One of the main ingredients in mozzarella sticks is, well, mozzarella. I mean, it’s right there in the name. Which explains why McDonald’s patrons who purchased the chain’s newest menu item have been extra disappointed to find their mozzarella cheese sticks sorely lacking in mozzarella cheese.
Using the hashtag #Wheresthecheese, disappointed customers have been posting photos showing cheese sticks that look like hollow breaded encasings. The mozzarella cheese filling that comes to mind when you think of traditional mozzarella sticks is nowhere to be found. On its website, McDonald’s features pictures of mozzarella sticks filled with rich, gooey, “100 percent real and melty mozzarella cheese.” Contrast those with the sad, empty food sticks people report receiving in real life: …
Sometimes, you don’t realize that there is problem with a business or corporation for many months. The pollution, the deaths, the injuries, etc. don’t form a pattern and causation is often tricky. But when you come down to the simple and the mundane, you can see the business ethics problem before your eyes and in this case taste it.
Real cheese is expensive compared to milk by-products, etc. But we don’t have to worry about substitution in this case. According to the numerous pictures which can be found of which a single sample can be found here. there isn’t any cheese.
Should we let the market take care of this or should the government act? Well, it seems to me that McDonalds is likely to get clobbered on social media and there probably will be consequences in terms of their profits. On the other hand, the product is advertised as full of real cheese, and we have laws about false advertising.
There is story that Abraham Lincoln used to tell about a settler who got in a fight with a bear. His wife didn’t want to be seen as taking sides because she didn’t know who was going to win, so she’d shout, “Go bear!, go husband!” I don’t have a dog in this fight, so “Go government!, go consumers!. Whoever gets them first is fine with me.
I write regularly about business ethics and when you read the horrible things that one international corporation or another has done each week, (sometimes each day), you get depressed about the fate of human kind but sometimes they get it right.
And here is an example. Perhaps, this should have been done earlier. Perhaps, it could have been done better. But it is being done.
Here is another step, a good step, in the acceptance of the disabled as full participants in society. Please read – (Full article)
Lego is releasing a new toy collection featuring a mini-figure in a wheelchair set for release later this year, a company executive told ABC News today.
Photos of the Lego character in a wheelchair emerged online from the Nuremberg toy fair in Germany and the London Toy Fair in the U.K. this week, and took the Internet by storm.
The Danish toy giant has created the Lego “City” set, which “features a mini-figure scale wheelchair,” Michael McNally, senior director of brand relations for Lego, told ABC News. “It will be available starting in June.”
Perhaps, I will try more often to highlight businesses who succeed in by performing ethically and morally?
Rules for Ethical Behavior in Life and the Workplace
(This is a guest column by Steven Mintz, the Ethics Sage. This is a great privilege for me. He is allowing me to post this before it appears anywhere else. You see it here first!)
Have you ever taken something from your employer’s workplace thinking nothing was wrong with “borrowing” office supplies for your home or using company software on your home computer? Surveys consistently show that about 20% of workers take something from their employer that doesn’t belong to them and use it for personal purposes. Well, not only are these people engaging in “asset misappropriation” but they become untrustworthy employees.
So, where do we draw the line between a minor offense that may be excusable and one much more significant that warrants a strong response from management? Well, folks, it doesn’t work that way. There is no materiality test on what is right and what is wrong. Taking something that belongs to your employer is no different than taking something from your neighbor’s house without their permission. Would you go to your neighbor’s medicine chest and take some pharmaceutical item? Of course not so why do the same where your employer is concerned?
Many people do not understand what ethics is. Ethics are not like a spigot that you can turn on and turn off. The ancient Greeks knew that ethics requires practice – practice doing the right thing so that it becomes habitual. Good ethics is dependent upon repetitive acts. It becomes part of your DNA. It’s almost as if you don’t have to think about what the right thing to do is. It becomes instinctive.
Here are some questions to ask yourself as you deliberate about what action you should take.
What is the nature of my ethical dilemma (i.e. taking something that doesn’t belong to me; a conflict of interest; or how I treat someone else).
Who are the stakeholders potentially affected by my actions? (i.e. my employer; a co-worker; a friend or family member).
What are the potential consequences of my action? (e.g. potential harms and benefits of my intended action).
Am I potentially violating any party’s rights? (e.g. employer’s right of loyalty; confidentiality; fair-treatment of others).
Reflect on your intended action. How would you feel if your intended action made the front pages of tomorrow’s paper? Would you be proud of your action? Could you defend it?
Some ethical decision-making rules are:
Ethics are not relative to the situation; they are based on long-standing norms of society. Ethics/ethical behavior is based on certain immutable traits of character (i.e. virtues) such as honesty, integrity, trustworthiness, respect, responsibility.
The ends do not justify the means. The way in which you get to your goal is just as important as getting there. If not, you might rationalize an unethical action by saying it accomplishes your goal.
The rights of one party affected by my action directly influences my ethical obligation to that party. My employer has a right to expect me not to divulge confidential information so I have an ethical obligation to act accordingly.
What if you make a mistake; do something you later regret; and want to acknowledge your mistake? Here is my advice in that regard.
Admit your mistake in no uncertain terms; don’t rationalize your misbehavior.
Seem genuinely remorseful for your actions; you’re not admitting it because you got caught.
Promise never to do it again; make amends to those harmed by your actions.
Take steps to change any behavioral patterns that led to your mistake.
We all do things that we regret later on. It’s how we handle the next step that counts most. The problem in business is many try to cover up their actions and their misdeed becomes much worse. One lie begets another until they are sliding down the proverbial “ethical slippery slope” and there is no way to reverse course and seek the moral high ground.
I like to think of ethics as what we do when no one is looking. There is a difference between what you have a right to do and what the right thing to do is. Moreover, under pressure a person’s true character is revealed. You can’t always control the situation you find yourself in, but you can control how you react to it.
Dr. Steven Mintz, aka Ethics Sage, is a Professor at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. He blogs at www.ethicssage.com.
Rick Snyder is upset that Hilary Clinton is “politicizing” the Flint water crisis. He is upset at her cruel, cruel words. He did not comment on the even crueler words ofBernie Sanders calling upon him to resign. It is wrong to politicize events beyond the control of elected officials such as natural disaster but the Flint water disaster is natural only if you consider the Governor and his decision making natural and I do not. For at every single turn from the decision to change Flint’s water to the lies told the public about the water and finally the refusal to take action until weeks after the city declared a state of emergency, the responsibility rests in the hands of Governor Rick Snyder.
Snyder set up a system where bankrupt municipalities were seized and run as feudal provinces by a direct appointee of the Governor. The Governor’s choice to run the city decided to save a few million dollars by changing the source of the city’s water. When the city residents and the city officials complained, they were ignored. When the complaints grew in size and seriousness, the people of Flint were deliberately lied to. The agencies of the state government tasked with protecting the citizens concealed evidence and lied about the danger. Only when the evidence became overwhelming did the Governor take action.
And now, now at the last moment when the damage is done – when thousands of children have been exposed to forbidden levels of lead in their water, Rick Snyder is now doing something for the people of Flint, years too late to cure the results of his own decision making. And when he gets called on his actions, on his decisions and often his lack of them, he says we shouldn’t politicize the issue.
It is a political issue. It is the result of political decisions by Rick Snyder and the city managers he appointed. And when you have a political issue, you solve it by political means.
Hilary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are not politicizing crisis. They are talking about a political crisis, a crisis of judgment in government. It is fair game. No lead laden meteorite struck Flint. No storm commingled sewage and fresh water. The city manager appointed by Governor Rick Snyder decided to use a contaminated water supply to save money. That’s politics.
Like the Wizard of Oz, Snyder is asking us to ignore that man behind the curtain. But that man failed to act when his citizens were being harmed by lead contaminated water. That man is very much the center of this story. And whether or not the Governor now gets it and is now delivering clean water and testing kits is irrelevant.
It was the willingness to consider democracy an unfortunate obstacle in the way of an efficient government that is at the root of the problem. Flint could have continued with its elected government, that government, an elected government responsible and living among their own citizens, were hardly likely to have poisoned their children to save money. But the State acting through the office of the Governor seized control of the city and ran it with only one priority in mind, to squeeze as much money as humanly possible out of the municipality.
Snyder was imposing a corporate ethos on a city in a democracy. The bottom line is everything in a corporate environment. In a city, the lives and health of children get higher priority. When those priorities collided, which one prevailed? The corporate ones. — “So the water tastes bad? Get used to it.”
This is the United States and the people are supposed to have redress of grievances. Their local government rendered irrelevant and ignored, the people of Flint had nowhere to turn.
And this may be the future of all us. The corporate ethos is invading every part of law and decision making. If the bottom line is all that matters – if, as in this case, avoiding bankruptcy was the only goal, then of what importance are your lives, your jobs and the welfare of your families?
Take a look at the children of Flint. Their ordeal is just beginning. The consequences of lead poisoning are permanent and incurable.
The New Year comes with the threat of a serious economic crisis. The plunge in oil prices is causing market instability all over the world with the China’s strange excuse for a stock market on the front line. But we are also in a continuing economic crisis as the middle class shrinks and its finances worsen.
But I’m not the only one that believes this. Here’s Will Hutton writingin the Guardian:
There has always been a tension at the heart of capitalism. Although it is the best wealth-creating mechanism we’ve made, it can’t be left to its own devices. Its self-regulating properties, contrary to the efforts of generations of economists trying to prove otherwise, are weak.
It needs embedded countervailing power – effective trade unions, law and public action – to keep it honest and sustain the demand off which it feeds. Above all, it needs an ordered international framework of law, finance and trade in which it can do deals and business. It certainly can’t invent one itself. Themayhem in the financial markets over the last fortnightis the result of confronting this tension. The oil price collapse should be good news. It makes everything cheaper. It puts purchasing power in the hands of business and consumers elsewhere in the world who have a greater propensity to spend than most oil-producing countries. A low oil price historically presages economic good times. Instead, the markets are panicking.
They are panicking because what is driving the lower oil price is global disorder, which capitalism is powerless to correct. Indeed, it is capitalism running amok that is one of the reasons for the disorder. Profits as a share of national income in Britain and the US touch all-time highs; wages touch an all-time low as the power of organised labour diminishes and the gig economy of short-term contracts takes hold. The excesses of the rich, digging underground basements to house swimming pools, cinemas and lavish gyms, sit alongside the travails of the new middle-class poor. These are no longer able to secure themselves decent pensions and their gig-economy children defer starting families because of the financial pressures.
Capitalism has grown inside the protective cover of the modern nation state and the international accords sought by those states to protect themselves from war and instability. It would seem thatNeoliberalsare contemplating a world in which the nation state is reduced to the same level of just another corporation, in which national laws including those specifying what are acts of criminality are just matters to be negotiated.
I have been sensing unease in the literature over the last few weeks. It is making me uncomfortable. The financial press seems bewildered by economic events that appear without precedent. (The financial press’ view of history never seems to run more than a couple of decades.) Could we be running into another economic crisis? Well, yes, there is almost certainly going to be some kind of downturn in the next twelve months but at what level? The Fed’s silly decision to raise interest rates is going to cause an economic slowdown. But even more troubling is the Royal Bank of Scotland’s predictions for the year. They compare the current situation to 2008. That is very bad indeed.
In economics and banking “speak” this is roughly equivalent to screaming out obscure Bible verses while clutching a “The End is Near” sign.
It seems to me that capitalism can be a positive force in society but that kind of capitalism is not one based on pure financial exploitation or an absence of patriotism or on the opportunity to evade taxes. A positive capitalism is one that creates value not in derivatives but in actual goods and services. A positive capitalism is one in which companies will not seek out their nation’s enemies as profit making opportunities. And finally, a positive capitalism recognizes the contributions of the community in its success and pays its share of taxes to maintain the common welfare.
This post is particularly aimed at other professors who teach business ethics. I was on YouTube and found a film by Adam Curtis called The Great British Housing Disaster and it is a business ethics masterpiece. Here’s a piece of if –
The very banality and consistency in the greed and incompetence of the malefactors here is amazing and in my experience, I have found that attitude commonplace in this country as well.
The film tells the story of how Britain decided to build a great deal of housing in a very short period of time and how that gave opportunity for unscrupulous contractors to build sub-standard housing. It takes you through the whole process from politics at the national level to the local and then, architects, contractors,workers and regulators. We are shown the building process and we see, in this case literally, the “concrete” results of the corruption.
I like the film because it’s well done and because it’s historical. I don’t want to be too topical, too current, when teaching. When all the students have decided already what they think, it makes teaching more difficult. If you give them history and ethics, you have the opportunity of showing how corruption and incompetence follow particular patterns, and you see these patterns over and over again. If you watch the patterns, you can see the corruption as it develops in many other situations.
Now obviously I do teach on some current events but I prefer to use a film and a subject original to the students so they all begin at the same place.
For those of you who don’t teach, it’s a very fine piece of documentary film making and it is the first work listed in Wikipedia for Adam Curtis. So, it is kind of a preview of his later career.
Can the lawsuit be an effective tool against corporate misconduct? It has been, continues to be and will be again. But what about fracking? Can lawsuits affect the practice? And I want to focus here on one aspect of fracking, and that is the disposal of waste water by injecting it deep into the earth apparently near fault lines.
This week, a group of 14 homeowners in Edmond, Oklahoma filed a lawsuit against 12 energy companies, claiming that the companies’ fracking operations have contributed to this uptick in earthquakes. Specifically, the lawsuit targets the companies’ wastewater disposal wells, claiming that the injection of fracking wastewater into these wells “caused or contributed” to earthquakes and constituted an “ultrahazardous activity.”
In the lawsuit, filed in Oklahoma County court, the residents focus on two earthquakes — of 4.3and 4.2 magnitude — that struck Edmond on December 29 and January 1. The plaintiffs say they suffered damage from the earthquakes, and that the energy companies were “negligent, careless, and reckless” in their treatment of the earthquake risks surrounding wastewater injection.
We have questionable behavior on the part of the energy companies and a lawsuit alleging that behavior has caused harm. This works for society with most industries. Ford and General Motors have to build their cars with the knowledge that they can be sued for misconduct. Obviously, this threat hanging over their heads doesn’t always stop them from making foolish and lethal decisions but my experience is that we live in a much, much safer world because companies have to worry about being sued.
So, why do I have doubts that this will work? These aren’t “regular” companies. These are energy companies. They are the primary political powers in a number of states and the reach of their think tanks, political action committee, etc. is very difficult to measure, so enormous is the money and influence being deployed. No, these aren’t regular corporations.
I think they’ll follow the path blazed by the firearms industry and create restrictive law protecting them from lawsuits. The first legislative acts I expect to see will force those that sue and lose in court to one of these companies to pay all court costs. It may be more difficult and take more time, but in the long term they will simply seek and almost certainly get a blanket restriction on lawsuits in the “national” interest. Expect to see a giant legislative preamble talking about energy independence and the need to protect “innovation.”
If you live in Oklahoma you may have already seen this document. It’s entitled Fast Facts on Earthquake Insurance. It is provided for free by the Office of Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John D. Doak. I was unaware of Mr. Doak and his work (I don’t live in Oklahoma.), but after reading his press releases recommending that residents of the state buy earthquake insurance and how to get the best deal while avoiding being scammed – I am impressed with the man. He makes good sense.
But I write about Business Ethics and while insurance sometimes has business ethics elements, my focus here is on fracking.
The necessity of the citizens of the State of Oklahoma to buy earthquake insurance is almost totally man-made. These are induced earthquakes.
There is an injustice here that bothers me. You see part of the cost of hydraulic fracking is the necessity of disposing of the waste water, and the industry has solved this by injecting it deep into the earth. And this causes earthquakes, lots of earthquakes. (Here’s another little quote:)
Before fracking Oklahomans experienced a couple of earthquakes a year on average and last year they had 842.
So, the industry saves itself a great deal of money by disposing of the waste water in an earthquake producing fashion while citizens of the state bear the brunt of the damage. That strikes me as unfair. The industry makes billions while the citizens of the State live on ground that is becoming more and more unsteady and dangerous.
In other words, the industry shifted the cost of their operation from themselves to the citizens in the form of earthquake damage and such necessary changes as the having to buy earthquake insurance.
And there is one further thing that bothers me.
Someone is going to die. It is inevitable. You shake the ground and buildings collapse and burn. Someone is going to die.
That’s not fair either.
In the past industries saved money by polluting the air and water instead of safely disposing of their waste products. Isn’t this just the same thing in a different format? Instead of talking about air, instead of talking about the water, we’re talking about the integrity of the earth itself.
Already we stand on the precipice of a post-nation state future. Globalisation of private corporate interests has successfully unshackled the international market from the controls of individual governments and so has positioned the legal entity of the Corporation above the law. In the twenty-first century the transnational corporation has become a law unto itself, governed only by the imperative to increase the value of its shares for its wealthy private stakeholders. So successful has been this corporatist revolution against the bourgeois state that is has now arrogated to itself the right to sue the state when the actions of the latter undermine the corporation’s interests – a move which has cemented the subjugation of democracy to the whims of global corporations.
Above we have used the word Revolution, because a revolution is precisely what we have witnessed. It is no longer in the realms of conspiracy theory that the Corporation has become the new order of the world, but conspiracy fact. Years of secretive negotiations, across the developed world, between corporately sponsored governments and the corporations themselves have borne fruit in the creation of globalised treaties granting effective domination of the world’s economy to unelected and legally unaccountable super-boards-of-management. Now these new Lords of the Philistines play the tune to which elected governments must dance, regardless of the thoughts and better interests of the people who have elected them. Democracy has lost its teeth.
We the people, the newly dehorned electorate workers of the world, must think carefully about this new direction of global social evolution. Until recently we have each been, within the social contract, an asset of the state in which we have had a meaningful vote. Today the very governments we elect have become the clients of a new superstructure of suzerains over which no one has control save for the profit principal. Our multinational corporate overlords, with an overwhelming share of the world’s wealth, can now buy and sell the resources and assets of any nation – and this includes us for we too are state assets.
One does not need a crystal ball to see that this trajectory is leading to somewhere very dark. Whether it is the economy, the environment, or human rights, individual states and international bodies of states the likes of the United Nations have been rendered powerless in a post-nation state reality. Of course there is the chance that we are worrying over nothing. Corporations may discover that what’s best for people and the environment is best for business, but we have seen precious little evidence of this in the past. Our most likely path into the future is one of a dystopian hell where human and workers’ rights exist only on the statute books of pacified nations, and where the wonders of nature are broken down in ledger books to crude cash value.
Did TransCanada Just Kill the Trans Pacific Partnership?
Democracy is a precious thing. It is easy to see that throughout history, autocrats of all types have attempted to end or limit government by the people whenever possible. Corporations are not different in this respect. They often and quite publicly prefer the autocratic and the certain over the will of the people and its variability.
As time has gone by the United States has entered into treaties like NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement. This agreement like many other trade agreements limits the sovereignty of participating nation states and gives power to international tribunals that are not answerable to the people.
These tribunals have not gained a great deal of public attention. That’s probably wise. The idea that a band of unknown bureaucrats can contradict the will of the people as a community, a county, a state or even a nation is a wonderful selling point if you’re a corporation but probably less than persuasive for the citizens who don’t realize that a big chunk of democracy (control over their lives) just went away.
One of the big chunks of democratic power that was given away was the right of governments to be not be sued by foreign corporations.
And while this has not been well known, it is about to be. You see, TransCanada had a stake in the building of the Keystone Pipeline and since the United States government said no, they are suing for more than fifteen billion dollars.
That will put the rest of us on notice that we can be sued if we obstruct international corporate profit making.
This is unlikely to make passage of the Trans Pacific Partnership easier for once people realize that even mundane decisions in the public interest can be reversed and penalized with money damages, they may decide that free trade agreements carry too high a price.
You may think at this point that I’m being an alarmist. TransCanada has yet to win any money and perhaps you don’t even believe that these international tribunals every really sue anybody. Well, what about Australia?
Let’s say you are a tobacco company and you don’t want people to regulate your product. You can use “free trade agreements” on your behalf. (This is from the Huffington Post –
Absent state intervention on their behalf, tobacco companies found a new way to fight efforts to regulate tobacco marketing. They take advantage of an “investor-state” dispute options being built into more free trade agreements between countries, which allows companies to directly challenge regulations they believe discriminate against foreign products. Unlike fighting laws in domestic legislatures or through WTO disputes, which are more formal and predictable, investor-state conflicts are decided by a panel of international arbitrators with no appeal, making them more attractive to multinational corporations.
So when Australia tried to put limits on how cigarettes were sold, the tobacco companies used the free trade agreements and used them well. –
(Further down in the same article -)
PMI has used that tactic to challenge Australia’s proposed “plain” packaging rules, which would eliminate bright colors and branding on packs and cartons, and Uruguay’s plan to require 80% of cigarette packs be covered in warning labels. The company argues that these restrictions on its trademarks and branding are akin to expropriation (which would require the country to pay the restricted company for selling its product unbranded) and violate trade deals between Australia and Hong Kong, where PMI has a subsidiary, and Switzerland and Uruguay.
What kind of democratic decisions could be challenged in the United States under these agreements and who could bring these law suits? Any decision that could affect profitability could be challenged. That would include things as mundane as zoning laws all the way up to federal legislation. Any corporation or citizen of a nation participating in the TPP could sue should they believe their operations are being damaged.
For example, Fayetteville, Arkansas could re-zone an area residential. If property there was owned by a foreign corporation say, one from Vietnam, an international tribunal might very well find that this act amounts to an expropriation of the company’s property and force the community to re-zone and pay damages for its “illegal” act.
Over time as the number and complexities of these “free trade agreements” grows, the city will have to become increasingly lawyered up to stay aware of the effect of city decisions on possible litigants all over the world.
Sound good? If you don’t like what you’re hearing, maybe you should do something to let your representatives from the President down to local government know that maybe we shouldn’t be weakening democracy to protect the profitability of foreign corporations.
For many, the Keystone XL pipeline was a catalyst for environmental action, and when the State Department denied developer TransCanada’s permit application in November, it was a signal that the environmental movement had triumphed over corporate and fossil fuel interests. So when the tar sands company announced this week thatit was filing a claimagainst the United States for $15 billion, under provisions in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), many were outraged.
But TransCanada’s heavy-handed use of the Clinton-era agreement might be the rallying point activists need to stop another, perhaps even more far-reaching, federal action: the pending Trans-Pacific Partnership. The TPP is a massive, Pacific Rim trade agreement that would apply NAFTA-like provisions — including prohibitions on interfering with private investment — to the relationships between the United States and 11 other countries, including Japan, Malaysia, and Vietnam.
It might be the rallying point activists need to stop another, perhaps even more far-reaching, federal action: the pending Trans-Pacific Partnership. The TPP is a massive, Pacific Rim trade agreement that would apply NAFTA-like provisions — including prohibitions on interfering with private investment — to the relationships between the United States and 11 other countries, including Japan, Malaysia, and Vietnam.