Case Project – Ethical Dilemma
SUMMARY OF FACTS: Agriculture and food industries play a very important role in the U.S. economy. Lately, the new trend of the food industry self-claimed organic and/or natural started raising some questions where your food comes from and how it is raised. Large corporations from this trend such as Whole Foods, describe in their organizational values and believes reports that consumers are realizing that organic and natural products are better for them and for the world. They claim that this type of food is safer, more nutritious and better for the environment. But is that true? The new trendy grocery stores and restaurants have been utilizing many misleading information on their marketing strategy towards consumers and profiting over them.
The majority of their claims involve animal food production and environmental impacts. Publicly, they denounce that every large-scale livestock producer is not responsible and doesn’t follow any type of animal welfare guidelines during the food production timeline. Also they support the idea that these practices are negative for the environment due to utilization of technologies and due to the size of the operations.
Based on these new grocery stores codes of conduct, they use only organic/free-range/natural/grass-fed/etc. type of merchandise because they claim these products as the most healthy, environmentally friendly and humane production systems for the present modern world.
ISSUE RAISED: Are these organic and natural food retailers being responsible and ethical when presenting facts to the general public while promoting their own products and beliefs?
CONCLUSIONS: No, based on ethical theories described in the Badaracco and Beatty books, these companies are not being ethical due to the fact that they do not utilize reliable sources of information on their marketing strategies such as unbiased peer reviewed research papers, or any type of scientific background that compares conventional and organic/free-range/natural/grass-fed production systems. In addition, no environmental or animal welfare studies are presented by these companies to backup the majority of their claims on animal production practices and environmental impacts. Therefore, they are misleading the consumers and profiting over them.
REASONING: Philosophically defined by the Aristotle theories, ethics are defined by rules of optimal conduct that would ultimately improve human well-being. This is the field that deals with the right and wrong, the good and bad of our actions. According to Machiavelli’s theories, these ethics subjects are not only related to principles but also responsibility to improve society, therefore the claims made by certain food companies may be questionable on the sense of doing the right thing and having responsibility with society matters.
An example of questionable actions by organic and natural food businesses is the utilization of vague concepts such as sustainability, organic, natural and locally grown on their marketing campaigns. During their ads, these companies commonly describe their beliefs about their own products and try to challenge and antagonize conventional modern agriculture. However, frequently it is common to find no proof or scientific data that agree with their concepts of sustainability, environmental impacts, organic practices and food safety and quality. Is it ethical to make affirmations that are not proven to be completely truthful to the society and consumers in general? Don’t these actions break the code of conduct of these companies in regards of social responsibility? Don’t they create a conflict of interest by doing that? Aren’t these actions controversial with their organizational values?
Ethics in modern agriculture like in any other segment is a very complex subject. Some unethical situations in agriculture can be considered black and white, such as engaging in fraud with farming