Fiji Water and the Chocolate Slaves

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“The fact of the matter is that today, stuff-selling mega-corporations have a huge influence on our daily lives. And because of the competitive nature of our global economy, these corporations are generally only concerned with one thing…the bottom line. That is, maximizing profit, regardless of the social or environmental costs.” —David Suzuki

Bottling of freshwater from a rare resource in the Fiji Islands, and harvesting of cocoa beans via child slave labor in West Africa, are both ethically questionable. Business practices from both commodities have little regard on damages inflicted during their production. Ethical issues, similarities, and differences with both commodities will be contrasted, a presentation of socially responsible strategic alternative(s) will follow, and finally possible impact(s) of said strategic alternative(s) to stakeholders highlighted.

Identification of both contextual and evolutionary issues is needed to form a comprehensive picture of the situation, linking questionable business performance(s) to Applied Ethics standards. This will assist to adequately categorize the issue and develop a socially responsible strategic alternative(s) to remedy the damages caused, and determine their possible impact(s) to stakeholders. Two generic determinants influence the outcome of either proactive or reactive business ethics practices, the internal and external perceptions of a corporation; in conjunction these two determinants create a generic conceptual framework and also contribute to underpin the sources of proactive and reactive business ethics performance (Svensson & Wood, 2004). Business ethical norms reflect the norms of each historical period, as time passes norms evolve, causing accepted behaviors to become objectionable, these too evolve with time (Business Ethics, n.d.). Business ethics is rooted in the concepts of the philosophical underpinnings of ethics (Svensson & Wood, 2004). When linking issues to Applied Ethics two requirements must be satisfied the issue must be controversial and moral. Applied Ethics can be broken down into ten normative principles. The first two principles, personal benefit and social benefit, are consequentialist since they appeal to the consequences of an action as it affects the individual or society; the remaining principles are duty-based; the principles of benevolence, paternalism, harm, honesty, and lawfulness are based on duties we have towards others; lastly the principles of autonomy, justice and the various rights are based on moral rights (Ethics, n.d.). Applied Ethics standards may or may not overlap in fundamental ideas to address certain ethical dilemmas, the contrast in the cases of Fiji Water Company, LLC tapping a rare water resource and chocolate manufacturers purchasing cocoa beans harvested by slave labor from trafficked children will be discussed.

In the early 1990s, the Fijian government and aid organizations were performing a study as part of a plan to find water for local people which led to the discovery of an enormous aquifer; David Gilmour (heard of the study and became founder of Fiji Water Company, LLC) obtained a 99 year lease on land atop the aquifer which led to his launch of Fiji Water five years later (Lenzer, 2009). Fiji Water is now America’s leading imported water; it has spent millions pushing not only the seemingly life-changing properties of the product itself, but also the company’s green cred and its charity work (Lenzer, 2009). Fiji Water as an American owned company, pumps freshwater from the small island nation of Fiji, and later imports it into the United States and the United Kingdom, as a high ranked bottled water (Waterway, 2008). As much as 1/3 of the Fijian population lack access to safe clean drinking water therefore, many cases of typhoid outbreaks as well as parasitic infections have gone on record due to the poor quality of their water supply. Fiji Water has the duty to act non-negligently when...
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