MIHM303 Global Ethical Dilemma Assessment 2 Answer
The increasing use of single-use coffee cups to meet the increasing demand of consumers has far-fetched impacts on the world. The production of the product, from the acquisition of the raw materials to the finished item, adversely impacts the environment, majorly depletes natural resources, damages economy and ecology. The massive and rapid production of disposable coffee cups, therefore, can be considered unethical that impacts a wide range of stakeholders including local communities, governments, businesses, consumers and society. The production practices do not conform to environmental sustainability and CSR standards of companies. The use of disposable coffee cups can be mitigated by spreading awareness among general industry consumers and college-goers who will represent a majority of the workforce in the coming days, introducing discounts and other methods to inspire consumers to stop using disposable coffee cups and increasing the taxes and levies imposed on the producers or manufacturers that produce single-use coffee cups.
The 'Ecological and Social Costs of Single-use Coffee Cups' is a case study that contributes to the comprehension of how the rapid production and use of the product lead to considerable environmental degradation, depletion of natural resources and damage to the economy. The life cycle assessment of single-use coffee cups has been performed by Toor et al. (n.d.) that clarified the consequences and impacts of the use of the product on the worldwide environment and especially, on the regions where the raw materials are acquired from. The current paper is a case study that analyses the case from an ethical perspective, identifies the stakeholders that are most influenced by the ethical issue or mostly influence the ethical issue, determines the consequences of the use of single-use coffee cups on the environment, economy, as well as social and develops recommendations that may be used by worldwide entities to reduce the adverse impacts or consequences associated with the issue.
Nature of the Ethical Issue
From the analysis of the case study, it could be stated foremost that the use of single-use coffee cups to meet the demands of billions of people worldwide seems unethical due to its widespread and adverse economic, social, as well as environmental impacts. As per the definition of Remišová et al. (2019), the term 'unethical', in the context of businesses, refers to actions or activities performed by the businesses that fail to meet an acceptable standard of business practices. The effects of unethical business practices can be observed both internally and externally. In this case, the effects of the ethical issue are largely external whereby, worldwide coffee-cup manufactures are benefitting from large amounts of profitability and revenues at the expense of considerable degradation of the environment, rapid depletion of natural resources along with adverse social and economic impacts.
Facts Associated with the Ethical Issue
The utilisation of single-use coffee cups is significantly harmful to the environment. According to Toor et al. (n.d.), the production of billions of single-use copy cups significantly degrade the landfill and there are major ecological and social consequences of the product. In the case, a life-cycle assessment has been performed by the authors to realise the scale of both the social and environmental costs of single-use coffee cups and associated challenges. The raw materials used to produce the product include a paper that comes from cutting down 20 million trees annually in countries like Russia and Brazil and a polyethene layer that cannot be disposed of naturally hence, making the cups unrecyclable. The results further reveal that about 960-1000 kWh electrical power, 9000-12000kg of steam and 50 cubic meter cooling water is needed to convert one metric ton of raw materials into the single-use coffee cups and thereby, the product contributes to a major depletion of natural resources. Furthermore, the carbon emission caused by the transportation of the raw materials within the supply chain of the product further degrades air quality. The disposal of coffee cups is the major issue associated with the life-cycle of the product that leads to the generation of massive landfill wastes. In Vancouver, for instance, the landfill is degraded by almost 2.6 million paper coffee cups weekly. The cups cannot be decomposed naturally. The case reveals that within 1 year, almost 52 billion single-use coffee cups are used by coffee shops and restaurants leading to the involvement of significant costs, energy and water investment. Furthermore, given that only 1 in 400 cups is disposed of, the cost of the product is passed on to the local governments, business and environment which contributes to market failure.
Stakeholders associated with the Issue
The term ‘stakeholder’, as defined by Jones et al. (2018), refers to an entity, an individual or a group of individuals that have vested interest i.e. influence and interest toward a company/project/initiative and can either affect or be affected by the outcomes of the company. In this case, the stakeholders that can be either directly or indirectly impacted by the issue consist of the following;
- Local communities
- Local governments
As opined by Crane et al. (2019), a basic ethical tenet is that the ends or consequences of an action do not justify the means associated with the action for the attainment of the desired outcome. It is necessary for worldwide leadership in the context of organisations to focus on how the outcomes are achieved. From an ethical standpoint, the current issue that is being discussed in this case study is associated with the lacking Corporate Social Responsibility standards of the worldwide coffee-cup manufacturing firms. As opined by Liang, H. and Renneboog (2017), the corporate social responsibilities of businesses act as a moral philosophy in which, the actions expected from a company is not inclusive of only the production of reliable products at fair prices and taking care of the employees but is further connected with displaying care for the environment and enacting on social concerns. Nevertheless, the massive and rapid production of single-use coffee cups does not conform to ethical CSR approaches of the manufacturing firms. An effective CSR philosophy benefits the corporations, as well as the stakeholders. In case some stakeholders typically have little influence and priority in the context of organisational decision-making, conforming to ethical CSR is even more important. Typically, stakeholders that have little voice and priority in organisational decision making include the natural environment and community members that live near the manufacturing facilities.
Consequences of the Issue
From the analysis of the facts provided in the case, it could be understood how the production of single-use coffee cups has been deteriorating the environment. The major impacts of the use of single-use coffee cups can be observed from the massive generation of landfill wastes, the considerable use of water and energy resources, as well as cutting down millions of trees each year. Furthermore, the carbon emission and footprint caused by the transportation and production processes from the raw material to the finished product also significantly contribute to the degradation of air, soil and water quality around the production plants. However, there are other impacts as well. As revealed by Toor et al. (n.d.), the two-fold effects of the production of the cups can be observed in the fact that the cost of the non-decomposing nature of the product is passed on to the business, local governments and environment. Market failure is generated since the costs put behind the utilisation of the resources are not shared efficiently between the society members. Furthermore, the customers are provided with no economic inducement to constrain the consumption of the product leading to aggravation of the negative social consequences due to unbound consumption. Furthermore, the regions from where the raw materials are being acquired have become subjected to high threats associated with droughts, landslides and floods. Finally, it could be stated that among the indigenous population especially belonging to the regions where the raw materials are acquired from, the dependence on such resources for livelihood is reducing with the rapid depletion of the natural resources causing considerable relocation among such community members along with unsatisfactory employment in urban areas.
Identification of Relevant Rights/Duties
In the context of Australia, environmental protection is jointly supervised and administered by the local, state, territory and the National Government. The legislations govern the process of assessment, as well as, the approval of cultural concerns associated with businesses and the national environment. The territory and statement legislation for environmental protection can be applied to certain activities performed by businesses (Austrade: Australian Government, 2020). In the Australian business environment, the Sustainable Development Goals established by the United Nations Council provides a framework for CSR practices. In line with SDG 12 developed by the UN, worldwide consumption and production is a major driving force of the worldwide economy that depends on the utilisation of natural resources, as well as, the environment in manners that contribute to considerable destructive consequences on the world (United Nations Sustainable Development, 2020). Therefore, major businesses such as manufacturing and production industries that are majorly driving the worldwide economy must develop sustainable business practices along with identifying inefficient and harmful consumption practices among consumers to improve environmental outcomes. The development of sustainable business practices, as well as, responsible consumption awareness, when spread effectively among general consumers, can contribute significantly to environmental improvement due to reduced carbon footprint, ensuring efficient and only necessary use of natural resources and may assist businesses in terms of conforming to their corporate social responsibilities.
Reflection on the Application of Virtues and Consideration of Relevant Relationships
As opined by Melissen et al. (2018), in the context of businesses, virtue manifested in CSR activities must be performed as a form of responsibility of the entities to workers, offering provision to the consumers, the environment, as well as, the society. It is the responsibility of businesses to fulfil social responsibility through comprehensively meeting five fundamental pillars one of which is concerning the protection of the natural environment. Based on the findings of Maye et al. (2019), it could be stated that the lines between materialism and consumption are frequently blurred. While few virtue theorists associate their findings with consumption ethics to claim that the selection of goods to consume can become the occasion for consumers to order, as well as, prioritise moral goods into a coherent individual nature. Arguably, Maye et al. (2019); Constantinescu and Kaptein (2020), indicate that ethical consumption is not a contradiction but rather cultivates and reflects the moral character of individuals. In this context, García-de-Frutos et al. (2018) refer to sustainable consumption as the utilisation of goods, as well as, associated products that fulfil the necessities and demands of the consumers and enhances their quality of lives while, at the same time, ensuring that the consumption does not jeopardise the necessities and needs of the future generations.
An incentive that could allow major coffee chains such as Starbucks to significantly reduce the use of disposable coffee cups among consumers is inspiring the consumers to bring in their coffee cups while visiting the outlets. This could be done through several measures. One of the most relevant strategic options available to such chains is offering discounts to consumers that bring in their coffee cups during their visit to the outlets.
Another recommendation that could be relevant in the context of the general industry is the utilisation of country-wide social marketing measures such as advertising and campaigns to promote sustainable consumption of the product to enhance the awareness among the general consumers regarding the far-fetched impacts of the use of disposable coffee cups and assist movements by NGOs and social awareness campaigns that desire to make the unsustainable consumption of the single-use coffee cups socially unacceptable.
On the other hand, two recommendations can be prepared for leadership. In this context, leadership refers to nation-wide, state and local governments. One of the measures that could be implemented by such leadership in terms of reducing the issues involves spreading awareness on the education campuses of different universities within the regions. The campuses act as effective communication channels that raise the awareness levels of young adults that are preparing to enter the workforce shortly.
Another strategy that could be implemented by leadership in terms of reducing the production and manufacturing of single-use coffee cups is increasing the amount of taxes and duties levied on such products due to their large environmental footprint. An increment in the tax levels may cut the percentage of profitability of the manufacturers and producers significantly and thereby, necessitate such entities to switch to other more ethical and sustainable methods.
The analysis revealed that single-use coffee cups are unethical due to its far-fetched impacts on the community, society, environment, economy, as well as employment. It is clarified that the impacts of the use of single-use coffee cups do not only rapidly deplete natural resources such as water but can contribute significantly to increased chances of landslides, droughts and water scarcity. The recommendations that have been developed to prevent the use of the single-use coffee cups can significantly assist both the industry and the leadership in terms of switching to other ethical and more sustainable methods of production or type of products and thereby, reduce the massive adverse impacts associated with the current nature of production.