Applying Duty Ethics
In the Module 4 Case, you will be applying duty ethics to the Mattel case.
Sethi, S., Veral, E., Shapiro, H., & Emelianova, O. (2011). Mattel, Inc.: Global manufacturing principles (GMP) – A life-cycle analysis of a company-based code of conduct in the toy industry. Journal of Business Ethics, 99(4), 483-517. Retrieved from ProQuest.
In a well-written, 4- to 5-page paper (not including cover and reference pages), apply Duty Ethics to the Mattel case study.
1. Briefly (1-2 paragraphs) describe what is meant by duty ethics.
2. Choose two ethical issues raised by the Mattel case (e.g., Mattel’s treatment of company employees would be a good choice of ethical issues).
3. Apply duty ethics to your two Step 2 choices. How does use of duty ethics as a lens inform the ethical nature of your two choices? Remember that duty ethics concerns duty and rights, so be sure to address both in your written analysis.
4. Be sure to include at least two sources from the library to support your discussion and analysis.
5. Be sure that you properly cite your sources using proper APA style, and use proper in-text citations.
6. Follow the guidelines in The Student Guide to Writing a High Quality Academic Paper
7. You are expected to demonstrate evidence of critical thinking – as defined in the Module 2 background materials and the grading rubric.
Your paper will be evaluated using the grading rubric.
Applying Duty Ethics
Deontology is derived from the word ‘deon’ which means ‘duty’ in Greek. The theory was proposed by Immanuel Kant, and it concerns more with what people do and not the outcome of those actions. (Wood, 2009) The theory of deontology suggests that we have a moral obligation to act according to a given set of rules and principles regardless of the outcome. The theory implies that any actions that we performed out of a sense of duty have ethical or moral worth. These actions are performed with the sole aim of doing good to make the society better. Kant came up with three criteria to be used when considering the moral worth of any action: (Wood, 2009)
Universalizability- can everyone perform it?
Human dignity- does it treat people as an end rather than a means?
Moral legislation- could all rational people adopt it as law?
Deontological theories are different from utilitarian theories in a very particular sense. In utilitarian theories, the end justifies the means. In other words, the latter aims at achieving the greatest outcome and any act that helps to realise that goal is justified. In deontology, the assumption is that some actions are morally wrong even when they lead to an excellent outcome. The foundation of deontology is based on the unique ability of human beings to think rationally and hence choose to do the right things. You cannot justify an action just because the results are good and hence the theory is non-consequentialist.
One major ethical issue that was raised by the Mattel case is the way they treated the workers. In 1997, they came up with the Global Manufacturing Principles making them the first consumer products company to show and confirm their commitment to responsible manufacturing practices. (Sethi, Veral, Shapiro, & Emelianova, 2010) The company felt that it was their duty to produce consumer products in a responsible way that would factor in the needs of all stakeholders. The administration was keen on making sure that the specifications of the GMP were enforced and they went on to create a space on the board to oversee the implementation.
The factories in China provide us with the best data on the way the company treated their workers. An audit that was conducted by ICCA showed that most of the GMP principles were neglected by factories, especially when it came to treatment of employees. In 2003, the audit officials in China found companies that used several variances to exceed the working hours limits that are stated by the law. Another review in 2007 found that four factories in China exceeded the 12-hour workday and the 72-hour workweek standards. (Sethi, Veral, Shapiro, & Emelianova, 2010) A report from China Labour Watch showed that some workers in certain factories were not receiving their fair share of overtime since the managers had devised a way to steal from them using methods like unreported working hours. (“Mattel’s Unceasing Abuse of Chinese Workers: An investigation of six Mattel supplier factories”, 2017)The GMP required employees to operate within the state-approved hours and not more than that. When the plants decided to push the workers to work longer hours, it is a contradiction to the principles of the company.
Duty ethics requires us to do what is right at all times no matter the outcome of the actions. Factory managers, contracted by Mattel, use unethical methods of treating the workers unfairly to increase their productivity at a lower cost. The end game for them was good since they were able to save on expenses, but it was carried out at the expense of the workers who should be protected by the company laws.
The second ethical issue that we observe in the Mattel case is the recalling of toys due to various factors. One recall of nearly a million toys was done because the paint on the toys contained excessive amounts of lead that were hazardous for small children. The factories in China decided to use colours that contained lead because they are easy to handle, readily available and cheap. The toys were manufactured by Lee Der, a company that had been in partnership with Mattel for fifteen years. (“Mattel: Playing with Ethics”, 2017)
The factory used the paint because it was cheaper and readily available compared to other quality paints in the industry. They were focused on the lower cost of production that they would incur instead of considering the safety of the toys they were making. The utilitarian view is evident since they did not care about the way they did it as long as they achieved the expected result, and is in direct contradiction with the theory of duty ethics.
There was more product recalls that occurred after the first as more Chinese manufacturers decided to use the lead-based paint for its distinct advantages. The factories in China were not bound by a sense of duty to do what is morally right. Instead, they were more focused on lowering the cost of producing the toys by any means possible. In duty ethics, people are required to do what is right out of their goodwill and not because it is necessary to do something. A company like Lee Der had ways of measuring the paint to gauge the lead levels, but that was never the case. Mattel had decided to outsource operations in China to companies like Lee Der, yet they did not monitor and inspect the products before they were released into the market. (“Mattel: Playing with Ethics”, 2017) It is the ethical duty of the company to ensure that the factories comply with the specifications made to ensure a quality product by monitoring their activities.
The product recall gives us the opportunity to look at another ethical practice that points towards deontology. When the company realised that the goods in the market were faulty, some had hazardous lead paint, and others had dangerous magnets that could be swallowed by kids, they were quick to recall the products and reassure many parents around the world that they were focused on ensuring high-quality products in future. The company felt morally obliged to take responsibility for the mess since it was the right thing to do despite the huge cost of recalling millions of toys. It is a real display of duty ethics since they made the right choice even though the outcome was a blow to company finances.
Kant states that we should do something
because it is the right thing to do and not to focus on the outcome of the
action. You cannot justify the actions done just because there is a positive
result yet the process is detrimental to other parties involved. The cases of
Mattel show a practical reasoning in the areas of overworking the factory
employees to increase production and use of cheap and hazardous paint to
produce the items at a lower cost. Mattel was proactive in recalling the toys,
and their actions were by the deontological theory of doing the right thing.
BBC – Ethics – Introduction to Ethics: Duty-based ethics. (2017). Bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 4 March 2017, from http://www.bbc.co.uk/ethics/introduction/duty_1.shtml
Mattel: Playing with Ethics. (2017). Doing Well by Doing Good. Retrieved 4 March 2017, from https://stakeholder13.wordpress.com/2015/03/31/mattel-playing-with-ethics/
Sethi, S., Veral, E., Shapiro, H., & Emelianova, O. (2010). Mattel, Inc.: Global Manufacturing Principles (GMP) – A Life-Cycle Analysis of a Company-Based Code of Conduct in the Toy Industry. Journal Of Business Ethics, 99(4), 483-517. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10551-010-0673-0
Wood, A. (2009). Kant’s moral religion (1st ed.). Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press.