H.B. Fuller Case Study: Substance Abuse in the Street Children of Honduras

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Organizations are continually faced with ethical dilemmas. Though each dilemma may vary in degree of impact they will have on a company, it is essential that a company establish a wise solution to the problem. As we have gathered from this course, there are a large variety of views and theories on how to address these problems in the most ethical way. In this paper I will discuss the H.B. Fuller case in Honduras: Street children and drug abuse and examine the ethical challenges the company was presented with. I will further apply different theories and philosophical views on the decisions made. Part I: Description of the Case

H.B. Fuller Company is a St. Paul Minnesota based manufacturer of adhesives, sealants, and coatings used for a variety of different packaging and manufacturing applications. (H.B. Fuller Company, 2011) Kativo Chemical Industries, LTD (primarily a paint company) was acquired by H.B. Fuller Company, and in the early 1980’s they decided to enter into the adhesive business market in Latin America. Kativo felt like the adhesive market in Latin America lacked competitors, could be profitable and allow them to gain market share. In addition to this, they only hired local people with hopes of creating jobs and helping to improve the standard of living. “Resistol was the brand name for all adhesive products including water-based school glue”, in Honduras (Donaldson, 2008).

Unfortunate to Kativo and H.B. Fuller, Resistol became the inhalant drug of choice among street children in Honduras. Since Resisol had gained such a stigma, and inhalants had become so popular among children in general, the common inhalant abusers on the street had become to be known by locals as “Resistoleros”. The unfortunate local slang officially became bad press when it got to the point where Honduran newspapers (1983) started using the brand name “Resistol as a synonym for the drug, and the adjective Resistolero as a synonym for the drug addict” (Donaldson, 2008).

For obvious reasons, the bad press was causing more than just an issue with image of Kativo and H.B. Fuller. Humberto Luarach (“Beto”) was the Vice President of Kativo at the time and was responsible for addressing the issue. Beto worked hard to emphasize the glue sniffing among Honduran children was not caused by something in the product the company produced, but was a social problem. Social activists that worked with street children with glue sniffing addictions suggested that the company add oil of mustard, allyl isothiocyanate, to the product to prevent its abuse. “They argued that a person attempting to sniff glue with oil of mustard added would find it too powerful to tolerate”. In response to this and the continuously growing publicity about the “Resistoleros”, Beto contacted H.B. Fuller’s U.S. headquarters and asked them to examine the practicality of adding oil of mustard to their products as a solution. Toxicology reports from the corporate industrial staff at H.B. Fuller reported that “oil of mustard was a cancer-causing agent in tests run with rats” (Donaldson, 2008).

By 1986, additional toxicology reports provided more data on health hazards caused by oil of mustard, beyond being a carcinogen. Beto started collecting information on educational programs to prevent drug abuse. He met with the president of Solvent Abuse Foundation for Education (SAFE) to discuss how they implemented and developed programs in Mexico. He was convinced that the solution to this problem needed to be directed away from trying to change the product and toward changing human behavior. He believed oil of mustard had life-threatening dangers and “that glue sniffing was a social problem” (Donaldson, 2008).

Beto continued his efforts and in...
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