Is Fair and Lovely Ethical?

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The main issues encountered in the case to be discussed deal with ethics, discrimination, promotion and cultural values. In this case, an Indian company, Hindustan Lever LTD, launched a promotion campaign that relates fairness with success in a country where the color of your skin has a social meaning. By doing so, the company was explicitly saying that dark skinned people couldn’t be successful neither in their professional nor in their private lives. Even if this conception is or was part of the Indian culture, the company faced several problems regarding the way they communicated it. For the purpose of this analysis we used Kotler’s definition of business ethics which focuses on core values to be followed by companies such as responsibility, integrity, respect, trust, transparency and fairness.

We think that it is ethical to sell a product that is at best mildly effective if all the core values are met when promoting a product. A strong fact to consider is that, in order to maintain an ethical position, a company should never lie to its customers. That means for example, that it should be stated on the packaging and/or in the advertisement how and under which circumstances the product is working and what its limits are (honesty and transparency core values). All over the world, products that probably only have a minimal effect or are even harmful are sold and promoted. If we consider the selling of cigarettes, we can now read that this product is harmful for people’s health on each package sold as well as on advertisements. We assume that the customer is responsible and mature and can make his/her own decisions on whether to buy a product or not. The promotion that HLL launched for Fair and Lovely as the “miracle worker” probably was not the best approach since it could dupe the consumer regarding the true effect of the product. Since it is scientifically proven in the case that only minimal effect can be achieved, the company should rather state for...
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