H. B. Fuller in Honduras Analytic Essay
Glenn T. Jones
University of Redlands, Riverside Campus
When it comes to business ethics, the H.B. Fuller Company, a leading manufacturer of industrial glues, coatings and paints is one of the most esteemed organizations in the United States. Awards, honors and inclusion in various socially conscious mutual funds attest to its standing as a good corporate citizen. The two objectives in the company’s mission statement states: “The H. B. Fuller corporate mission is to be a leading and profitable worldwide formulator, manufacturer, and marketer of quality specialty chemicals, emphasizing service to customers and managed in accordance with a strategic plan. H. B. Fuller Company is committed to its responsibilities, in order of priority, to its customers, employees and shareholders. H. B. Fuller will conduct business legally and ethically, support the activities of its employees in their communities, and be a responsible corporate citizen. (Bowie, 1985, pp. 30) Clearly a “managing for stakeholders” form of business ethics, the company mission statement objectives equally emphasizes profit and the responsibilities to customers, employees and stakeholders The company’s good reputation is being compromised by their handling of a stubborn image-staining problem: the illegal abuse of its shoemaker's glue by countless children in Honduras, who have become addicted to the product's intoxicating but dangerous fumes. Some child welfare advocates and investors have demanded for years that the company add a noxious oil to its glue to discourage abusers. The company has resisted that approach. H. B. Fuller will only claim that it is doing all it reasonably can to prevent abuse. When considering a “Managing for Stakeholder” approach as defined by R. Edward Freeman, Corporate Citizenship is a recognition that a business or corporation has social, cultural and environmental responsibilities to the community in which it seeks to conduct business in, along with economic and financial responsibilities to its shareholders. Corporate citizenship may require an organization to adapt with the need for frequent, radical internal and external changes, in order to better meet its responsibilities to all of its stakeholders, establish, and maintain sustainable success for the organization and achieve long term sustainable success for the community at large. The basic idea of "managing for stakeholders" can be understood as a set of relationships among groups which have a stake in the activities that make up the business. (Freeman, 2007, pp. 46) How customers, suppliers, employees, financiers, communities and managers interact and create value that is equitable to all parties can be understood simply as good corporate citizenship that requires H. B. Fuller to consider customers, the community and in this particular case, investors in the company as equal stakeholders. As stated in the case study, it would appear that all efforts from local management has been to oppose taking any corrective action and absolve the company of any responsibility in the abuse of their product.
Whether directly or indirectly, H. B. Fuller has a responsibility to the consumers and the community that acquire their products. With the solvent used in the glue having known harmful and addictive properties, the company and all its stakeholders may have been better served by taking a pro-active strategy that would have reduced cost. The product could have been introduced to the market with the noxious mustard oil to discourage inhalation. Although there are no U.S. Federal laws that require the addition of the mustard oil to the solvent, several U.S. states require the addition. (Bowie, 1985, pp. 22) While the additional material cost of the mustard oil could increase manufacturing cost, the cost of possible product recalls, law suits and negative publicity on the brand and company reputation could have entirely...
References: Bowie, N. E. & Lenway, S. A. (1985). H. B. Fuller in Honduras: Street Children and Substance Abuse. In Donaldson, T., Werhane, P., & Van Zandt, J. (Eds) Ethical issues in business: A philosophical approach (8th ed., pp. 21-33). Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Pearson/Prentice Hall.
Freeman, R. E. (2007). Managing for Stakeholders. In Donaldson, T., Werhane, P., & Van Zandt, J. (Eds). Ethical issues in business: A philosophical approach (8th ed., pp. 39-52). Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Pearson/Prentice Hall.
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