Environmental Protection: Case Study Research Paper
The concept of corporate social responsibility (CSR) has great importance in the current business environment as governments and general public expect that businesses today should contribute to community welfare and environmental sustainability. No business enterprise can be competitive in the market environment or achieve enhanced customer loyalty unless they are socially responsible corporate citizens. The ethical case study chosen for this assignment is about the corporate ethics or responsibility of X Chemical whose operations harm the environment to an unacceptable level. As Heist (1992) describes in the case study, the government agency responsible for overseeing the permit process granted the X Chemical a permit to release more waste in the river than what was previously anticipated. However, it is unethical for the company to dump such a huge amount of industrial waste in the river. The company’s top executives including the plant supervisor Bill Gates hold the view that it is up to the government agency to protect the river from excess waste dumping and the company needs only to comply with the agency’s standards. Although an additional stage in the production process may reduce the wastes and increase recycling of waste materials, the company management is not interested to implement this strategy because they simply want to avoid additional capital investments or any increase in production costs (Heist). In this situation, Bryan, the new product development manager in X Chemical, is concerned about the company’s plan to release more amount of waste in the river as per the agency standards. He argues that although this practice may assist the company to gain additional financial benefits in the short term, it would hurt the long term sustainability of the business. This organizational issue leads to an ethical dilemma. Promoting the concept of sustainable development must be at the core of every business management as this strategic approach is vital in keeping stakeholders loyal to organization in the long term and achieve business growth consistently.
First, it is advisable for Bryan to take all the possible efforts to convince the persons at the helm of affairs of the X Chemical about the seriousness of the situation. From the case study, it is clear that the firm’s Vice President of Operations has planned to visit the firm coming week (Heist). Hence, Bryan may approach the Vice President to express his concerns and to get a favorable decision. The Vice President of Operations is also likely to reject his proposal citing additional capital investments needs, and therefore, Bryan should be ready to communicate with the Vice President effectively about the long term impacts of excessive waste dumping in river on the business. Bryan may try to convince the Vice President about the value of public support to a business and how public support is linked to the business’ ethical operations. He should also explain how an unethical operation like increased release of waste in river would hurt the public support or public confidence. If Bryan is able to convince the Vice President that the continued waste dumping in the river would adversely affect shareholder values in the long run, he can win the support of the Vice President and thereby force the plant supervisor to review his decision. Bryan may argue that environmental groups and public would put more faith in X Chemical if the company intervenes at its production process voluntarily to build and integrate the additional process in order to reduce the amount of waste released in the river. If the Vice President also discourages him, Bryan may even approach the company CEO to share his concerns. Under any circumstance, Bryan is not advised to contact the government agency and request them to review the permit issued to the company because such a practice would dreadfully affect the market stature of the firm. Evidently, when a managerial executive raises allegations against his/her company relating to highly public- sensitive issues like waste dumping, it will certainly ruin the brand image of the company and hence the business would face serious setbacks. Furthermore, the X Chemical hired Bryan because the company trusted him and his abilities so as to contribute to the firm’s production efficiency and organizational excellence. Therefore, he is obliged to keep up the trust that the organization has put in him. When Bryan approaches the government agency to review the permit, it is against his professional ethics and he fails to perform his fundamental managerial responsibilities. In short, Bryan should be vigilant not to respond to this issue emotionally but to keep the problem as only an internal management conflict.
Secondly, Bryan may convince his subordinates, colleagues, and other departmental managers about the long term consequences of excessive waste dumping in river and thereby influence them to take a strong stand against the company policy. In addition, he should also try to gain the support of engineers and chemists who originally designed the production process because they can more easily and effectively convince the top management how the increased waste release in river may lead to water contamination and other dreadful environmental issues. They can also suggest the plant advisor some cost effective ways of integrating the additional process to reduce waste levels and to enhance recycling. If Bryan is able to induce other employees to force the management to add the additional recycling and waste reduction process, he will surely get the management decision revised. As Hodson and Sullivan (2011) point out, in the current competitive business environment, companies are striving to make every possible effort to ensure effective employee participation which is the key to gain competitive edge over rivals in the market place (p.427). When employees are not satisfied with the operations of their firm, they would not actively engage in the firm’s processes and operations, and the situation in turn may cause the company to lose its market share to competitors. Therefore, X Chemical will want to avoid such a situation at any cost, and consequently, the plant supervisor may be forced to revise his decision on releasing wastes in the river. When the top management recognizes that the employees are against the firm’s waste disposal policy, they would act on the issue immediately to regain employee support and to promote the overall organizational productivity. Referring to Bucknall, Wei, and Zheng (2006, p. 89), the top management would be aware of the employee turnover issue that has the potential to increase the firm’s operating costs notably. Furthermore, the costs of employee non-cooperation would outweigh the benefits of the firm’s current policy exploiting the poor waste disposal standards of the government agency.
Third, Bryan may consider seeking the assistance of an external management consultancy firm to prepare a detailed report on the issue and to influence the top management. While adopting this approach, Bryan must choose a reputed consultancy to ensure the credibility and authenticity of the report. Unlike the X Chemical, a professional management consulting agency would not suggest a policy based on its short term benefits. In contrast, a consulting service analyzes the policy’s feasibility in the light of the company’s operations in the long run and recommends the company not to follow the policy unless it can contribute to the concept of sustainable development. It is clear that X Chemical’s current waste management practice would not benefit the company to achieve a sustainable market growth, and therefore the business will be affected badly once the public or environmental groups identify the poor waste management efforts of the organization. Hence, the external consulting firm is not likely to submit a report in favor the top management decision. Such a critical assessment report would persuade the company’s top management to seriously think about its waste disposal approach and respond immediately to address the issue. Undoubtedly, the assessment report by an external consulting agency in favor of Bryan would assist him to gain his colleagues’ support easily. This will also force the top management in a more effective manner. The findings of the assessment report can aid Bryan to justify his arguments and convince the management that he is taking all these efforts to promote the long term sustainability of the organization. When the top management is really aware of the fact that the current policy would not benefit the company to strengthen its brand reputation in the long run, they would be willing to raise additional funds to finance the development and integration of the new production process that would limit the amount of wastes and promote recycling initiatives.
Although a number of solutions are available for Bryan to respond to this ethical dilemma, it is recommendable for him to choose the second option (gaining employee support) to resolve the issue. Since the X Chemical cannot grow its business without the active involvement of the employees, the company would take immediate steps to review its waste disposal policy once it finds that employees are dissatisfied with the current waste management approach. Finally, it is advisable for Bryan not to request the government agency to review the permit under any circumstance because such a practice would hurt the firm’s brand image severely.
Bucknall, H., Wei, Z & Zheng, W. (2006). Magic Numbers for Human Resource Management: Basic Measures to Achieve Better Results. US: John Wiley & Sons.
Heist, E. (1992). Little Enough or Too Much. Environmental Protection. Business Ethics Program. Arthur Andersen & Co, SC.
Hodson, R & Sullivan, T. A. (2011). The Social Organization of Work. US: Cengage Learning.