the messages to the consumer. This is proven through the internet buzz as it was brought to the attention John Healy. Pulling the products and aggressively leading the investigation as much as is possible provides the best possible outcome from all perspectives as the public will be listening to what Nutritional Foods has to say over all other communications. In addition, children will be aggressively protected and the good of humanity served.
Hanson, K. O. (Winter 1998). The case of Nutritional Foods. Santa Clara University. Retrieved from http://www.scu.edu/ethics/dialogue/candc/cases/nutritional.html
McDougall, A., & Popat, P. (2010). International product law manual. Alphen aan den Rijn: Kluwer Law International.
Treviño, L. K., & Nelson, K. A. (2011). Managing business ethics: Straight talk about how to do it right. New York: John Wiley.
Zack, N. (2011). Ethics for disaster. Lanham, Md: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.