Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Corporate Responsibilities to Consumers

I truly enjoyed our class discussion yesterday. And I am sorry that some of you were not able to express your views given that we were running out of time. As a continuity of the first issue - whether business firms have a responsibility to educate their customers - Brendan Green contributes this clip. Enjoy it and feel free to continue the conversation.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Greenwashing and deceptive advertising

Let us assume that the study by TerraChoice is correct. Is greenwashing deceptive advertising? It is certainly immoral - whatever the law says - to advertise products without warning about their dangerous side-effects? But what about "environmental" side-effects? Should concrete legislation prohibit vagueness and exaggeration that cannot be proven false? The Federal Trade Commission and the Food and Drugs Administration prohibit exaggerated claims for health products boasting of unfounded disease prevention. Can they legislate against such environmental claims? What level of
transparency can consumers realistically hold corporations accountable for when it comes to complex ecological
relationships that are very difficult to establish? Green messages are audited for how they go wrong. Should they be judged for where they do not go right? Moreover, do business firms have any responsibility - besides what is stated in the law - to educate customers? Should they go green even if consumers are not willing to pay more for environmentally friendly products?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Problems with roles

The question, the underlying question of your group project, is whether it is possible to be a good role player and a good person.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Fukushima 50: Duty and Honor

An elite squad of 70 or so technicians and engineers are struggling to avert disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant in the worst nuclear industry crisis in Japan's history. They are known as the Fukushima 50. They work under threats of radiation sickness, fires and explosions since they became the sole occupants of that risky area. TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power) has not released much information about its elite team. Five have already died and two are missing.
We only know that they are trying to cool overheating reactors and storage pools to avoid disaster. We also know the conditions they are working in:
"They are working in hot, cramped conditions, clad in white, full-body jumpsuits and working in shifts to prevent contamination and exhaustion. They are equipped with respirators and torches, and when radiation doses rise tohazardous levels, as they did on Wednesday morning, they must be ready to take refuge in safer areas of the complex. The operation has already taken its toll. Eleven people, including members of the Japan Self-Defence Forces, were injured in a hydrogen explosion at its No 3 reactor."
David Brenner, the director of radiological research at Columbia Service, is reported to say that "In many ways they are already heroes... They are going to be suffering very high radiation exposures." And Michiko Otsuki, an employee at the nearby Fukushima Daini plant said: "The people working at these plants are fighting without running away. Please don't forget that there are people who are working to protect everyone's lives in exchange for their own."
@nekkonekonyaa twetted yesterday: "My dad went to the Nuclear Plant. I never heard my mother cry so hard. People at the plant are struggling, sacrificing themselves to protect you. Please dad come back alive".
And the daughter of a Fukushima 50 volunteered wrote an email saying, "My father is still working at the plant -- they are running out of food…we think conditions are really tough. He says he's accepted his fate…much like a death sentence…"
Meanwhile, 500 bone marrow transplant centres across 27 European countries have been put on alert to treat nuclear power station workers whose lives may be threatened in the battle to avoid a meltdown. The European Group for Blood and Marrow Transplantation offered to treat 200 to 300 patients if necessary.
"After a person has been radiated, you have three to four days before they're on the cusp of severe complications," said Ray Powles, chair of its nuclear accident committee. "At that point, they could be put on a flight to Europe if Japanese facilities are overwhelmed."
More on this here, here, and here.

Are these men heroes - we do not know if they are women in the team - or are they simply doing their jobs? Are they morally required to do what they are doing? Is it part of their professional responsibilities like soldiers do?

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Distributive Justice Again: New Kidney Transplant Policies

Last week, the New York Times published a piece about organ transplants, a topic we discuss early in the semester. A proposal is being considered by the nation's organ transplant network, which would change the current first-come-first-served system to a new one that provides better matches between the life expectancies of recipients and the functional life of donated kidneys (click here)
Arthur Caplan, director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania, supported the proposed policy: "If it’s a choice between saving grandpa or granddaughter, I think you save granddaughter first (...) It doesn’t make sense to give people equal access to something if some people fail to benefit.”
In response, Luana K. Lewis, from Bronxville, N.Y., wrote the following letter to the editor:
"I read with shock and revulsion about the proposed plan to allocate donated kidneys to younger patients rather than older ones. Why should some human lives be valued more highly than others? The notion that kidneys should go to recipients where the organs might enjoy “the longest functional lives” is morally repugnant. This is a very slippery medical slope. Please, let’s not set foot on it."

Saturday, March 5, 2011

S.E.C. New Corporate Pay Rules

Last January the SEC took aim at lavish corporate pay enacting new rules that give shareholders a voice on salaries, bonuses and so-called golden parachutes. These “say on pay” rules let investors vote on executive compensation at publicly traded companies. However, boards do not necessarily have to listen since the votes are considered nonbinding. The measures are the latest rules born from the Dodd-Frank Act, the financial regulatory overhaul enacted last July.
Lawmakers are hoping to discourage companies from awarding lucrative packages that encourage risky behavior.
The rules require shareholder votes to take place at least once every three years, although investors can opt to increase the frequency. The agency also mandated separate nonbinding votes on golden parachutes. The companies must disclose in public filings whether they followed shareholders’ wishes. So, shareholders’ votes are non-binding. Why bother?
Link to the WSJ coverage here.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


In this link you will read the debate between Whole Foods CEO Mackey, the founder and CEO of Cypress Semiconductor T.J. Rodgers, and economist Milton Friedman about the social responsibility of business. You can appraise their arguments and judge who is right (and why!!!).