Essays on Ethical Theories Values and Apples Working Conditions Case Study

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The paper 'Ethical Theories Values and Apple’ s Working Conditions ' is a wonderful example of a Management Case Study. While there are various definitions of ethics available in business literature, ethics essentially boils down to good or bad, or wrong and right, what is moral or immoral (Beauchamp et al 2009). However, there is no single perspective from which to determine what is ethical or what is not. There are various theoretical perspectives that can be used to determine the goodness, rightness, or morality ethicality of business practices. These include utilitarianism, Kantian deontology; Rawls and Nozick’ s theories of justice, rights-based ethics, and ethical relativism (Kramar et al 201, Hoffman et al 2001).

This essay will introduce and briefly explain the values of each theoretical perspective and their relevance in the ethical evaluation of contemporary business practice. The essay will then use these theories to evaluate ethical issues at Apple Inc. The essay will critique Apple’ s business practices and recommend that to address the emerging ethical issues over working conditions and the reputation of its suppliers, Apple should change its values to reflect a commitment to ethical standards. Utilitarianism Utilitarianism is one of the most commonly used normative theoretical approaches used in ethical analysis or evaluation of business practices, especially in human resource management.

Utilitarianism borrows from the works of Jeremy Bentham who is its most influential exponent. Utilitarianism as a theory is consequentialist in nature. (Klikauer 2010: Kramar et al 2011). Therefore, utilitarianism determines the moral worth or the “ good” of an action by its outcomes or consequences (Jones et al 2007). The main criterion in deciding whether an action or a business practice is ethical is whether it has produced the greatest good for the greatest number of people (Greenwood 2002).

Utilitarianism ignores motives and intentions. A common view attributed to utilitarianism as an ethical theory is that of the ends justifying the means. Utilitarianism has been criticized for providing a moral justification for some intuitively wrong acts or for validating actions against common sense. Utilitarianism justifies achieving happiness for a majority which may leave a minority suffering or at a disadvantage. For instance, as in the downsizing case employing 50 child laborers in Chinese sweatshops to make cheaper sneakers for an American apparel company would be ethical as it would substantially increase the profits of shareholders and make the shoes cheaper than had they been produced elsewhere (act utilitarianism). Kantian Deontology Another ethical theory that stands in opposition to utilitarianism is Kantian deontology.

Drawing from the works of Immanuel Kant, the deontological theory is based on the concept of duty and evaluates an action as ethical or moral for reasons other than their consequences (Kramar et al 2011: Klikauer 2010: Greenwood 2002).

Unlike utilitarianism, Kantian deontology places emphasis on the motives of the person carrying out an action and not the consequences. Kantian deontology is associated with the view that people should never be treated as a means to an end but as the ends themselves. Therefore, for instance, treating employees as end-in-themselves implies providing them with some of the things that they need with their sustenance and well-being as the ultimate goals and not the benefits expected by the company in terms of a skilled and motivated workforce. The company should have a moral obligation to the employee to provide meaningful work- work which is among other things; freely entered into, provides wages sufficient for physical welfare, supports employees’ moral development and does not interfere with the employees’ perception of how they wish to obtain happiness (Greenwood 2002: Shaw and Barry 2010).

References

Beauchamp, R.T., Bowie, N.E. & Arnold, D.G. (2009). Ethical Theory and Business (8th

ed.). Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River: New Jersey

Donnelly, J. (2003). Universal human rights in theory and practice. Cornell University Press: New York.

Duhigg, C. & Barboza, D. (February 1, 2012). Apple Inc: Working themselves to death. In The Age.

Greenwood, M.R. (2002), Ethics and HRM: A Review and Conceptual Analysis. Journal of Business Ethics, 36 (3): 261-278.

Hoffman, W., Frederick, R. & Schwartz, M. 2001. Business Ethics (4th ed.). McGraw-Hill:

New York.

Klikauer, T. (2010). Critical Management Ethics. Palgrave: Basingstoke (UK).

Kramar, R., Bartram, T. & De Cieri, H. (2011). Human Resource Management in Australia-

Strategy, People, Performance (4th ed.). McGraw-Hill: Sydney.

Kramer, M. & Simmonds, N. & Steiner, H. (2000). A debate over rights: philosophical enquiries. Oxford University Press: London.

Lafollette, H. (1991). The Truth in Ethical Relativism. Journal of Social Philosophy, 22 (1): 146-154.

Legge, K. (1997). “The Morality of HRM,” in Mabey, C. (Ed), Experiencing Human Resource Management. Sage: London.

Shaw, W. H & Barry, V. (2010). Moral Issues in Business. Wadsworth: Belmont

The Age (January 30, 2012). 'We care about every worker': Apple CEO responds to harsh working conditions claim.

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