Kantian and Utilitarian Theories
Kantian and Utilitarian Theories
Applying philosophical concepts to social issues can test the relevance of philosophy in contemporary society. Such application may also help to resolve present-day social issues, as philosophy can draw light on moral concerns. In this paper, the Kantian and Utilitarian moral theories are applied to the Nestle advertising controversy which began in 1970, and which lingers until today. An inquiry into the Kantian and Utilitarian ethical theories shall be made, similarities and differences pointed out, and an analysis done on how these theories may have found relevance in the stance of the advocates of breastfeeding opposed to the alleged unfair advertising practices of Nestle. The Nestle case study
Nestle is a corporation engaged in home products processing and marketing worldwide. In the mid-1860s, it developed an infant-food formula as a supplement and/or substitute to breast-feeding. It then claimed humanitarian achievement after the formula was used by relief organizations such as the Red Cross to feed starving infants in refugee camps. In third world countries, the Nestle product has also been used as an alternative to less nutritious local infant feeding substitutes. And today, Nestle is the third largest home food company in the world with gross sales of nearly US$39 billion a year. But the Nestle success story is marred by controversy as the company has been charged for gross violations of a World Health Organization Code that affected both first world and third world countries. The controversy first emerged when in 1970, during a UN sponsored Bogota meeting on infant feeding, a Protein Advisory Group (PAG) expressed concern about a worldwide decline in breast feeding. PAG also sought examination of undue marketing-and-advertising of infant formula, which may have been the cause of this decline. Taking the cue for a sensational story, media made follow-up reports on unfair, dishonest and deceptive advertising by Nestle (village visits by health care dressed representatives, free samples to new mothers, free or low cost products, and improper labels) allegedly designed for the adoption of bottle-feeding instead of breast-feeding by mothers. Outrage against Nestle came to a high point when a Caribbean Food and Nutrition Institute attested that millions of infants suffered ailments or death due to bottle-feeding. The institute, however, did not clarify whether the cause was the infant formula or improper sterilization-and-storage of baby bottles and feed. Heightened indignation against Nestle resulted in a campaign led by the Infant Formula Action Coalition (INFACT) to boycott Nestle products globally. Subsequently, the World Health Organization (WHO) imposed a Code of Marketing of Breast milk Substitutes to prohibit advertising which discourages breastfeeding. After years in which Nestle seemed to comply with the Code, the Action for Corporate Accountability charged Nestle with non-compliance. Boycott of Nestle was again instigated, bolstered by the United Methodist Church’s study that Nestlé’s advertising practices (free supplies to hospitals, stepped up donation to counter Ivory Coast government’s promotion of breastfeeding) were designed solely to increase sales, thus violating the WHO code. Today, the issue is unresolved due to data issued by UNICEF that 1.5 million infants, who are not breast-fed, die each year. This study was used by the International Baby Food Action Network and its affiliates by accusing Nestle and other infant-formula companies of violating the WHO marketing code. The situation aggravated when a 2003 British Medical Journal reported that 90 percent of health providers were ignorant of the WHO code, while two-thirds of mothers using infant-feed formula were not advised on the benefits of breast-feeding. The Kantian theory on the moral issue...
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