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What is morality? Morality can be defined as the principles concerning whether an action is right or wrong, or, good or bad. It is important to note that, morality can be socially or even culturally objective. For example, many Americans view abortion as a difficult decision that must be made by an expecting mother for the better good of her life and the potential life of her baby, yet others see abortion as illegally murdering an unborn child. On another hand, China’s views on abortion are on the complete opposite side of the spectrum. It is not until recently that China abandoned its One Child Policy (Jian, 2013).
When discussing the moral good of one’s decisions philosophers utilize three main ethical theories to assess a choice or action. These ethical theories are; John Stuart Mill’s Utilitarianism, Immanuel Kant’s Deontology, and Aristotle’s Virtue Ethics. Although many times these theories may come to the same conclusion, they arrive there by in different paths.
Aristotle’s theory of Virtue Ethics revolves around building habits of good behavior that we develop through practice (Fisher, 2015). With Virtue Ethics, you should strive to live at the Golden Mean. In other words, we should ensure that our actions or behaviors are not at the extreme of excess or deficiencies, that they simply fall somewhere near the middle.
The Deontology theory revolves around one’s moral duty. Kant’s theory insists that we should never treat people as a tool that we utilize for our own benefit. People should be treated as beings that have value in and of themselves (Fisher, 2015).
Utilitarianism by John Stuart Mill is a theory that ensures the greatest amount of good for the greatest number of people. In this theory, the most morally correct answer to a problem or dilemma is the outcome that brings the greatest happiness to the largest group. With this said, the morally correct choice may not be good for one or some and could have very severe consequences for the minority.
One ethical dilemma faced by the Starbucks Corporation that I would like to discuss is the rising price associated with ethically sourced coffee beans. Although I do not believe this is morally just, if we are to only utilize the Utilitarianism Ethical Theory to decide what the Starbucks Corporation should do in this situation then we must first review the facts; 22,000 stores in 66 different countries, 30,000,000 customers a week, 7,000 hand crafted beverage and/or food offerings to customers every minute of everyday (Starbucks, 2015). If we are to only evaluate what is good for the greatest number of people we could conclude that serving the same product for less would provide the greatest good for the greatest number of people.
If Starbucks were to remove itself from the many extremely expensive extra programs that it is a leader of within the coffee production business worldwide, then the overhead costs for the coffee they purchase would be greatly reduced. This could translate into reduced prices at the cash register and subsequently affect more people in a positive manner, providing a greater utility to many more customers than coffee farmers worldwide.
Jian, M. (May 21, 2013). China’s Brutal One-Child Policy. Retrieved from: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/22/opinion/chinas-brutal-one-child-policy.html?_r=0
Starbucks. (2015). Starbucks Financial Performance. Retrieved from: https://news.starbucks.com/news/starbucks-2015-annual-meeting-of-shareholders
2nd response following instructions listed above
Virtue ethics, “is the view that morality is grounded in the virtuous character traits that people acquire.” (Fieser, 2015) Virtue is like a behavior/ skill that can be practiced and learned. This is about our actions and the exercise of moderation relating to our actions. The idea is that finding a middle ground between extremes delivers us to virtue.
The virtue of temperance is to enjoy lots of things in moderate amounts, without overindulging on the one hand, or completely not living on the other.
The virtue of courage is to respect the dangers present whilst overcoming fears when appropriate.
Deontology, is also known as duty theory. “The idea behind duty theory is that we are all born with basic moral principles or guidelines embedded in us, and we use these to judge the morality of people’s actions.” (Fieser, 2015)
One approach is that we have a “long catalog of instinctive obligations (Fieser, 2015.) These are a basic, moral values that act as a universal guide to tell us instinctively right from wrong.
The second approach is referred to as the golden rule, a single guiding principle, “I should do to others what I would want them to do to me.”
An action is morally right if the consequences of that action are more favorable than unfavorable to everyone;there is an emphasis on the consequences of our actions to guide our moral judgements.
“Cost-benefit analysis is the distinguishing feature of the moral theory of utilitarianism.”(Fieser, 2015.) This means that if the consequences of something are better than if that something didn’t happen. In other words, weighing the good against the bad regarding the consequences of an action.
Another element is that there is a focus on the benefits felt by all, the good consequences for everyone, “the greatest good for the greatest number of people.“(Fieser, 2015.)
A large number of coffee farmers are going out of business, more so than they have seen before. It is not just a problem for the farmers but it is a social problem that stems from over production. Brazil, Vietnam are examples of this. This problem affects farmers globally – consequences of supply and demand across the industry have been extreme.
Buying Practices –coffee and farmer equity practices that help build a sustainable long-term business model for the farmers. Sustainable way to buy coffee in the future. They worked with NGO’S to come up with a plan that was socially responsible and environmentally responsible. It involves Starbucks paying a fair price for the coffee, economic transparency meaning that Starbucks pay a premium to ensure that the farmers, are paid and that they know what they are paid in a fair way. They demonstrate social responsibility by ensuring the farmer and pickers are paid fairly, fed and have access to healthcare also. Environmentally, they are ensuring that trees are not cut down for the farming, that streams and waste water are separated, that chemicals are not used. The outcome is that they establish and maintain a fair and sustainable business model for the farmers and across the industry. Profitability and social responsibility work together in Starbucks eyes.
“Cost-benefit analysis is the distinguishing feature of the moral theory of utilitarianism.”(Fieser, 2015.) This means that if the consequences of something are better than if that something didn’t happen. In other words, weighing the good against the bad regarding the consequences of an action. By applying this characteristic of Utilitarianism, Starbucks have weighed the cost-benefit analysis of this situation. In doing so they can see that the coffee industry is in a crisis and that the consequences of their action are better than no action. Here they seem to be focusing on the long-term economic advantages to theory plan and accepting a short- term loss to pay the premium prices and to help get these farmers set up in a sustainable manner.
Secondly, there is a focus on the benefits felt by all, the good consequences for everyone, meaning “the greatest good for the greatest number of people.” (Fieser, 2015.) In this situation, Starbucks are looking at the whole coffee industry, recognizing the crisis, recognizing their part in the wider ethical problem and ultimately looking to help the greatest number of people.
Tabberer, C. [ProfTab @ OkWU]. (2010, May 5). Starbucks social responsibility video [Video file]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/Nly_OdvORQY
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