Environment & Ethics at Starbucks

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Environment & Ethics
at
“Starbucks”

Environmental and ethical considerations influencing and complicating the marketing of “Starbucks” coffee

This essay deals with environmental and ethical considerations influencing and complicating the marketing of Starbucks coffee. The structure of the essay is such that it will try and incorporate these two concepts and apply them to the company-case of Starbucks. In the duration of the essay explanations will be provided to what is meant by ethics and environmental considerations. Analysis will be conducted on ethical and environmental circumstances involved in the marketing of Starbucks in an objective way as possible, presenting both sides of the argument, to minimize bias.

In recent years the field of business ethics has become a widely debated topic as a result of numerous scandals and loss of confidence in businesses (Ferrel et al, 2000). Notable scandals across the world include the energy giant Enron, whose questionable accounting practices lead to the company filing for bankruptcy at the end of 2001 (TIME, 2002), and Italian based dairy and food corporation Parmalat SpA which was officially declared insolvent in 2003 and charged on accounts of financial fraud and money laundering (Gumbel, 2004). Nike is yet another famous long-standing example of a company accused of poor business ethics. Ever since the 1980’s Nike has been accused of a range of non-ethical business practices such as operating sweatshops in low-cost countries and using child labour at some of its production sites (Azam, 1999). On the environmental side car manufacturers have been accused of poor environmental considerations with the high amount of pollution produced by their vehicles (NSCA, 2007). Many other scandals and controversies involving ethics in accounting, human resource management, sales, marketing, production, and intellectual property have occurred and continue to take place; stressing the importance of tackling this issue and ensuring that businesses adopt ethical and environmentally friendly business models that benefit humanity and the environment as a whole.

There are different descriptions by various theorists and authors on what ethics is. Taylor (1975) has defined it as an “inquiry into the nature and grounds of morality where the term morality is taken to mean moral judgments, standards and rules of conduct”. Ethics has also been called “the study and philosophy of human conduct, with an emphasis on the determination of right and wrong” (Ferrel et al, 2000). It’s this concept of being “right and wrong” which it has come to be widely marked by, and which we base our judgment on when we try to establish how ethical a certain company is in its business practices. However right and wrong in this case is not as simple as an action being lawful or unlawful but involves a deeper more sophisticated level. Morality is concerned with social practices of defining right and wrong (Beauchamo & Bowie, 2000; p1); these practices are beliefs, values, and customs who together constitute a particular culture (Doole & Lowe, 2004). Therefore depending on what kind of surrounding and circumstances one grew up with our ethical viewpoints will differ, and different approaches to ethics will have to be applied. For example, the values that a native Amazonas Indian tribe puts on time or wealth can be highly different from those of a capitalist businessman from the bustling financial centre New York.

Having established that there are different approaches to ethics, we need to identify the correct one which applies to the company concerning this text – Starbucks. As such the moral philosophy which Starbucks has adopted seems to be that of teleology. The teleological theory/approach states that the rightness of an action is not limited to solely that action but can only be judged by its consequences (Fisher & Lovell, 2003). Moral philosophers often refer to this theory as consequentialism...
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