Good Corporation, Bad Corporation
Guillermo C. Jimenez
Elizabeth Pulos
SUNY Fashion Institute of Technology
Good Corporation,
Bad Corporation:
Corporate Social
Responsibility in the
Global Economy
Good Corporation,
Bad Corporation
Corporate Social
Responsibility in the Global
Guillermo C. Jimenez
Elizabeth Pulos
Open SUNY Textbooks
©2016 Guillermo Jimenez and Elizabeth Pulos
ISBN: 978-1-942341-25-3
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About the Textbook
This textbook provides an innovative, internationally-oriented approach to the teaching
of corporate social responsibility (CSR) and business ethics. Drawing on case studies involving
companies and countries around the world, the textbook explores the social, ethical
and business dynamics underlying CSR in areas such as: global warming, genetically-modified
organisms (GMO) in food production, free trade and fair trade, anti-sweatshop and
living-wage movements, organic foods and textiles, ethical marketing practices and codes,
corporate speech and lobbying, and social enterprise. The book is designed to encourage
students and instructors to challenge their own assumptions and prejudices by stimulating
a class debate based on each case study.
About the Authors
Guillermo C. Jimenez, J.D. is a tenured professor in the department of International
Trade and Marketing at the Fashion Institute of Technology (S.U.N.Y.) in New York City.
He also holds adjunct teaching appointments at NYU Stern Graduate School of Business,
Brooklyn Law School, Iona College (New York) and at the International School of Management
in Paris, France. Prof. Jimenez teaches courses on international law, international
management, multicultural management, and international corporate citizenship. He is the
author of four previous books, including: the ICC Guide to Export-Import, 4th Edition
(ICC Publishing, 2012), the first book on the new legal discipline of fashion law, Fashion
Law: A Guide for Designers, Fashion Executives and Attorneys (Fairchild Publishing), and a
multi-disciplinary review of political psychology, Red Genes Blue Genes: Exposing Political Irrationality
(Autonomedia, 2009). Prof. Jimenez received his B.A. from Harvard and his J.D.
from the University of California at Berkeley. As an international policy and legal expert, he
has lectured in over 35 countries and collaborated with such intergovernmental organizations
as the United Nations, World Trade Organization and European Commission.
Elizabeth Pulos is Senior Manager of Compliance Administration at Worldwide
Responsible Accredited Production (WRAP), a nonprofit dedicated to promoting ethical
manufacturing around the world through certification and education. She has a BS in
International Trade and Marketing from the Fashion Institute of Technology, where she
was president of the CSR Club and recipient of the World Trade Week, New Times Group
and PVH scholarships, as well as the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence.
Prior to FIT, Elizabeth studied Music Performance at Mount Royal Conservatory and
Environmental Science at the University of Calgary. A classically trained violist, she has
performed in New York, Canada, Europe, the UK and Australia.
Reviewer’s Notes
Guillermo Jimenez’s Good Corporation, Bad Corporation is a fair-minded and thoroughly
readable introduction to the concept of Corporate Social Responsibility. It is intended for
students in business management and economics courses, but I think it is accessible to any
college student in any discipline with an interest in the subject.
Chapter by chapter, students are encouraged not merely to master the information but
to engage with it, to think critically about the real-world complexities of business ethics and
to grasp competing rationales on both sides of tangled moral dilemmas. Rather than deal
with abstractions, Jimenez walks the reader through the ways in which questions of CSR
have actually played themselves out. There is no preaching or tendentiousness here. There
is only respect for each student’s capacity to form intelligent opinions that are grounded in
reason rather than in emotion.
Reviewer: Professor Mark Goldblatt, Chair, Department of Educational Skills,
Fashion Institute of Technology (SUNY)
About Open SUNY Textbooks
Open SUNY Textbooks is an open access textbook publishing initiative established
by State University of New York libraries and supported by SUNY Innovative Instruction
Technology Grants. This pilot initiative publishes high-quality, cost-effective course
resources by engaging faculty as authors and peer-reviewers, and libraries as publishing
service and infrastructure.
The pilot launched in 2012, providing an editorial framework and service to authors,
students and faculty, and establishing a community of practice among libraries.
Participating libraries in the 2012-2013 pilot include SUNY Geneseo, College at
Brockport, College of Environmental Science and Forestry, SUNY Fredonia, Upstate
Medical University, and University at Buffalo, with support from other SUNY libraries and
SUNY Press. The 2013-2014 pilot will add more titles in 2015-2016.
Chapter 1
Corporations and their Social Responsibility 1
Chapter 2
Debating CSR: Methods and Strategies 20
Chapter 3
Climate Change 39
Chapter 4
Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) 53
Chapter 5
Social Entrepreneurship 68
Chapter 6
Marketing Ethics: Selling Controversial Products 84
Chapter 7
Organic Food: Health Benefit or Marketing Ploy? 97
Chapter 8
Fair Trade 109
Chapter 9
CSR and Sweatshops 123
Chapter 10
Corruption in International Business 133
Chapter 11
Corporations and Politics: After Citizens United 147
Chapter 12
Animal Rights and CSR 163
Appendix A
Nuclear Energy Is Our Best Alternative for Clean Affordable Energy
by Emily Campchero 176
Appendix B
Friend, Foe, or Frock: Animal Rights in Fashion
by Briana N. Laemel 195
Appendix C
Monsanto Company and Its Effect on Farmers
by Akiko Kitamura 206
Appendix D
To What Extent Are Small-Scale Coffee Producers in Latin America the
Primary Beneficiaries of Fair Trade? by Larissa Zemke 216
Corporations and their Social Responsibility|1
Chapter 1
Corporations and their Social
Understanding Corporations and CSR
The subject of this book is corporate social responsibility (CSR), a broad term that refers
generally to the ethical role of the corporation in society. Before we define CSR more
precisely and before we explore in depth a number of case studies that illustrate aspects of
the ethical role of corporations, we first need to understand exactly what corporations are,
why they exist, and why they have become so powerful.
Today, the global role of corporations rivals that of national or local governments. In
2000, it was reported that, of the 100 largest economic organizations in the world, 51
were corporations and 49 were countries.1
General Motors, Walmart, Exxon, and Daimler
Chrysler all ranked higher than the nations of Poland, Norway, Finland and Thailand
(in terms of economic size, comparing corporate revenues with national gross domestic
product, or GDP). This trend has continued, and for the past decade, 40 to 50 of the world’s
100 largest economic organizations have been corporations, with the rest being national
economies. In 2012, Walmart was the twenty-fifth largest economic organization in the
world, putting it ahead of 157 countries.2
For corporate employees, as for citizens living in communities dominated by large
corporations, the corporation is arguably the most important form of social organization.
For people such as corporate executives and shareholders, whose lives depend directly on
corporations, it is not surprising that company politics often are considered more relevant
than national or local politics. Corporations are also a major part of the daily lives of the
world’s citizens and consumers. For devoted fans of iconic brands like Nike, Apple, Mercedes,
or Louis Vuitton, the corporation can occupy a psychological niche very much like
that of a member of the family. Indeed, if many teenagers today were forced to choose
between an iPhone and a memorable night out celebrating their parents’ anniversary, the
parents would likely celebrate alone. Similarly, those parents might also be loath to part
with their cherished products. Dad would not easily say goodbye to his Chevrolet Corvette
or Bose stereo, and Mom might not be easily persuaded to part with her Yamaha piano or
Rossignol skis.
At the opposite extreme, for citizens who have been harmed physically or financially
by corporations—like the Louisiana or Alaska residents whose beaches were fouled by
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Corporations and their Social Responsibility|2
massive oil spills, or the thousands of small investors who found their life savings wiped out
by the Ponzi schemes of Bernie Madoff ’s investment company—the corporation can seem
as dangerous as an invading army, or as destructive as an earthquake.
Despite their vast social role, corporations remain poorly understood by the world’s
citizens. While school children everywhere are expected to study the structure and history
of their nation’s government, they are not similarly taught to appreciate the functions,
motivations, and inner workings of corporations. Let us begin with a brief review of the
nature of corporations.
BP oil rig explosion, photo by United States Coast Guard (2010, public domain).
Figure 1.1 The 2010 explosion of a British Petroleum (BP) oil rig off the coast of Louisiana, the
cause of the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history.
Why Do Corporations Exist?
There were no corporations in ancient Egypt, Greece, or Rome; or in imperial China
or Japan; or among the precolonial kingdoms of the Zulu or Ashanti. The Aztecs and Incas
had no corporations, nor did the Sioux, Cherokee, or Navajo. It is true that in some classical
and traditional societies there were certain forms of communal and religious organizations
that anticipated the organizational capacities of corporations, but strictly speaking, they
were not corporations.
Corporations are a relatively modern social innovation, with the first great corporations
dating from about 1600. Since then, the growth of corporations has been phenomenal.
What explains it? Why has the corporate structure been so successful, profitable, and powerful?
Here are a few of the distinguishing characteristics of corporations.
Corporations are Creatures of Law
The first point to make about corporations is that they are not informal organizations
or assemblies. In order to exist at all, corporations must be authorized by state or national
laws. In their daily operations, corporations are regulated by a specific set of laws. Every
country has laws that stipulate how corporations can be created; how they must be managed;
how they are taxed; how their ownership can be bought, sold, or transferred; and
how they must treat their employees. Consequently, most large corporations have large
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legal and government affairs departments. Since the laws and rules that may constrain
corporations are written and enforced by the government, most corporations consider it of
vital importance to seek influence over governmental regulators and lawmakers. In most
countries, the very largest corporations have privileged access to top decision makers. The
extent and reach of corporate influence over governments is one of the most controversial
aspects of corporate existence.
Corporations Raise Capital for Major Undertakings
The first great benefit of corporations is that they provide an organized vehicle for
pooling cash and capital from a large number of investors so that they can undertake major
enterprises. Thus, one great stimulus to the growth of corporations was the rapid growth
of international trade between 1400 and 1700 CE. In that era, sending a large vessel across
the oceans was a major financial and logistical undertaking, which was also extremely risky;
ships were often lost in storms. These early commercial ventures required such large capital
investments that, at first, funding them was only within the reach of royalty. American
schoolchildren are taught that the legendary explorer Christopher Columbus needed the
royal patronage of Queen Isabella of Spain to support the voyages that led to the “discovery”
of the New World. However, as new ocean trading routes were established and the
vast potential for profits from trading spices became known, the first modern corporations
were formed: the English East India Company, chartered in 1600, and its archrival, the
Dutch East India Company, chartered in 1602. These companies are considered the world’s
first multinational corporations, and they possessed most of the hallmarks of corporate
structure that we see today.
Corporations and Other Business Structures
Not all businesses or companies are public corporations. For example, in the US, it is
legal to operate a business in your own name (this is called a sole proprietorship) or with
partners (a partnership). Corporations also come in a bewildering array of forms. Thus, in
the US, we have C corporations, S corporations, benefit corporations (also B corporations), and
limited liability companies (LLCs). In the UK, the term company is preferred to corporation,
and we will notice that the names of most large UK companies followed by the designation
plc or PLC (public limited company), as in Rolls-Royce plc, while smaller companies often
have the designation Ltd (private limited company). In France, large companies are usually
designated SA (société anonyme), while smaller ones may be known as SARL (société à responsabilité
limité). In Germany, large companies are designated AG (Aktiengesellschaft),
while smaller ones are known as GmbH (Gesellschaft mit beschränkter Haftung). In Japan,
the corresponding terms are KK (kabushiki kaisha) and YK (yūgen kaisha).
All of these terms define two basic aspects of corporations: 1) their limited liability
(which applies to all corporations), and 2) their status as a public or private company. Public
companies are allowed to sell their shares on public stock markets and tend to be the larger
type of company.
The Importance of Limited Liability
Why aren’t all businesses sole proprietorships or partnerships, instead of corporations?
The answer is found in the concept of liability, which refers to the risk of loss for debts
incurred by the business, or for damages caused by the business.
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If you start a business as a sole proprietor or via a partnership, you (and/or your partners)
are personally liable for any debts or damage that can be attributed to the particular
business. Let us say that you have $1 million in assets and your good friend has $2 million
in assets. Together, you agree to invest $250,000 each in a pizza delivery business (the
business will start with $500,000 worth of capital). Unfortunately, in the first month of
operation, one of your drivers negligently causes a car accident and severely injures a family
driving in another car. The family sues you for their injuries and they obtain a court judgment
ordering you to pay $3 million in compensation. Even though you had intended to
invest only $250,000 in the business, now your entire fortune and that of your friend are
likely to be wiped out in satisfying that court judgment. The same sort of result could arise
if your business ran up $3 million in debt that it was unable to pay back. Thus, the founder
of a sole proprietorship exposes his/her entire personal assets to the risk that the assets will
be seized to satisfy liabilities incurred by the business.
The result can be quite different for a corporation. One of the principal advantages of
a corporation, from an investor’s point of view, is that the corporation provides a legal a
“shield” from liability. A shareholder of a corporation only risks the stock that the shareholder
owns. The shareholder’s personal assets are not in jeopardy. When a corporation
suffers an adverse legal judgment and does not have sufficient funds to satisfy the judgment,
the corporation simply goes bankrupt. The party or parties who have been injured cannot
sue the owners—the shareholders—of the corporation because the corporation acts as a
shield from liability.
Why does society allow the shareholders of a corporation to retreat behind the corporate
shield, while we do not allow the same for owners of a so-called mom-and-pop
business in the form of a sole proprietorship? The main purpose of the liability-shield is to
encourage investment in corporations. People are more willing to invest in a corporation
(by acquiring stock) because they need not fear that their personal assets can be seized to
satisfy the business’s debts or liabilities. The underlying implication is that corporations and
corporate investment provide important benefits for society, which explains why governments
have been willing to adopt laws that protect and encourage corporate ownership. As
many U.S. states learned in the nineteenth century, it can make sound economic sense to
attract large corporations because they often become major employers and taxpayers. Corporations
may enhance the ability of the local economy to compete with foreign economies
that are supported by the productivity of their own corporations.
In many instances the ability of corporations to retreat behind the corporate shield
has been controversial. For example, several major airlines (notably American Airlines)
have been accused of choosing to declare bankruptcy over finding a way to pay high wages
to their pilots and cabin personnel.3
The airlines were attacked by labor unions as having
used the bankruptcy as a tactic to avoid meeting the union’s demands for fair wages. Such
corporations are able to benefit from an option provided by US bankruptcy law, known as
Chapter 11 reorganization, which allows them to enter bankruptcy temporarily. The courts
appoint a trustee to run the corporation, and the trustee is empowered to take any actions
necessary to reduce the corporation’s debts, including revoking labor agreements with
employees. Such corporations can later “emerge” from bankruptcy with fewer employees or
with employees earning lower salaries.
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Corporations Permit Wealth Creation and
Speculation in Stocks
While all corporations possess limited liability, not all of them are permitted to raise
money in the stock market or have their shares traded in stock markets. Here, we find the
important distinction between public corporations, which may have their shares traded on
stock markets, and private corporations, which may not have their shares traded on stock
As a rule, large corporations and multinational corporations choose to do business as
public corporations because big companies have such enormous capital needs that they may
best raise funds by placing stock for sale in public stock markets. However, this is not always
the case; there are some very large corporations that choose to remain private, which means
that they raise money directly from investors rather than from making stock available on
stock markets.
On the whole, ownership of a corporate interest in the form of stocks is more freely and
easily transferable than ownership of an interest in a sole proprietorship or partnership. If
you want to sell a mom-and-pop store, you generally have to sell the whole business; you
cannot sell a small portion when you need to raise money.
If you are one of the members of a partnership and you want to sell your share, you
will generally have to get prior approval from the other partners; needing to do so may
discourage possible investors because they may not want to go to the trouble of seeking approval
from your partners. However, if you inherit a thousand shares of stock in Apple from
your wealthy aunt (which, in 2013, would have had an approximate value of $420,000),
and you find that you need extra money, you can sell one hundred shares (or about $42,000
worth). Such a transaction is easy because there are lots of investors eager to own Apple
shares and you do not need anyone’s approval. This ease of transferability also encourages
people to invest in stock instead of in other businesses, because it is so easy to sell corporate
stock as needed.
When a corporation grows and/or becomes more profitable, the shareholders benefit
financially in two ways. First, the corporation will often distribute a portion of its profits
to the shareholders in the form of dividends, a certain annual payment per share of stock.
Second, if a corporation is growing rapidly and is expected to be very profitable in the
future, more investors will want to own its stock and the price of that stock will increase.
Thus, ownership of stock is an investment vehicle that provides many advantages over
other types of investments. For one thing, you can own stock without having to personally
take part in the management of the company. In addition, you can sell all or part of your
ownership when you need the funds. Finally, if the corporation is very successful, it will not
only pay a steady revenue stream—through dividends—but your shares will become more
valuable over time.
The advantages of stock ownership as an investment vehicle explains the growth of the
world’s great stock exchanges, such as the New York Stock Exchange or the Hong Kong
Stock Exchange. Stock exchanges are like enormous flea markets for stock, because you
can either buy or sell stock there. Unlike the goods available in ordinary markets, though,
the price of stocks fluctuates constantly, literally minute by minute. A stock that was worth
$10 last year may now be worth as much as $1000 or as little as $0.10. Thus, stock markets
are also somewhat like casinos or lotteries, because they allow investors to speculate on the
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Speculation has its pros and cons. The potential for wealth creation through stock
ownership has spawned an important industry that employs hundreds of thousands of
people and generates vast profits: financial services. Stock brokerages, investment banks,
and trading houses have arisen to provide expert guidance and services to investors.
American colleges and universities have developed a highly collaborative and perhaps
even symbiotic relationship with the financial services industry. For one thing, since there
are many jobs and professional occupations in financial services, virtually all universities
offer courses and majors in finance or financial economics, and many also have graduate
business schools that prepare students for careers in the financial services industry.
Perhaps equally importantly, most colleges and universities depend on private and
charitable donations to help defray the cost of running the institution and, consequently, to
keep tuition rates and fees lower (although many students will find it hard to imagine how
tuition could be any higher). When wealthy individuals and corporations make donations
or charitable contributions to colleges and universities, they often do so by giving corporate
stock. Even when they make a cash donation, the university may find that it is most
financially convenient to use that cash to acquire corporate stock. As a result, the largest
universities have amassed vast holdings of corporate stock, among other investments. The
financial resources of a university are often held in the form of a special trust known as an
endowment. Universities prefer not to sell off parts of the endowment but rather seek to
cover costs by using the interest and dividends generated by the endowment.
At times, the corporate holdings of universities have become quite controversial. For
example, in the 1970s and 1980s, a growing student movement called on universities to
divest (to sell all their stock) in any corporations that did business with the racist apartheid
regime that controlled South Africa at that time. Many commentators believe that it was
this pressure on corporations that led to the fall of the apartheid regime and the election of
South Africa’s first black president, Nelson Mandela.
Corporations Can Have Perpetual Existence
It is possible but rare for family-owned businesses to remain sole proprietorships for
several generations; more commonly, they eventually become corporations, or they are sold
or transferred to a new business operator. Very often, a small business is sold when the
founder dies, because the founder’s children or heirs either do not want to work in the
family business or are not as gifted in that business as was the founder. Even in successful,
family-owned businesses where a child or relative of the founder inherits the business, it
still happens that after a generation or two, no further family members are qualified (or
wish) to join the business, and the business must be sold.
However, corporations are structured from the outset to have a potentially perpetual
existence, because corporations do business through their officers and executives rather than
through their owners. Although it is possible for owners to have dual roles as shareholders
and as executives, it is not necessary. One common scenario is for the founder of the corporation
to act as its chief executive officer (CEO) until such time as the corporation becomes
so large and successful that the shareholders prefer to transfer management responsibility
to an executive with specific professional experience in running a large corporation.
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Corporations and their Social Responsibility|7
Disadvantages of the Corporate Form
Separation of Ownership and Management
One potential disadvantage of the corporate form (from the point of view of its
founders) is that, as the corporation grows, the original founders may lose control and even
be pushed out of the corporation by newcomers. This happened to Steve Jobs, the legendary
cofounder of Apple, who was pushed out of his leadership role in 1985 by Apple’s board
of directors, only to return in the mid-1990s and retake his role as CEO. More recently,
in 2013, George Zimmer, the founder of the apparel retailer Men’s Wearhouse, was terminated
as chairman of the board by his own board of directors. This situation can arise
because, as a company grows, the founders may be tempted to part with some portion of
their equity by selling stock to new investors. Corporations are ultimately controlled by the
board of directors, who are voted into office by the shareholders. If a founder allows his or
her share of corporate stock to drop beneath 50%, then the founder will no longer be able
to elect a majority of the board of directors, and may become subject to termination as an
officer by the board. The board of directors is thus a sort of committee that controls the
fate of the corporation, and it does this principally by choosing a CEO and supervising the
CEO’s performance.
Dual Taxation
Although the tremendous growth in the number and size of corporations, and their
ever-increasing social role, is due in part to their advantages as an investment vehicle, there
are some financial disadvantages worth mentioning. One of the most important is so-called
dual taxation, which refers to the practice in most countries of taxing corporate profits
twice: once when the corporation declares a certain amount of profit, and again when the
corporation distributes dividends to shareholders. The complexity of corporate tax regulations
is such that even small corporations must frequently employ specialized accountants
and attorneys to handle their tax returns.
Quarterly Financial Reporting for Publicly Traded
Another disadvantage applies only to publicly traded corporations. Although all corporations
are subject to a number of government regulations, the highest degree of regulation
applies to public corporations, which raise capital by selling stock in stock markets. Large
corporations are often willing to submit to these burdensome regulations because there are
strong benefits to being traded on a stock exchange, the most important of which is the
ability to raise a great deal of initial funding when the stock is first made available for trade.
This first public sale of stock is known in the US an initial public offering or IPO. In two
famous recent examples, Google raised $1.67 billion with its IPO in 2004, and Facebook
raised $18 billion with its IPO in 2012.
Despite the allure of additional financing, a company that is traded on a stock market
must make a great deal of financial information publicly available, usually on a quarterly
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basis, four times per year. This obligation can be quite onerous because it requires the
corporation to employ a number of internal accountants as well as outside auditors. In
addition, the information that is publicly revealed can be of strategic value to the corporation’s
competitors. Moreover, the need to make frequent quarterly reports on the company’s
ongoing profitability can have a negative impact on corporate strategy, because executives
may become fixated on short-term goals while neglecting long-term goals. In light of these
disadvantages, it is not surprising that some public corporations decide to take their shares
off the stock markets in a process that is known as going private, which is the opposite of
an IPO. Other corporations simply avoid going public in the first place. Thus, there are also
some very large corporations, such as the multi–billion-dollar engineering firm Bechtel,
which prefer to remain private even though they could raise investment capital with an
IPO. Such companies prefer to raise capital by other means to avoid the requirements of
quarterly earnings reports and therefore not revealing financial information to competitors.
Source: Toms Shoes, photo by Vivianna Love (CC BY 2.0, 2009)
Figure 1.2 A well-worn pair of Toms Shoes; Toms gives away free shoes to a poor child for every
pair it sells.
Corporate Social Responsibility
In this book, we will make continual reference to the concept of corporate social responsibility,
but it is important to realize that CSR is an evolving concept that can be analyzed
from multiple perspectives. The term CSR may be used quite differently depending on
whether a given speaker is looking at it from the point of view of a corporation, a government,
a charity sponsored by the corporation, a citizen employed by the corporation, a
citizen who has been harmed by the corporation, or an activist group protesting abuses of
corporate power. Let us review key concepts and terms related to CSR, starting with CSR
CSR: Definition
We define CSR simply and broadly as the ethical role of the corporation in society.
Corporations themselves often use this term in a narrower, and less neutral, form. When
corporations have a director of CSR or a committee in charge of CSR, or when they men-
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Corporations and their Social Responsibility|9
tion CSR prominently in their mission statements, they are invariably using the term to
mean “corporate actions and policies that have a positive impact on society.” Corporations
refer most frequently to CSR when they speak of civic organizations they support, or to
corporate environmental or social policies.
One related term here is corporate “compliance.” Not only are large corporations subjected
to a host of governmental regulations, many of which have social objectives (such as
avoidance of discrimination, corruption, or environmental damage), but many corporations
also have set up internal guidelines. In order to make sure that a corporation respects or
complies with all these laws, regulations, and norms, both internal and external, corporations
increasingly employ “compliance” officers or executives. For example, large fashion
and apparel companies frequently place a specific executive in charge of “human rights
compliance,” to ensure that its clothing was manufactured in safe factories that respect
labor laws and do not employ children.
Corporate Philanthropy
Corporate philanthropy refers to a corporation’s gifts to charitable organizations. There
is an implication that the corporation’s donations have no strings attached, which is probably
quite rare. At a minimum, most corporations expect that their donations will be publicly
attributed to the corporation, thus generating positive public relations. When corporations
make large cash gifts to universities or museums, they are usually rewarded with a plaque,
or with a building or library named after the donor. Such attributions burnish the corporation’s
public image, and in such cases we are not dealing with true corporate philanthropy,
strictly speaking, but something more in the nature of marketing or public relations.
Stakeholder Capitalism
Stakeholder capitalism refers to a conception of the corporation as a body that owes a
duty not only to its shareholders (the predominant American view) but also to all of its stakeholders,
defined as all those parties who have a stake in the performance and output of the
corporation. Stakeholders include the company’s employees, unions, suppliers, customers,
local and national governments, and communities that may be affected by corporate activities
such as construction, manufacturing, and pollution. Stakeholder capitalism is a concept
that was largely developed in Europe and reflects the widespread European attitude toward
corporate governance, which accepts a great degree of government and social oversight
of the corporation. The American approach is often described, in contrast, as laissez-faire
(meaning “leave alone”), in that corporations are granted more freedom of operation than
in Europe. One example of a stakeholder approach is in the German practice known as
codetermination, in which corporations are required to provide a seat on the corporation’s
board of directors for a union representative. This is intended to oblige the corporation to
be more cognizant of worker needs and demands, and to ensure that corporate strategies
are not concealed from workers.
Cause-Related Marketing
Cause-related marketing (CRM) refers to a corporation’s associating the sales of its
products to a program of donations or support for a charitable or civic organization. An
example is provided by the famous Red campaign, in which corporations such as Gap
pledged to contribute profits from the sale of certain red-colored products to a program
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for African development and alleviation of AIDS-related social problems. The basic idea
of cause-related marketing is that the corporation markets its brand at the same time that
it promotes awareness of the given social problem or civic organization that addresses the
social problem. Another well-known example is the pink ribbon symbol that promotes
breast-cancer awareness and is used prominently in the marketing of special lines of products
by many corporations, such as Estée Lauder, Avon, New Balance and Self Magazine. In
addition to marketing products with the pink-ribbon symbol, Estee Lauder has made support
for breast cancer awareness one of the defining features of its corporate philanthropy.
Thus, Estee Lauder also frequently refers to such charitable contributions, currently on the
order of $150 million, in its corporate communications and public relations documents.4
Sponsorship refers to a corporation’s financial support for sports, art, entertainment,
and educational endeavors in a way that prominently attributes the support to the particular
corporation. Sponsorship can be considered a form of marketing communications because
it seeks to raise awareness and appreciation of the corporation in a given target audience.
Arguably, of course, sponsorship benefits society, because society appreciates sports, art,
and entertainment. However, in the case of sponsorship, as opposed to philanthropy, the
sponsors expect a clear return. Indeed, many corporations carefully analyze the benefits of
their sponsorship activities in the same way they measure the impact of their marketing
and advertising.
Many prominent global sponsors are companies that find it difficult to advertise through
other channels. For example, Philip Morris, the world’s largest tobacco company and owner
of the Marlboro brand, which finds its global advertising restricted due to a number of bans
and limits on tobacco advertising, has invested heavily in sponsorship. Philip Morris has
long been the number one sponsor of Formula 1 race car competitions, and it is impossible
for a spectator to watch one of these races without observing, consciously or otherwise,
huge billboards and banners featuring the famous red-and-white Marlboro logo. Similarly,
since alcohol advertising is also increasingly scrutinized, it is not surprising that Budweiser
has followed a similar tactic and become the principal sponsor of NASCAR racing. Pharmaceuticals
have also become an area subjected to tight advertising and marketing controls;
therefore, Pfizer, the world’s largest pharmaceutical company, engages in scores of sponsorship
activities, notably in its support for the Paralympics, an Olympic-style competition for
physically-handicapped athletes.
Sustainability has become such an important concept that it is frequently confused
with CSR. Indeed, for some companies it seems that CSR is sustainability. This is perhaps
not surprising, given the growing media attention on issues related to sustainability.
Sustainability is a concept derived from environmentalism; it originally referred to the
ability of a society or company to continue to operate without compromising the planet’s
environmental condition in the future. In other words, a sustainable corporation is one that
can sustain its current activities without adding to the world’s environmental problems.
Sustainability is therefore a very challenging goal, and many environmentalists maintain
that no corporation today operates sustainably, since all use energy (leading to the gradual
depletion of fossil fuels while emitting greenhouse gases) and all produce waste products
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Corporations and their Social Responsibility|11
like garbage and industrial chemicals. Whether or not true sustainability will be attainable
anytime in the near future, the development and promotion of sustainability strategies has
become virtually an obsession of most large corporations today, as their websites will attest
in their inevitable reference to the corporation’s sincere commitment to sustainability and
responsible environmental practices. No corporation or corporate executive today will be
heard to say that they do not really care about the environment. However, if we observe
their actions rather than their words, we may have cause for doubt.
We will explore specific cases related to sustainability in later chapters. For now, let us
just note that CSR, strictly speaking, is broader than environmental sustainability because
it also refers to a corporation’s ethical relationship to its employees, shareholders, suppliers,
competitors, customers, and local and foreign governments.
More recently, many people have been using the term sustainability also to refer to
social and political sustainability, which brings the concept closer to that of CSR.
Greenwashing refers to corporations that exaggerate or misstate the impact of their
environmental actions. By the early 1990s a great number of consumer products were being
promoted as “environmentally friendly,” “eco-friendly,” or “green,” when in fact there was
little or nothing to justify the claims. In 1991, an American Marketing Association study
revealed that 58% of environmental ads contained at least one deceptive claim. As a result,
many advertising regulatory bodies around the world adopted specific advertising codes to
regulate the honesty and accuracy of environmental claims in advertising. For example, in
the UK, a producer of a recycling bin advertised that it helped buyers “save the rainforests”
by encouraging recycling of plastic and paper products. The advertisement was found to
be misleading because most paper products sold in the UK were not made from wood in
tropical rainforests, but from wood harvested on northern European tree farms.
In Norway, car manufacturers and dealers are prohibited from claiming that their cars
are green, eco-friendly, etc., because in the view of the Norwegian Consumer Ombudsman,
it is impossible for cars to be beneficial for the environment; the best they can do is reduce
the environmental damage they cause.5
Greenwashing is not only a corporate practice but a political one as well, as politicians
everywhere promise to undertake actions to improve the environment. Thus, the administration
of former US President George W. Bush was widely criticized for promoting
legislation under the name of the “Clear Skies Initiative,” when in fact the purpose of the
legislation was to weaken antipollution measures.6
Social Entrepreneurship and Social Enterprise
Social entrepreneurship and social enterprise refer to the use of business organizations
and techniques to attain laudable social goals. As we will discuss further in Chapter 6, Blake
Mycoskie decided to create TOMS Shoes largely as a reaction to his travels in Argentina,
which had exposed him to terrible poverty that left many school-age children without
shoes. An important part of the corporate mission of TOMS Shoes lies in its pledge to give
away a free pair of shoes for every pair purchased by a customer. TOMS Shoes’ model has
been imitated by many others, including the popular online eyewear brand, Warby Parker.
The difference between social entrepreneurship and CSR is that, with social entrepreneurship,
the positive social impact is built into the mission of the company from its
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Corporations and their Social Responsibility|12
founding. Other examples of social entrepreneurship include The Body Shop, Ben & Jerry’s
ice cream, and Newman’s Own. The Body Shop was founded by noted activist Anita Roddick
who insisted that all products be derived from ingredients which were natural, organic,
and responsibly sourced. Her employment policies famously allowed every employee to
take off one day a month from work to engage in social or community projects. Similarly,
Ben & Jerry’s was founded to promote the use of organic, locally-produced food. The company’s
founders insisted on a policy that executives earn no more than seven times the
salary of factory line-workers (although this policy was eventually relaxed when it became
difficult to recruit a competent CEO at those wages). Ben & Jerry’s engaged in a number
of high-profile political activities in which they encouraged their employees to participate,
such as protesting the building of the Seabrook nuclear power plant in Vermont. Newman’s
Own was founded by film actor Paul Newman and his friend A. E. Hotchner with the goal
of selling wholesome products and giving away 100% of the profits to charitable ventures.
To date, Newman’s Own has given away over $200 million.
Social Marketing
Social marketing refers to the use of business marketing techniques in the pursuit of
social goals. Often, governments and nonprofit organizations make use of social marketing
to make their points more forcefully and effectively to a wide audience. Classic examples
are the extremely powerful TV commercials warning of the dangers of unsafe driving or of
failing to use seatbelts. Cinematic techniques are employed to portray dramatic, arresting
images of crumpled cars and bodies, children and mothers crying. The source of social
marketing advertisements is usually a local government or nonprofit organization.
Social marketing is usually used to try to convince citizens to drive more safely, eat
better, report child and domestic abuse, and avoid various forms of criminality and drug
use. As with ordinary advertising, social marketing can seem overdone or maudlin, and
some social marketing ads have been mocked or considered silly. For example, former First
Lady Nancy Reagan participated in a social marketing campaign that urged young people
to “Just Say No” to drugs, an approach which was ridiculed as simplistic by many. Noted
radical activist Abbie Hoffman said that telling drug users to “just say no” to drugs was like
telling manic-depressives to “just cheer up.” Despite that, drug use in America declined
over the time period that the campaign was in progress, though there is no evidence that
any part of this decline was due to the campaign.
Business Ethics
Business ethics is an academic discipline closely related to CSR, but one that tends to
use the tools of philosophy to formally analyze the ethical role of individuals and corporations.
Although the terms are quite similar, there are differences of nuance. For example,
although academics who study business ethics tend to focus on corporations, the term itself
could also apply to the ethical dilemmas of sole proprietors or of individuals involved in
commercial situations, such as a private party trying to sell a used car that he knows has a
hidden mechanical flaw. While the term CSR tends to be used by corporations and social
entrepreneurs in a way that assumes a positive connotation, business ethics is used in a more
neutral and even critical fashion, as one might expect, given the perspective of writers who
are not beholden to corporations. Indeed, when the media uses the term business ethics, it is
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Corporations and their Social Responsibility|13
often in a negative sense, to draw attention to instances of deception or fraud on the part
of corporations or executives.7
Source: United States Marshals Service, 2004, public domain
Figure 1.3 The mug shot of former Enron top executive Ken Lay. Lay was eventually convicted
on 10 counts of fraud; while awaiting sentencing of up to 100 years in prison he died of a heart
attack in 2006.
White-Collar Crime
White-collar crime refers to fraudulent or financially-oriented criminal activities by
high-status professionals or businesspeople. The term white-collar crime was coined by
sociologist Edwin Sutherland, who defined it as a “crime committed by a person of respectability
and high social status in the course of his occupation” in a 1939 speech entitled “The
White Collar Criminal.” Although the term applies to financial fraud committed by individuals
who are not associated with corporations, there is a strong linkage to corporations
in actual practice because corporate executives are often well-placed to commit crimes of
fraud and corruption. However, a distinction should be drawn between white-collar crime
and corporate crime, which refers to crimes for which the corporation itself is responsible.
In many cases, such as in violations of US laws against bribing foreign government officials,
it may be unclear whether the matter is better classified as white-collar crime or corporate
crime. In the law, it may depend on whether the corporation’s senior executives were aware
of and supported the acts of criminality.
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Corporations and their Social Responsibility|14
While there is a popular perception that punishments for wealthy white-collar criminals
are less severe than for poor and middle-class criminals, the situation appears to have
changed in light of the severe penalties for white-collar crime mandated by the 2002 Sarbanes–Oxley
Act, which was adopted by the US Congress in the wake of the notorious
Enron scandal. As a result, former Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling, the architect of Enron’s
frauds, was sentenced to 24 years in prison. Bernie Ebbers, former CEO of WorldCom, was
convicted of fraudulent misstating of billions of dollars of WorldCom earnings, resulting in
a sentence of 25 years. More recently, Bernie Madoff, whose vast Ponzi scheme defrauded
investors of up to $65 billion, was sentenced in 2009 to 150 years in prison for his crimes,
effectively a life sentence without possibility of parole.
Topic for Debate: Regulation of
It is one of the basic premises of this book that we do not want you merely to read and
assimilate the material. We want you to engage it personally in an effort to develop and
refine your own opinions. Therefore, each chapter will feature a topic for debate (more detailed
rules and suggestions for debate will be set forth in the next chapter). Most chapters
will feature an in-depth case study based on a real-life business situation, or a fictionalized
account of a real business situation or social controversy. In this chapter we will use what
we will call a “mini-case study”—a sort of thought experiment, based on a simple set of
facts as follows:
Mini-Case Study: The Case of the Undecided Voter
Your close friend, Jane Goodie, is a college student who has registered to vote in her
first election. Jane’s father has been a lifelong Republican voter and Jane’s mother a lifelong
Democrat. As Jane grew up, she often listened to her parents debating politics at the dinner
table. More than once, Jane found herself disconcerted and discouraged by the appearance
of biased thinking on the part of one or both of her parents; they rarely seemed to agree or
listen to each other in their political debates. Sometimes, Jane even wondered to herself,
“Why do they vote at all, since their votes obviously just cancel each other out?” However,
since her parents have strongly urged her to vote as soon as she is old enough, and since they
have also urged to make up her own mind about which candidate to choose, she is looking
forward to expressing her own views at the ballot box. But first she must make up her mind.
Since this is not a presidential election year, the most important office up for election is
that of Senator. Both senatorial candidates are very impressive and illustrious people: One
is a graduate of Harvard Law School, the other of Yale Law School. The Democratic, or
“liberal,” candidate pursued an impressive career as an environmental lawyer before being
elected to a position as mayor of one of the leading cities in your state. The Republican, or
“conservative,” candidate enjoyed an impressive career as an advisor to a number of successful
start-up companies before also being elected to a position as a mayor of one of the
leading cities in your state.
Both candidates appear to be exceptionally bright, eloquent, and dedicated to public
service. In this particular campaign, they both espouse very similar views on foreign policy
and social policy. In fact, the main difference between the candidates comes down to one
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Corporations and their Social Responsibility|15
thing: their attitude toward government regulation of business, and of large corporations in
particular. The Democratic candidate, citing recent examples of fraud, pollution, and layoffs
at major corporations, is calling for tighter regulation of corporations. The Republican candidate,
citing the importance of the business sector as a major taxpayer and creator of jobs,
calls for a loosening and reduction of government regulation of business.
Your friend does not know who to vote for, but believes that she should decide on the
basis of the single issue on which the candidates differ: the regulation of business. Your
friend asks for your advice.
You are therefore asked to develop the strongest reasons for supporting one of the
following two possible responses:
Affirmative Position: Jane should vote for the Democratic candidate.
Possible Arguments:
• It is better to maintain tight regulation of businesses and corporations, given their
propensity to cause or contribute to social harms.
• Corporations are able to lobby governments to shield themselves from regulation.
• Corporations are able to attain more power and influence than citizens.
Negative Position: Jane should vote for the Republican candidate.
Possible Arguments:
• It is better to liberate businesses and corporations from onerous and expensive
government regulation.
• Corporations are major employers and job-creators.
• Corporations can undertake enormous projects beyond the scope of small business
or individuals.
• Corporations stimulate research and innovation.
The readings below are meant only to stimulate your thinking about possible perspectives
to take on corporations. Please supplement them with your own research.
1.1 The Corporation as a “Psychopathic” Creature
Bakan, Joel. “Business as Usual,” in The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and
Power, 28-59. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2004.
Bakan, Joel. “The Externalizing Machine,” in The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of
Profit and Power, 60-84. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2004.
Business leaders today say their companies care about more than profit or loss, that
they feel responsible to society as a whole, not just to their shareholders. Corporate social
responsibility is their new creed, a self-conscious corrective to earlier greed-inspired visions
of the corporation. Despite this shift, the corporation itself has not changed. It remains, as
it was at the time of its origins as a modern business institution in the middle of the nineteenth
century, a legally designated “person” designed to valorize self-interest and invalidate
moral concern. Most people would find its “personality” abhorrent, even psychopathic, in a
human being, yet curiously we accept it in society’s most powerful institution. The troubles
on Wall Street today, beginning with Enron’s spectacular crash, can be blamed in part on
the corporation’s flawed institutional character, but the company was not unique for having
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Corporations and their Social Responsibility|16
that character. Indeed, all publicly traded corporations have it, even the most respected and
socially acceptable….
As a psychopathic creature, the corporation can neither recognize nor act upon moral
reasons to refrain from harming others. Nothing in its legal makeup limits what it can do to
others in pursuit of its selfish ends, and it is compelled to cause harm when the benefits of
doing so outweigh the costs. Only pragmatic concern for its own interests and the laws of
the land constrain the corporation’s predatory instincts, and often that is not enough to stop
it from destroying lives, damaging communities, and endangering the planet as a whole….
Far less exceptional in the world of the corporation are the routine and regular harms
caused to others—workers, consumers, communities, the environment—by corporation’s
psychopathic tendencies. These tend to be viewed as inevitable and acceptable consequences
of corporate activity—“externalities” in the coolly technical jargon of economics.
“An externality,” says economist Milton Friedman, “is the effect of a transaction…on
a third party who has not consented to or played any role in the carrying out of that
transaction.” All the bad things that happen to people and the environment as a result of
corporations’ relentless and legally compelled pursuit of self-interest are thus neatly categorized
by economists as externalities—literally, other people’s problems.
1.2 “EPA Costs US Economy $353 Billion per Year”
Young, Ryan. “EPA costs US economy $353 billion per year.” The Daily Caller.
Last modified December 27, 2012.
Transparency is the lifeblood of democracy. Washington needs more of it, especially in
the all-too-opaque world of regulation. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), for
example, is the most expensive federal regulatory agency. Its annual budget is fairly modest
in Beltway terms, at a little less than $11 billion, but that’s not where the vast majority of
its costs come from. Complying with EPA regulations costs the US economy $353 billion
per year—more than 30 times its budget—according to the best available estimate. By way
of comparison, that is more than the entire 2011 national GDPs of Denmark ($332 billion)
and Thailand ($345 billion)…
In the last edition of the Unified Agenda, the fall 2011 edition, the EPA had 318 rules
at various stages of the regulatory process. Nobody outside the agency knows how many
rules it currently has in the pipeline. All in all, 4,995 EPA rules appeared in the Winter
Unified Agenda from 1999–2011. Over the same period, 7,161 EPA final rules were published
in the Federal Register. That means more than 2,000 final rules, which have the force
of law, came into effect without first appearing in the Unified Agenda. This could indicate
an important transparency problem.
That’s just the EPA’s annual flow of regulations. The agency has existed for more than
40 years. How many total rules does it currently have in effect? Again, the answer doesn’t
come from the agency. Earlier this year, the Mercatus Center’s Omar Al-Ubaydli and
Patrick A. McLaughlin ran text searches through the entire Code of Federal Regulations
(CFR) for terms such as “shall,” “must,” “prohibited,” and the like. The CFR Title covering
environmental protection alone contains at least 88,852 specific regulatory restrictions. The
number could be as high as 154,350….
Justice Louis Brandeis correctly believed that sunshine is the best disinfectant. With
high regulatory costs contributing to a stagnant economic recovery, it is well past time to
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Corporations and their Social Responsibility|17
shine more light on regulatory agencies. Annual agency report cards would make a good
1.3 Press Release from the US Consumer Product
Safety Commission
Consumer Product Safety Commission. “Port Surveillance News: CPSC Investigators
Find, Stop Nearly 650,000 Unsafe Products at the Start of Fiscal Year
2012.” News Release. April 5, 2012.
Investigators Stop Nearly 650,000 Unsafe Products
Investigators with the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) prevented
more than half a million violative and hazardous imported products from reaching the
hands of consumers in the first quarter of fiscal year 2012.
Working with US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents, CPSC port investigators
successfully identified consumer products that were in violation of US safety rules
or found to be unsafe. CPSC and CBP teamed up to screen more than 2,900 imported
shipments at ports of entry into the United States. As applicable, these screenings involved
use and abuse testing or the use of an X-ray fluorescence (XRF) analyzer. Their efforts
prevented more than 647,000 units of about 240 different non-complying products from
reaching consumers, between October 1, 2011 and December 31, 2011.
Topping the list of products stopped were children’s products containing levels of lead
exceeding the federal limits, toys and other articles with small parts that present a choking
hazard for children younger than 3 years old, and toys and child-care articles with banned
In addition to violative toys and other children’s products, items stopped at import
included defective and dangerous hair dryers, lamps, and holiday lights.
“We mean business when it comes to enforcing some of the toughest requirements
for children’s products in the world. If an imported product fails to comply with our safety
rules, then we work to stop it from coming into the United States,” said Chairman Inez
Tenenbaum. “Safer products at the ports means safer products in your home.”
During fiscal year 2011, CPSC inspected more than 9,900 product shipments at the
ports nationwide and stopped almost 4.5 million units of violative or hazardous consumer
products from entering the stores and homes of US consumers.
CPSC has been screening products at ports since it began operating in 1973. In 2008,
the agency intensified its efforts with the creation of an import surveillance division.
1.4 “Costs of Air Pollution in the U.S.”
Taylor, Timothy. “Costs of Air Pollution in the U.S.,” Conversable Economist (blog),
November 7, 2011,
What costs does air pollution impose on the U.S. economy? Nicholas Z. Muller, Robert
Mendelsohn, and William Nordhaus tackle that question in the August 2011 issue of the
American Economic Review. Total “gross external damages” the six “criterion” air pollut-
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Corporations and their Social Responsibility|18
ants in 2002—sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, ammonia, fine
particulate matter, and coarse particulate matter—was $182 billion.
Since GDP was about $10.5 trillion in 2002, the cost of air pollution was a bit under
2% of the total. The effects included in the model calculations are adverse consequences
for human health, decreased timber and agriculture yields, reduced visibility, accelerated
depreciation of materials, and reductions in recreation services.
The sectors with the biggest air pollution costs measured in terms of “gross external
damages” (GED) (counting the same six pollutants but again not counting carbon emissions)
are utilities, agriculture/forestry, transportation, and manufacturing.
If one looks at the ratio of gross economic damages to value-added in the sector, agriculture/forestry
and utilities lead the way by far with ratios above one-third. Manufacturing
has fairly high gross external damages, but the GED/VA ratio for the sector as a whole is
only 0.01.
To me, a lesson that emerges from these calculations is that the costs of air pollution
and of burning fossil fuels are very high, both in absolute terms and compared to
the value-added of certain industries, even without taking carbon emissions into account.
Environmentalists who are discouraged by their inability to persuade more people of the
risks of climate change might have more luck in reducing carbon emissions if they deemphasized
that topic—and instead focused on the costs of these old-fashioned pollutants.
1.5 “Over-Regulated America”
“Over-regulated America: The home of laissez-faire is being suffocated by excessive and badly
written regulation.” The Economist. Last modified February 8, 2012. http://www.
Synthesis Questions
The most productive discussions and debates are those that open our eyes to different
perspectives and different ways of thinking. While we may not change our initial opinions,
we may emerge with an enhanced understanding of the perspectives of others, or of the
complexity of a particular issue.
So we suggest that at the end of each chapter you answer a few questions in a way
that allows you to “synthesize” your discussions and readings—by bringing together the
strongest parts of each side of the argument—so as to arrive at a deeper, more nuanced
understanding of the issues involved.
Clearly, the ethical role of corporations is a vast, complex topic and allows for a great
diversity of opinions. Here are three initial synthesis questions for further reflection:
1. Are corporations on the whole good for society?
2. Do you personally like or distrust corporations? Why?
3. How should society regulate corporations?
Good Corporation, Bad Corporation Chapter 1
Corporations and their Social Responsibility|19
1. Sarah Anderson and John Cavanagh, “Top 200: The Rise of Corporate Global Power,” Institute
for Policy Studies, December 4, 2000. accessed December 6, 2014,
2. Vincett Trivett, “25 US Mega Corporations: Where They Rank If They Were Countries,”
Business Insider, June 27, 2011, accessed December 6, 2014, http://www.businessinsider.
3. Steven Pearlstein, “Two Can Play the Airline Bankruptcy Game,” Washington Post, 28 April
2012, accessed November 28, 2014,
4. “The Estee Lauder Companies Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign,” accessed November 28,
5. “Norway Outlaws ‘Green’ Cars,” TerraPass, September 11, 2007, accessed December 6, 2014,
6. US Senator Patrick Leahy, “The Greenwashing of the Bush Anti-Environmental Record on the
President’s Earth Day Visits to Maine and Florida,” (statement on the Senate floor, Washington,
DC, April 26, 2004).
7. See Sebastian Bailey, “Business Leaders Beware: Ethical Drift Makes Standards
Slip,” Forbes, May 15, 2013, accessed December 6, 2014,
Debating CSR: Methods and Strategies|20
Chapter 2
Debating CSR: Methods and
Source: U.S. Navy (CC-BY 2012)
Figure 2.1 Deployed U.S. sailors watching the U.S. Presidential debate between candidates
Barack Obama and Mitt Romney in 2012.
Why Debate CSR?
In this chapter, we help you prepare for productive debates on CSR. Our first question
is: why debate CSR? Why not just study texts on CSR, and then write essays or take tests
on the topic? Why do we need to debate?
The position of this textbook is that CSR is not only an important social phenomenon,
but a complex and controversial one. As we will see in this book, there are often two sides to
CSR issues. As future voters and future employees of corporations, schools, governments,
and civil society organizations, you will get a chance to have a real impact on the future
Good Corporation, Bad Corporation Chapter 2
Debating CSR: Methods and Strategies|21
of CSR. But what should the future of CSR be? It is not the role of teachers or textbooks
to tell you what to think when it comes to such a new and politically divisive topic. Like
your fellow citizens, you are entitled to develop your own opinion, but we hope that it will
be an informed and logical opinion, rather than one that emerges reflexively from political
partisanship or cultural tradition.
In short, we want you to practice thinking for yourself about CSR, and we think the
best way to practice is that is to debate crucial issues relating to CSR. At times you will
be asked to come up with the strongest arguments in favor of a position that you do not
initially support. As the saying goes, to understand another person you have to walk a
mile in their shoes. If you want to understand why many of your fellow citizens take social
and political positions that are different from yours, the best thing to do is to consider the
strongest arguments on their side—and the best way to do that is to become their advocate,
even if only for the length of a class session.
Questioning the Value of CSR Itself
As an example of the importance and complexity of CSR-related public debates, consider
the following controversies related to CSR:
CSR: Sincere ethics or hypocritical public relations?
• Facts: CSR is a rapidly growing field of study in universities and business schools,
and most large corporations have adopted CSR programs.
• The controversial aspect: Is CSR a good thing or is it just corporate
• In favor of CSR: CSR motivates corporations to address social problems, it energizes
and rewards workers, it strengthens ties to the community, and it improves
the image of the corporation.
• Against CSR: Surveys show that citizens are more concerned about corporations
treating their workers well and obeying laws than about engaging in philanthropic
activities, and CSR may allow corporations to distract consumers and legislators
from the need to tightly regulate corporations.
Climate change and CSR
• Facts: There is a scientific consensus that global warming and climate change represent
an enormous threat facing mankind.
• The controversial aspect: Can corporate CSR really have a significant impact on
climate change, or is it just a public relations vehicle for companies and a distraction
from the need for stronger government action, such as through a carbon tax?
• In favor of global warming–related CSR: Corporations can have a major impact
in the battle against global warming by reducing their large carbon footprints, by
encouraging other corporations to follow suit, and by helping discover and develop
alternative sources of energy.
• Against global warming–related CSR: Companies spend a lot of advertising
money to boast about small measures against global warming, but many of these
companies are in industries—such as fossil fuels or automobiles—that produce
the most greenhouse gases to begin with; self-serving claims of climate-change
concern are often simply corporate public relations campaigns intended to distract
us from the need for society to take more effective measures through taxation and
Good Corporation, Bad Corporation Chapter 2
Debating CSR: Methods and Strategies|22
Corporate Lobbying and Government Influence
• Facts: Most large corporations spend money on lobbying and on seeking to influence
legislators and regulators. In the Citizens United decision, the Supreme Court
ruled that, as “corporate persons,” corporations enjoy the same freedom of speech
protections as ordinary citizens and are entitled to relief from strict government
control of their rights to political speech.
• The controversial aspect: Many citizens are outraged to find that the justice
system accords multinational corporations the same rights as ordinary people on
the grounds that corporations are “persons.” However, others point out that The
New York Times and CNN are also corporations, and that it could have a chilling
effect on freedom of speech if all corporations were legally-constrained from
speaking out freely.
• In favor of corporate lobbying: As major employers and technological innovators,
corporations benefit society. They should be free to oppose inefficient and cumbersome
government regulations and taxation that can limit the benefits they provide.
In this way, freedom of political speech is so important that we should be cautious
about limiting it in any way.
• Against corporate lobbying: Corporations are not “persons” in the same sense
that humans are, and therefore, they should not enjoy the same freedom of speech
protection. Since corporations can become vastly wealthier than ordinary citizens,
allowing them to participate in politics will enable them to bend laws and regulations
to their will.
In each of the debates outlined above, there are intelligent and well-informed people
on both sides of the issue. However, if our society is going to progress in its handling of
these issues, we will need to reach consensus on the best approach, or at least on the best
compromise. It is therefore vital that citizens learn to discuss these issues in an informed,
respectful and productive manner.
How to Debate CSR: Rules of Civility and
This chapter introduces you to the techniques of logical debate. We hope to improve
your ability to craft a forceful, persuasive argument and to detect faulty logic and weak
evidence put forward by your adversaries. It is equally important, however, to practice engaging
in social and political debates in a way that is respectful and tolerant of differing
Although we will base our approach to some extent on the rules and methods of formal
debate, the reality of life is that most of our disagreements, and much public debate, are
not carried out according to formal rules or any previously agreed structure. Indeed, the
average political debate with our schoolmates, work colleagues, and family is often quite
freewheeling and sometimes extremely illogical. It is an accepted truism of American life
that political campaigns are filled with name-calling, mud-slinging, finger-pointing, and
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scurrilous attack ads. That is one reason that so many people say that you should never
discuss politics or religion among friends or family—because doing so can compromise
friendships and spoil family gatherings with angry and unproductive arguments.
In this course and in this textbook, we want to lean toward the other extreme. We
believe that there are sincere, intelligent people on both sides of most social debates. As
educated people, we should not engage in political discussion in order to flaunt our superior
intelligence or backgrounds, or to browbeat or insult our interlocutors. Unfortunately, since
people sometimes resort to bullying and offensive tactics when discussing sensitive topics,
and since many of us are unable to control our wounded, emotional responses to such
aggression, it can become difficult to discuss important social issues in a productive way.
We suggest certain ground rules to promote fair and respectful debate.
1. Do not try to “win” the debate.
In formal debate contests, each side is trying to defeat the other. Similarly, in political
debates each candidate is trying to come out on top so as to win the election. However, in
the classroom or in informal discussions around the dinner table or at the workplace, such
tactics can be unproductive and can backfire.
Therefore, we recommend that (at least part of the time) instructors randomly assign
students to each side of an argument. In this fashion, you will sometimes find that you
are arguing on behalf of a position that you would not ordinarily support. This may seem
paradoxical to you, so why do we insist on its value?
By obliging you to consider and advocate on behalf of the strongest points of each side
of the argument, we want you to appreciate that there are valuable, sincere motivations on
both sides of most social debates. We are not asking you to be insincere and pretend to
believe in something that you do not support. Rather, we are simply asking you to look for
the strongest arguments the other side could make.
So, in this course the goal is not to try to win the debate by making the other side look
bad. The objective here is to obtain greater knowledge and greater depth of understanding.
Everyone in the class should consider it a win anytime fellow students make a new or
interesting point, express themselves eloquently, or show a willingness to listen and learn
from the other side. The ultimate win in this course is to learn more about an important
social topic, and to learn to engage in debates in a respectful way.
2. Admit discomfort or emotionality.
Discussions of important social or political topics often touch upon values that each
of us holds dear. They may be values we have imbibed from the teachings of our parents,
trusted elders, respected teachers, and admired thinkers. As a result, when someone strongly
challenges those values, especially in a way that we find disrespectful, it is understandable
that we feel negative emotions or anger. The challenge is to control those emotions without
being tempted to retaliate.
So if you ever feel uncomfortable or embarrassed in a class debate, whether online or
in person, do not hesitate to let your interlocutor, the class, and the instructor know of your
feelings. You can simply say, for example, “I think that last remark was bit personal,” or “I
find that the tone you are using is somewhat aggressive.” However, try to avoid responding
in an equally offensive fashion because that usually leads to a breakdown in the conversation.
It is not only up to the instructor; it is up to each class member to monitor class discussions
for inappropriate levels of aggression or condescension.
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3. Listen respectfully and show that you have heard the other side.
It is very easy for debates to degenerate into emotional contests if neither side makes
a sincere attempt to listen to the other side’s arguments. Therefore, it is always a good
strategy to show that you have heard the other side and have understood their point. For
example, you can say, “So it seems that you feel the strongest argument in favor of freedom
of corporate lobbying is that if we restrict such lobbying, then we will create a precedent
that could eventually lead to restrictions on the freedom of speech of individuals. However,
we would like to argue that…”
On political talk shows and at the dinner table, it is quite common for debaters to cut
each other off, interrupt rudely, or talk over each other. In the classroom, however, we want
to hold ourselves to a higher standard. Let people finish talking before you make your point.
If you feel someone is going on too long, you can alert the instructor and request that you
be given an equivalent amount of time for your rebuttal.
Logic: The Techniques of Persuasive
The Structure of a Debate
Although this is not a course in logical debate, you will get more out of it if you proceed
in a systematic manner. Although there are many systems and theories for debate,
we present a simplified version here so that your class can have a common framework to
follow. The elements of a logical debate are the topic, the argument, and the rebuttal or
The Topic
Sometimes also called the “proposition,” “claim,” or “thesis,” this is the concise statement
of what the argument will address. In formal debating, the topic is usually called a
proposition and may be presented in the form of a motion that is going to be submitted to
a body for a vote, for example:
Resolved, that American corporations should refrain from outsourcing to factories
in countries where child labor under the age of 15 is permitted.
Thereafter, one side (sometimes an individual but often a team consisting of up to three
people) takes the affirmative position (meaning that it supports the proposition), while
the other takes the negative position (meaning that it opposes the proposition). The party
taking the affirmative side then opens with a clear formulation of its position and begins
the debate by presenting the “main line,” or strongest point on its side. The negative side is
allowed to question the manner in which the affirmative side has defined the proposition,
and may choose to present an alternative formulation before presenting the main line of its
argument. In team debating, the second and third members will then present the second
and third lines of their team’s argument. Opportunities for rebuttal may be provided after
each speaker or at the end of each team’s main presentation. When the debate is concluded,
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a vote may be taken (for example, by the audience or by a group of judges) to determine
which team has been more persuasive.
In this course, we encourage a more informal approach in order to suit the preferences
and prior experience of the instructor and students. You may prefer to present different
topics for debate, or provide for a range of alternatives for action. Regardless of the approach
you choose, each class and each student should have some freedom to frame the
debate in the perspective that he or she finds the most relevant while ensuring that both
sides are still engaging the same question. Consequently, it is always a good practice to
begin a debate or discussion (or a written assignment) with a clear statement of your topic
or proposition, even if it seems implied by the assignment.
The Argument
Once you have clearly stated the debate topic and your opening proposition, you must
go on to provide logical support or evidence in support of your argument. In order to
persuade an audience, you must support your main thesis with compelling reasoning and/
or factual evidence. You may choose to focus on either logic or evidence, or you may use
both. For example, if you wanted to base your argument on moral reasoning, you might say,
In the United States, we do not permit full-time factory work for children under
the age of 15, so we should not participate in the exploitation of children abroad in a
manner we would not accept at home.
Note that this argument, like many other arguments based on logic or reasoning, is
itself based on further unstated assumptions, which we may call the logical basis or moral
basis of the argument. Thus, the person making the above argument is assuming that
A. it is self-evident that we should not participate in behavior abroad that we
do not accept at home (which may or may not be true depending on circumstances);
B. behavior that is not legally accepted in the United States is necessarily exploitative
when practiced abroad (which, again, may or may not be the case).
If you wanted to base your argument on factual evidence or statistics, you might say,
for example:
Statistics show that countries that permit full-time employment for children have
lower levels of literacy.
Or :
Studies show that underage female factory workers are subjected to high levels of
sexual harassment and are at greater risk to become victims of rape or violence.
As with arguments based on reasoning, arguments based on evidence also depend on
implicit assumptions about the evidence. For example the evidence must be
A. accurate and recent (thus, the statistics should not be derived from unreliably
small samples, and they should not be obtained from studies conducted so long
ago that they are no longer valid),
B. relevant and logically connected to the argument (thus, the statistics on literacy
might show that children raised in the countryside have even lower rates of
literacy than urban children who work in factories), and
C. available to be examined (it is very easy to say, “Studies show that . . .” but if you
cannot produce any published report of the study, or the study itself, then your
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argument cannot be considered valid; you might even be misstating the results
of the survey).
Rebuttal and Counter-argument
A good debate allows opportunities for each side to respond to the other side’s arguments,
and this may be called a rebuttal or a counter-argument.
To develop an effective rebuttal, you should listen carefully to the other side’s argument
and try to detect flaws or gaps in their claims, reasoning, or evidence. In classical rhetoric,
debaters were trained to detect a number of logical fallacies, common types of arguments
which on further examination are unconvincing. Here are some of the key fallacies, or flaws,
you may encounter:
Arguing Off-topic
Failure to stick to the main argument is perhaps the most common of all logical
fallacies encountered in everyday discussions. In informal discussions, this is sometimes
acceptable, but in a serious intellectual discussion, it wastes time and energy because you
cannot seriously argue about two different topics at the same time. For example, in the
debate described above, one of the parties might say something like,
“Everyone knows that American corporations don’t really care about people; all they
care about is profits.”
Not only is that point arguable in itself (though it might make for an interesting argument),
it is not directly relevant to a discussion of child labor in overseas factories. In such
a case, it is appropriate simply to say, “The point you are making is not relevant to the topic
of this discussion.”
Drawing Excessive or Illogical Conclusions from Evidence
In debates over the value of evidence, it is frequently said that “correlation does not
prove causation.” In other words, if statistics show a correlation between two sets of facts,
they do not necessarily prove a causal connection between them. For example, in one nineteenth
century study of tuberculosis in Paris, the researcher noted that tuberculosis most
frequently struck people living on the fifth floor of apartment buildings (the highest floor
in apartment buildings of the day). He concluded that there was a causal relation between
tuberculosis and altitude, and theorized that it was unhealthy to live too high above the
ground. In fact, the highest floor was reserved for the small, drafty attic chambers of the
poor servants who served the bourgeois families on the lower floors, so the true correlation
was between poverty and tuberculosis. Statistics must always be closely scrutinized for
relevance. We must always ask whether the statistics apply to the same fact pattern that we
are discussing. Also, be wary of statistics that are out of date or are drawn from samples that
differ in some fundamental way from the population being discussed.
Ad Hominem Argument
This refers to a statement that attacks you personally (or personally attacks an authority
upon whom you are relying), rather than addressing the argument that you are making. In
everyday discussions, this is perhaps the most dangerous of rhetorical fallacies. Not only is
it irrelevant, but it frequently arouses such negative emotions that the opponent retaliates
in kind. Everyone, including the instructor and other classmates, should be attentive to ad
hominem arguments, and the person making them should be gently but firmly admonished
against this tactic.
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The Problem of Cognitive Bias
One of the difficulties encountered in everyday discussions of social and political affairs
is that people enter the discussion with their minds already made up. No matter how
compelling the reasoning or convincing the evidence, they will refuse to consider the other
side. If asked to research the facts, they will only look for facts that support the views they
already had. Such people could be said to be wearing “intellectual blinders.” In a classroom
or college context, this attitude is unfortunate: It closes us off from learning and from
growing intellectually. In order to detect it in others and avoid it ourselves, it pays to learn
about this tendency toward stubborn consistency, which is sometimes referred to by psychologists
as cognitive bias.
One of the great discoveries of modern psychology is that humans are, in fact, extremely
susceptible to biased thinking. Much of our understanding of the powerful influence
of cognitive bias is due to the work of two psychologists, Daniel Kahneman and Amos
Tversky. (Kahneman won the Nobel Prize for his efforts in 2002.) Kahneman postulates
that humans use two different kinds of thinking systems, fast and slow.1
Fast thinking is
instinctive, emotional, and reactive, and can be useful in contexts when you have to make a
decision quickly (e.g., you see a bear coming toward you in the forest, so it is time to think
quickly about climbing a tree). Slow thinking is logical, laborious, and difficult: the kind of
thinking that we use when we solve a math problem or a logic puzzle.
Cognitive bias represents the tendency toward instinctive, reflexive modes of thought,
or fast thinking, when we might be better off using our slower, more laborious mode of
thinking. One might suppose that when it comes to politics and social issues, such as those
involved in analyzing corporate social responsibility, people would always rely on slow,
logical thinking. However, Kahneman’s research (as well as that of many other cognitive
psychologists) indicates the opposite.
Let us consider the power of some important cognitive biases that draw us astray.
Confirmation Bias
Confirmation bias is the human tendency to discredit or ignore information that contradicts
our beliefs, while we uncritically adopt information that supports our beliefs. Studies
have demonstrated that most people are only open to hearing new information if it confirms
their previously-held beliefs.
Confirmation bias explains why information exchange tends to reinforce our beliefs.
The more we learn about ethical, social, or political issues, the more biased we become.
Confirmation bias is thus the motor of prejudice. Once we get a tiny bit biased one way
or another, the confirmation bias pushes us farther and farther in that direction. Increased
education and research, strangely, can end up making us all more deeply biased.
In one classic study, a group of pro–death penalty students and a group of anti–death
penalty students evaluated two “opposing” studies on capital punishment. In fact, the studies
were identical, except that they carried different titles and came to different conclusions.
The students were asked to decide which of these studies was better and more convincing
(despite their being virtually identical). Almost invariably, the students concluded that the
study with the title that supported their pre-existing views was superior to the other study.
Not only that, but when the students were asked why they preferred the study they felt was
superior, they were able to present a number of highly-specific examples to support their
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evaluations. Since both studies were based on exactly the same information, the students’
preference for one study over the other was derived purely from bias.
When we are exposed to mixed information, part of it supporting our views and part of
it contradicting our views, we are more attentive to the part that supports our views, which
we are likely to accept as accurate and true, while we ignore the part that contradicts our
views. Indeed, sometimes these contrary arguments barely register in our consciousness.
Partisan Bias
Partisan bias is a form of prejudice and overconfidence that takes hold of people whenever
they feel loyalty or affiliation with a group or a team. We witness partisan bias in the
political sphere when presidential campaigns are under way, as Democrats are always quick
to point out that their preferred candidate is vastly superior to the Republican candidate,
while Republicans are equally certain of the contrary.
Partisan bias does not only rule the world of politics, but can occur in any sphere where
people feel drawn to one group over another. We can relate this concept to CSR: If you
begin to perceive that you are part of a group that is a big supporter of a certain kind of
CSR activity, then you will probably be susceptible to the assumption that your group is
always right in all aspects. As soon as we feel we belong to a group, we begin to view that
group as superior to other groups. It is so easy to elicit group bias that psychologists have
proposed the existence of implicit partisanship—a hard-wired human predisposition to take
sides and then prefer that side.
One experiment relating to implicit partisanship showed that, if people are shown a list
of names and asked to study it for as briefly as a few minutes, they develop a preference for
the names on the list and consider them superior to other names.2
In another experiment, a
group of college students was assigned to one of two teams to watch a taped football game.
The students displayed a clear preference for their assigned team and later argued that the
referee had unfairly called fouls against their team.3
If a group of people are told that they will be assigned to either group A or group B
according to a coin toss, they begin to prefer their group even before they are sure they are
assigned to it. Those to whom it has been merely hinted that they may have been assigned
to group B begin nonetheless to express a clear preference for the members of group B and
a belief that group B is generally superior to group A.4
While the existence of the partisan bias has been confirmed by recent research, it has
long been apparent to perceptive observers of political argument. In fact, Socrates noted the
following in Plato’s Phaedo:
The partisan, when he is engaged in a dispute, cares nothing about the rights of the
question, but is anxious only to convince his hearers of his own assertions.5
Availability Bias
Availability bias refers to the fact that, in an uncertain situation, people tend to use the
most obvious fact or statistic in order to come to a conclusion—even if a moment’s thought
or the slightest bit of research would have demonstrated that the particular fact or statistic
was unreliable. You can test your own susceptibility to the availability bias by trying to
correctly answer the following question as quickly as possible:
Facts: A bat and a ball cost $1.10 in total. The bat costs $1 more than the ball.
Question: How much does the ball cost?
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Most people answer 10 cents. However, this is clearly wrong, as you will probably
realize if you think about it carefully for a few more seconds. The correct answer is that the
ball costs 5 cents.
If you answered incorrectly, don’t feel bad—more than half of a group of Princeton
students got the answer wrong as well. How is it possible that even smart people can be so
dumb when it comes to such a simple question? In Kahneman’s words, “The respondents
offered their responses without checking. People are not accustomed to thinking hard and
are often content to trust a plausible judgment that comes quickly to mind.”6
Since $1.10
divides neatly into $1.00 and ten cents, respondents leaped to this seemingly obvious answer,
though it was incorrect. Kahneman named this the availability heuristic, the tendency to
rely on a mental shortcut to choose answers from the most obvious (available) options.
Kahneman amusingly illustrated a variant of the availability bias, which he called the
anchoring bias. When asked to estimate anything numerically, we have a tendency to overrely
(or “anchor”) on any number that has recently been suggested to us, regardless of
its relevance. Kahneman asks an audience to think of the last four digits of their social
security number, and then asks them to estimate the number of physicians living in New
York City. To a remarkable and entirely illogical extent, people’s subsequent estimates of
the number of New York physicians correlated with the last four digits of their own social
security number. (Amazingly, this held true even when the audience was composed of
math teachers.) Numbers hold a mystical sway over the human brain and it appears we are
frighteningly suggestible when it comes to arguments based on data, even when the data
is irrelevant. Thus we acquire newfound respect for the prescience of Mark Twain’s famous
quip, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”
One example of availability bias that comes up in the context of CSR relates to the
impact of global warming on polar bears. Global warming contrarian Bjorn Lomborg often
uses this example to show that most people think they understand global warming better
than they actually do. Thus, he opens his book Cool It with a long chapter that provides
abundant statistics to show that, over the past 25 years, the global population of polar
bears has been increasing.7
This comes as such a profound shock to most citizens who are
concerned about global warming that they can scarcely believe it. Is Bjorn Lomborg telling
the truth, or is he pulling our leg? Some students even become angry when presented with
the evidence.
Actually, Lomborg does not deny that in the long term global warming may have a
highly negative impact on polar bear populations. The point he is trying to make is that
people leap to assumptions without checking the facts. People are concerned about polar
bears because so many groups that try to raise awareness about the dangers of global
warming have used the endangered polar bear as their favored mascot. Consequently,
many people have simply assumed polar bear populations were already being decimated by
global warming. While, polar bear populations may become under severe strain from global
warming in the 21st century, for the past several decades, as well as the current decade, the
main danger to polar bears comes from legally licensed hunters.
This point is raised here not to advance any argument about global warming. We will
devote an entire chapter to global warming issues, and you will have an opportunity to learn
more there about the very real dangers associated with global warming. The point here is
that people have a tendency to leap to the easiest assumption, and that is one tendency that
we should try to resist when we engage in formal research and debate.
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Debating CSR: What are the Key Issues?
As noted at the beginning of this chapter, some people are surprised to hear that there
is anything to debate about CSR. After all, such people may ask, isn’t CSR a matter of
corporations doing good things? And what could possibly be wrong with corporations
doing good things?
Actually, even corporations that fully support CSR do engage in debates about CSR,
but these are usually about how to do CSR, not about whether CSR is in general a positive
thing or not. Corporations, like individuals, sometimes have to make difficult choices
about how to spend their money. It can be quite challenging for a corporation to choose
among different options for CSR, and equally difficult to decide how much to spend on a
particular CSR project in terms of cash and organizational resources. Several of the case
studies in this book deal these types of strategic CSR questions.
However, it is worth noting at the outset that many CSR skeptics also believe that
CSR merits greater ethical scrutiny, and thus there are some prominent voices who have
expressed doubts about the perceived social benefits of CSR.
So that you can begin to develop your own informed opinion on this topic, let us begin
with a review of the potential benefits and drawbacks to CSR.
CSR: Potential Benefits
Neglected Social Problems Are Addressed
It is undeniable that even governments in the wealthiest countries cannot effectively
address all social problems. Every society is to some extent plagued by issues such as unemployment,
criminality, homelessness, disease, discrimination, pollution, and natural disaster.
Why not mobilize the vast economic and organizational resources of corporations to help
alleviate the damage caused by such problems?
Corporate Employees Are Energized and Motivated
A large percentage of the workforce in most countries is employed in the corporate
sector (38% of Americans are employed by large companies).8
CSR allows corporate employees
to feel an added level of meaning in their lives by enriching their jobs with an
ethical dimension. Such employees may be more productive on the job and may be more
willing to volunteer for community service and contribute to charitable organizations.
Links between Business, Nonprofits and the
Government Are Enhanced
Today, a great deal of CSR involves partnerships between corporations, nonprofit
organizations, and governmental bodies. For example, the Timberland footwear and apparel
company developed a partnership with the Boston-based nonprofit organization City
Year in 1989, beginning with a small contribution of 50 boots.9
City Year engages young
people from 17 to 24 in a 10-month program of community service. By 1994, Timberland
had provided $5 million to help City Year expand into 6 cities, and by 1998, Timberland
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employees had contributed 20,000 hours to City Year efforts. President Bill Clinton was so
impressed by the City Year story in 1992 that, in 1993, he enlisted its founders to help him
establish the AmeriCorps program, a federally-funded means of supporting community
service by young people. Since its founding, 575,000 AmeriCorps volunteers have contributed
over 700 million hours of community service.
Corporate Image Is Improved
In a competitive global marketplace, corporations want to maintain a strong, positive
image in the minds of consumers and legislators, and CSR helps them achieve this. For
example, Estée Lauder has become closely associated with the pink ribbon symbol of its
Estée Lauder Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign, a program that has raised over $35
million for breast cancer research and has spread to over 70 countries.
CSR: Potential Drawbacks
Bad Corporations Are Able to Buy a Positive Image
Some of the biggest contributors to CSR are companies in the oil, tobacco, and alcohol
sectors, arguably those who have the most to gain from repairing negative associations with
the harm caused by their products. Although the World Health Organization has declared
that tobacco is the single greatest cause of preventable deaths worldwide, that fact has
not stopped global tobacco companies, such as Philip Morris International (owner of the
Marlboro brand) from spending huge sums to improve their image. Philip Morris not only
contributes over $30 million per year to a variety of charitable causes in over 50 countries,
it is also a leading sponsor of sporting events (notably Formula 1 racing).10
The Public Is Misled on the True Impact of
Corporate Activities, e.g., “Greenwashing”
Greenwashing refers to the corporate practice of making misleading environmental
claims. By the early 1990s, nearly a quarter of all consumer products were marketed
with some sort of environmental claim, using terms such as “green” or “environmentally
friendly.”11 So many of these claims were later found to be exaggerated or deceptive that
a number of advertising regulatory bodies and consumer protection agencies around the
world enacted strict controls on environmental claims in advertising.
Among the leaders in making environmental claims have been oil, chemical, and automobile
companies, all of which are arguably linked to increasing levels of pollution. Thus,
in Norway, for example, strict regulations prohibit car manufacturers from making virtually
any environmental claims, because in the view of the Norwegian Consumers Ombudsman,
“cars can’t be environmentally beneficial.”
As early as the mid-1990s, the Chevron oil company had become a leader in touting
its commitment to environmentalism, but that did not prevent it from getting embroiled in
a controversial lawsuit involving claims of massive amounts of pollution in the Ecuadorian
Amazon, with Chevron suffering an adverse $19 billion legal judgment for the environmental
damage it caused. Similarly, BP (British Petroleum), went so far as to revamp the
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corporate logo in its attempt to become recognized for environmentalism despite evidence
that BP management was aware of the risks that led to the offshore oil platform explosion
off the coast of Louisiana in 2010, considered the worst marine oil spill in the world and
the greatest environmental disaster in the history of the United States. Evidence uncovered
in a U.S. Congressional hearing suggested that BP management had overruled its own staff
and consultants to undertake riskier procedures because these were perceived to save time
and money.12
Nonprofits and Charities May Rely Too Heavily on
Corporate Handouts
Many charities and nonprofits come to rely heavily on corporate contributions and
often on contributions from a single corporation, which leaves them at the mercy of corporate
goodwill, and at the risk of economic or management reversals which could lead to a
cutoff of their funds. Thus, in the Timberland–City Year example discussed earlier, by 1997,
City Year found that it was almost wholly dependent on Timberland for financial support,
and it was only at that point that Timberland and City Year reached out for help from
other corporations. Indeed, the City Year sponsorship had even caused a problem within
Timberland when the company suffered a sharp decline in revenue in 1995 that led to
layoffs. Employees were angry that management continued to spend millions on charitable
contributions at the same time it was terminating jobs.
From a similar perspective, consider the cases of Enron and Lehman Brothers, enormous
companies that disappeared virtually overnight due to fraud and mismanagement,
respectively. Both companies maintained large CSR programs that had to be suddenly
abandoned.13 Indeed, Enron had become known as a leading “poster child” for CSR, with
widely reported commitments to green energy, so that at the 1997 Kyoto Conference it
received an award from the Climate Institute.
Topic for Debate: To CSR or Not to CSR?
You have a close friend, John Goodie, who is considering obtaining a graduate degree
in business and is trying to decide between two programs. One program is part of the MBA
(master of business administration degree) curriculum at University A, and it focuses on
CSR. The other program is part of the MBA curriculum at University B, and it focuses on
the management of nonprofits and charities. John has always considered himself a very
ethical and responsible citizen and has spent most of his summers since his teenage years
volunteering in a number of community service positions. Both schools have excellent
reputations, but University B is slightly more prestigious.
John tells you that his ultimate goal is simply “to make the world a better place.” He
asks for your advice. What do you tell him? Provide the strongest arguments in favor of
either University A or University B, as follows:
Affirmative Position: John should attend University A, which has a strong program
in CSR.
Possible Arguments:
• CSR is likely to be the most powerful and effective way of making the world a
better place.
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• CSR is a rapidly growing field with lots of jobs.
• John is already implicitly interested in CSR since he wants to make the world a
better place.
Negative Position: John should attend University B, which is slightly more prestigious
but does not have a well-developed CSR program.
Possible Arguments:
• There are problems with CSR, such as greenwashing.
• If John wants to make the world a better place, he will be better off developing his
skills in the more prestigious institution.
• With a more prestigious degree, he will be able to get a job in a nonprofit or
charitable organization if he wants.
2.1 CSR Isn’t Working
Morrell, Marcus. “Anita Roddick: Corporate Social Responsibility?” Transcript of video,
5:02. Filmed September 15, 2006.
Corporate social responsibility, I don’t think it’s working. I think it’s been taken over
by the big management houses, marketing houses, been taken over by the big groups like
KPMG, like Arthur Anderson. It’s a huge money-building operation now. I think maybe
it’s the word “corporate.”
When I was part of the architects of this responsibility business movement, that was
so different; that was an alternative to the International Chamber of Commerce, it was a
traders’ alliance, it had progressive thinkers, progressive academics, it had, you know, people
who were philanthropists.
Things happened. We didn’t see the whole growth of corporate globalization; we didn’t
see the immense power of businesses playing, especially in the political arena. We didn’t
look at the language, the economic language which was about control, which was about
everything had to be for the market economy. We were just flowering around on our own
thinking and so we took our eyes off the ball and when we put it on the ball again we
thought, “you know, it’s been hijacked, this social responsibility in business”; and it became
corporate social responsibility.
And it was a huge money-earner, for these big management companies, like KPMG,
like Arthur Anderson, like PriceWaterHouseCoopers, all of those. They were making shedloads
of money by actually doing a system of analysis about how you measure your behavior.
But it was no good; it was like this obsession for measurement. It wasn’t showing you how
you can put these ideas into practice and they never told you it meant a truth—truth that
nobody wants to discuss, that if it gets in the way of profit, businesses aren’t going to do
anything about it. So we still have rapacious businesses, you still have businesses in bed with
government, you still have governments’ inability to measure their greatness by how they
look after the weak and the frail. You still have government’s only true measurement of success
as economic measurement. And you still have businesses that can legitimately kill, can
legitimately have boardroom murder, can legitimately have a slave-labor economy, so that
Good Corporation, Bad Corporation Chapter 2
Debating CSR: Methods and Strategies|34
all of us in the West—primarily in the West, or all of us who are wealthy—are guaranteed
a standard of living to which we are used to.
But for me, corporate social responsibility in my life, I don’t think it has worked. And
that’s a shame. Because it’s controlled the language and it’s hijacked the language.
Morrell, Marcus. “Anita Roddick: Corporate Social Responsibility?” Transcript
of video, 5:02. Filmed September 15, 2006.
2.2 Paul Newman reflects on founding Newman’s
Newman, Paul and A.E. Hotchner. In Pursuit of the Common Good, 197-199. New York:
Broadway Books, 2003. Find this book in a library.
I really cannot lay claim to some terribly philanthropic instinct in my base nature. It
was just a combination of circumstances. If the business had stayed small and had just
been in three local stores, it would never have gone charitable. It was just an abhorrence of
combining tackiness, exploitation, and putting money in my pocket, which was excessive
in every direction.
Now that I’m heavily into peddling food, I begin to understand the romance of the
business—the allure of being the biggest fish in the pond and the juice you get from beating
out your competitors. I would like to see the company reach $300 million in sales, and be
able to support new philanthropic initiatives. We were a joke in 1982, but the joke has given
away $250 million so far—so we are a very practical joke.
One thing that really bothers me is what I call “noisy philanthropy.” Philanthropy
ought to be anonymous, but in order for this to be successful you have to be noisy. Because
when a shopper walks up to the shelf and says, “Should I take this one or that one?” you’ve
got to let her know that the money goes to a good purpose. But overcoming that dichotomy
has provided us with the means of bringing thousands of unlucky children to the Hole in
the Wall Gang Camps.
Since the Connecticut camp opened in 1988, a time when only 30 percent of the
children who attended survived, medical progress has been phenomenal, especially in the
field of bone marrow transplants; the result is that the percentages have been completely
reversed—70 percent of those children who come to camp will now survive; but during the
critical time of treatment and recovery we furnish them with much needed respite….
It is also thrilling to note that thirty-five of last summer’s counselors were former
campers who had overcome cancer and were now taking care of kids afflicted as they were.
At the end of last summer’s session, a counselor who had been a media major in college, on
the basis of her experience at the camp changed her course of studies to pursue a medical
career in pediatric oncology….
Another experience last summer, a marvelous African-American girl who told me,
“Coming up here is what I live for, what I stay alive for during those miserable eleven
months and two weeks is to come up here for the summer.”
Good Corporation, Bad Corporation Chapter 2
Debating CSR: Methods and Strategies|35
2.3 “Corporate Conscience Survey Says Workers
Should Come First”
Strom, Stephanie. “Corporate Conscience Survey Says Workers Should Come First.”
The New York Times online. May 31, 2006.
2.4 Corporate Watch Critiques CSR
“What’s Wrong with Corporate Social Responsibility? The Arguments against CSR,”
Corporate Watch, accessed November 30, 2014,
Like the iceberg, most CSR activity is invisible…It is often an active attempt to increase
corporate domination rather than simply a defensive “image management” operation.
CSR is supposed to be win-win. The companies make profits and society benefits. But
who really wins? If there is a benefit to society, which in many cases is doubtful, is this
outweighed by losses to society in other areas of the company’s operation and by gains the
corporation is able to make as a result? CSR has ulterior motives. One study showed that
over 80% of corporate CSR decision-makers were very confident in the ability of good
CSR practice to deliver branding and employee benefits. To take the example of simple
corporate philanthropy, when corporations make donations to charity they are giving away
their shareholders’ money, which they can only do if they see potential profit in it. This may
be because they want to improve their image by associating themselves with a cause, to
exploit a cheap vehicle for advertising, or to counter the claims of pressure groups, but there
is always an underlying financial motive, so the company benefits more than the charity.
…CSR diverts attention from real issues, helping corporations to avoid regulation,
gain legitimacy and access to markets and decision makers, and shift the ground towards
privatization of public functions. CSR enables business to pose ineffective market-based
solutions to social and environmental crises, deflecting blame or problems caused by corporate
operations onto the consumer and protecting their interests while hampering efforts to
find just and sustainable solutions.
CSR as Public Relations
CSR sells. By appealing to customers’ consciences and desires CSR helps companies
to build brand loyalty and develop a personal connection with their customers. Many corporate
charity tie-ins gain companies access to target markets and the involvement of the
charity gives the company’s message much greater power. In our media-saturated culture,
companies are looking for ever more innovative ways to get across their message, and CSR
offers up many potential avenues, such as word of mouth or guerilla marketing, for subtly
reaching consumers.
CSR also helps to greenwash the company’s image, to cover up negative impacts by
saturating the media with positive images of the company’s CSR credentials….
A prominent case against Nike in the US Supreme Court illustrates this point. When,
in 2002, the Californian Supreme Court ruled that Nike did not have the right to lie in defending
itself against criticism, chaos ensued in the CSR movement. Activist Marc Kasky
attempted to sue the company over a misleading public relations campaign. Nike defended
itself using the First Amendment right to free speech. The court ruled that Nike was not
protected by the First Amendment, on the grounds that the publications in question were
Good Corporation, Bad Corporation Chapter 2
Debating CSR: Methods and Strategies|36
commercial speech. The case proceeded to the US Supreme Court. Legal briefs were submitted
to the Supreme Court by public relations and advertising trade associations, major
media groups, and leading multinationals, arguing that if a company’s claims on human
rights, environmental and social issues are legally required to be true, then companies won’t
continue to make statements on these matters.
The submission from ExxonMobil, Monsanto, Microsoft, Bank of America, and Pfizer
contended that “if a corporation’s every press release, letter to an editor, customer mailing,
and website posting may be the basis for civil and criminal actions, corporate speakers will
find it difficult to address issues of public concern implicating their products, services, or
business operations.”
This case simply reinforces the criticism that CSR is nothing more than a PR exercise.
Corporations would not be so concerned about potential legal actions if they valued truth,
transparency, and accountability as much as they claim.
CSR is a strategy for avoiding regulation
CSR is a corporate reaction to public mistrust and calls for regulation. In an Echo
research poll, most financial executives interviewed strongly resisted binding regulation of
companies. Companies argue that setting minimum standards stops innovation; that you
can’t regulate for ethics, you either have them or you don’t; and that unless they are able to
gain competitive advantage from CSR, companies cannot justify the cost.
Companies are essentially holding the government to ransom on the issue of regulation,
saying that regulation will threaten the positive work they are doing. CSR consultancy
Business in the Community supports corporate lobbying against regulation, arguing that
“regulation can only defend against bad practice—it can never promote best practice.” These
arguments, however, simply serve to expose the sham of CSR. Why would a “socially responsible
company” take issue with government regulation to tackle bad corporate practice?
…The argument that regulation would hinder voluntary efforts on the part of the company
to improve their behavior has been readily accepted by a government keen to avoid
its regulatory duties when it comes to curbing corporate power. The UK Department for
International Development (the department charged with tackling global poverty…) dismissed
the idea of an international legally binding framework for multinational companies
saying that it would “divert attention and energy away from encouraging corporate social
responsibility and towards legal processes.” As this quotation shows, without any evidence
for its effectiveness, the government is choosing CSR over making corporate exploitation
and abuse illegal.
2.5 “Leading Organizations Build Case for Green
“Leading Organizations Build Case for Green Infrastructure,” The Nature Conservancy,
accessed June 11, 2013,
Research by experts from industry and an environmental organization finds that incorporating
nature into man-made infrastructure can improve business resilience—and bring
additional economic, environmental, and socio-political benefits.
Experts from The Dow Chemical Company, Shell, Swiss Re, and Unilever, working
with The Nature Conservancy and a resiliency expert, evaluated a number of business Case
Good Corporation, Bad Corporation Chapter 2
Debating CSR: Methods and Strategies|37
Studies, and recommend in their newly published White Paper that green infrastructure
solutions should become part of the standard toolkit for modern engineers.
Green infrastructure employs elements of natural systems, while traditional gray infrastructure
is man-made. Examples of green infrastructure include creating oyster reefs for
coastal protection, and reed beds that treat industrial wastewater.
“Instead of thinking about independent solutions, we must look at integrated systems,”
said Andrew Liveris, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Dow. “Natural systems not
only serve multiple functions, but have multiple benefits—often requiring less capital and
less maintenance while promoting biodiversity that we all enjoy.”
“Green infrastructure can bring benefits for companies, for communities and for the
environment,” said Peter Voser, Chief Executive Officer of Royal Dutch Shell plc. “It can be
cheaper, provide new opportunities for engagement with stakeholders, and create wildlife
habitats. Green infrastructure should be part of mainstream business thinking.”
“Protecting nature and the services it provides to people and business is one of the
smartest investments we can make,” said Mark R. Tercek, president and CEO of The
Nature Conservancy.
“This is the case whether we are talking about the production of clean, abundant
freshwater, protection from storms, or healthy and productive soils. Green infrastructure
solutions also provide many co-benefits, such as wildlife habitat, and typically appreciate
over time, rather than depreciate as happens with gray infrastructure.”
Union Carbide Corporation (subsidiary of The Dow Chemical Company) uses constructed
wetlands to treat wastewater near Seadrift in Texas.
This 110-acre (approximately 44.5-hectare) engineered wetland was designed to consistently
meet regulatory requirements for water discharge from the manufacturing plant,
and has operated successfully for over a decade.
Petroleum Development Oman LLC (PDO) uses constructed wetlands to treat
produced water from oilfields in Oman.
The Nimr oilfields, in which The Shell Petroleum Company Ltd is a joint venture
partner, not only produce oil, but also more than 330,000 m3
of water per day. PDO built
the world’s largest commercial wetland, and it treats more than 30% (or 95,000 m3
per day)
of the total produced water. This volume would normally require extensive infrastructure
to treat and inject the water into a subsurface disposal well. As gravity pulls the water
downhill, reeds act as filters, removing oil from the water. The oil is eaten by microbes
that naturally feed on hydrocarbons underground. Oil content in the produced water is
consistently reduced from 400 mg/l to less than 0.5 mg/l when leaving the wetlands.
Power consumption and CO2
emissions are 98% lower than they would have been with
the alternative man-made solution. Also, the wetlands are providing habitat for fish and
hundreds of species of migratory birds.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the
world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy
and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres
Good Corporation, Bad Corporation Chapter 2
Debating CSR: Methods and Strategies|38
Synthesis Questions
1. Are there companies you can name whose social responsibility actions you admire
and trust? What do they do that inspires you?
2. Are there companies you can name whose social responsibility actions you would
not trust, or even doubt? Which companies are they, and why do they fail to convince
3. Would you like to work in the field of CSR? Why or why not?
1. Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow (New York: Farrar Straus and Giroux, 2011), 19-25.
2. Anthony G. Greenwald, Jacqueline E. Pickrell and Shelly D. Farnham, “Implicit Partisanship:
Taking Sides for No Reason,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 83 (2002), 367-379.
3. Albert H. Hastorf and Hadley Cantril, “They Saw a Game: A Case Study,” The Journal of
Abnormal and Social Psychology 49(1) (1954), 129-134.
4. For a thorough review of the extensive experimental literature on unconscious bias, see Mazarin
Banaji and Anthony Greenwald, Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People (New York: Delacorte,
5. Plato, The Dialogues of Plato (Oxford: Clarenden Press, 1921), 439.
6. Michael Schrage, “The Thought Leader Interview: Daniel Kahneman,” Business +
Strategy, Winter 2003, accessed November 29, 2014,
7. Bjorn Lomborg, Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist’s Guide to Global Warming (New
York: Vintage, 2010).
8. Kristie Arslan, “Five Big Myths About American Small Business,” Huffington Post, May 24,
2011, accessed November 29, 2014,
9. “Integrated Partnership: City Year and Timberland,” SR International, accessed November 29,
10. “Corporate Contributions,” Philip Morris International Management, accessed June 19, 2015,
11. Joshua Karliner, “A Brief History of Greenwash,” CorpWatch, May 22, 2001, accessed on
November 30, 2014,
12. “BP Engineer Called Doomed Rig a ‘Nightmare Well’”. CBSNews/CBS/
Associated Press, last updated June 14, 2010,
13. Robert Murphy, “Enron, the CSR Poster Child,”, last updated April 26, 2008,,_the_csr_poster_child/page/full.
Climate Change|39
Chapter 3
Climate Change
Source: Timothy Krause, (CC-BY 2.0, 2012)
Figure 3.1 In 2012, Hurricane Sandy devastated New York City and surrounding areas,
leaving hundreds of thousands of area residents without electricity or public services for weeks,
and leading to the death of 90 citizens. Could continued climate change lead to an increase in
catastrophic weather events of this nature?
The Threat of Climate Change
Climate change is perhaps the most important problem facing the world’s citizens
today. In the consensus view of scientific experts, climate change—in particular as manifested
through global warming—is likely to produce disastrous social and environmental
catastrophes in this century. For example, certain low-lying Pacific islands are in danger of
being inundated by rising sea levels. Another fear is that deserts in Africa and the Middle
East will not only grow rapidly in size, but eventually will become inhospitable to human
and animal life as temperatures rise. Yet another major concern is that the hurricanes and
Good Corporation, Bad Corporation Chapter 3
Climate Change|40
typhoons that regularly pound the world’s coastlines will reach ever-greater levels of destructive
Despite these risks, neither the United Nations nor the world’s governments have yet
implemented a clear and convincing strategy to fight climate change. Virtually all climate
experts agree that the key to stopping or even slowing global warming lies in the urgent
reversal of the long-term trend toward increasing atmospheric concentrations of carbon
dioxide (CO2
). Although there have been many proposals to curb the growth of CO2
emissions, it is not yet clear how a global reduction in CO2
can be achieved. One major
roadblock in this effort is that a few of the world’s largest emerging economies, notably
those of India and China, are responsible for a large proportion of current global CO2
but these countries are not yet willing to agree to mandatory limits. Faced with their
reluctance, the United States, the world’s second-leading producer of global warming gases,
has also refused to commit to mandatory reductions in CO2
. In the United States’ view,
mandatory commitments must be accepted by all major economies in order to have a real
impact. However, in November 2014 the first signs of China-U.S. cooperation on climate
change were witnessed when the countries formally announced a mutual commitment to
reduce carbon emissions by 2028.1
In this chapter, you will be asked what kind of action a major corporation should take
in fighting global warming. Should the corporation spend a lot of money and try to be an
industry leader in fighting global warming, or does it make more sense to take smaller, more
symbolic actions?
Source: NOAA (National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration), 2009, public domain
Figure 3.2 Global records of average temperature and carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration show
that as CO2 levels have increased over the past century, so have global temperatures.
Basic Terminology
What is generally called climate change or global warming in the popular media is referred
to by scientists as anthropogenic climate forcing. Anthropogenic means man-made and
specifies that they are talking about global warming that is caused by human activity and
not by natural variations in temperature. The global temperature of the earth has varied
continuously since the birth of the planet, and even today, some portion of that variation
Good Corporation, Bad Corporation Chapter 3
Climate Change|41
can still be attributed to unpredictable increases and decreases in the amount of solar radiation
the Earth is receiving from the sun.2
Climate forcing refers to the effect of human activities in pushing the natural variation
of the earth’s temperature in one direction or another. From this perspective, global warming
is an imprecise term because some of the observed warming of the earth’s temperature may
also be due to natural causes or natural variation. Most press commentators prefer to use
the term climate change because many of the negative impacts of global warming will be the
product of changes in weather patterns. There is thus more to climate change than increased
temperatures, and it is even possible that some areas of the planet could experience cooling
of temperatures (for example, it has been postulated that continued global warming could
disrupt the Gulf Stream, which brings warm Caribbean waters to Europe—thereby leading
to much colder European winters).3
Despite these caveats, we will fall back on use of the more common terms, climate change
and global warming because they are so widely used by ordinary citizens and policymakers.
Causes: Greenhouse Gases
It is generally agreed that the primary cause of man-made global warming is the accumulation
of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the atmosphere. These gases act as a sort of
invisible blanket around the earth, holding in heat and preventing it from radiating out into
space. The most important greenhouse gases are carbon dioxide (CO2
), methane (CH4
nitrous oxide (NO2
) and ozone.4
Carbon dioxide has been a particular focus of anti-global warming efforts. Concentrations
are measured in parts per million or PPM (indicating how many molecules of the
gas are present in one million molecules of air). The current concentration of CO2
in the
atmosphere is approximately 395 to 400 PPM, and CO2
emissions are increasing at a rate
of about 3% every year. As a result, human activities currently produce emissions of roughly
35 billion tons of CO2
per year, a 54% increase over 1990 levels.5
Prior the start of the industrial revolution, around 1780, it is estimated that global CO2
concentrations were approximately 280 PPM. In 1958 when CO2
emissions began to be
precisely measured for the first time, the atmospheric concentration was approximately 315
PPM. By 1990, CO2
emissions were growing rapidly, and in 2013, occasional measurements
of over 400 PPM began to be recorded for the first time, suggesting that a potentially
dangerous threshold had been reached.6
It is widely feared that concentrations of 450 PPM
or higher would be associated with a global average temperature increase in excess of 2
degrees Celsius, which is considered by many experts to be the threshold beyond which
the Earth’s human population is likely to suffer potentially catastrophic effects. As a result,
much of the worldwide effort to fight global warming has been focused on reducing the
increase in CO2
emissions so that global levels can be kept beneath 450 PPM. However, if
nothing is done, some projections suggest that, by the year 2100, CO2
could range as high
as 540 PPM to 970 PPM.7
At such high concentrations, scientists fear that climate change
could reach a “tipping point,” beyond which temperatures and chaotic weather patterns
could accelerate wildly out of control.
It should be noted that, even though most public debate concerns CO2
, it is not the
only significant GHG. Methane, in particular, also has a potentially important impact on
future global warming. In fact, methane is 23 times more powerful than CO2
in terms of its
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warming effect (that is, methane traps more heat than CO2
Some experts argue that the
world should focus more on curbing methane than on CO2
, largely because it seems easier
to control methane emissions without undertaking the major costs and expenses that are
demanded by reduction of CO2
Despite the ongoing controversy over whether methane deserves more attention, the
primary concern of policy-makers continues to be CO2
. One reason for this focus is that
lasts much longer in the atmosphere than methane does (methane decomposes in 15
to 20 years, whereas CO2
can remain for 50 to 75 years), but another reason is that CO2
emissions are linked to civilization’s relentlessly increasing use of energy, which seems much
more challenging to control. Methane is generated primarily by decomposing garbage, by
extraction of natural gas, and most colorfully, by the belching and flatulence9
of agricultural
animals. Some people find it hard to believe that the burping of cows can lead to a risk
of global warming, but agricultural generation of methane is actually quite significant. In
addition to the belching of ruminants, the enormous amounts of animal manure generated
by agriculture also create significant methane emissions.10 However, current technologies
allow for a more optimistic view on reducing methane emissions. For example, landfills for
garbage and refuse are now commonly fitted with methane-capturing devices that not only
prevent the methane from escaping into the atmosphere, but they even allow the methane
to be used to generate clean energy.
Given the importance of controlling CO2
in the battle against climate change, it has
become commonplace for policymakers to speak in terms of controlling “carbon” (note that
carbon is part of not only the CO2
molecule, but also the CH4
molecule, as well as being
present in atmospheric soot, which is also considered a major contributor to warming).
Thus, when climate economists are trying to measure the average CO2
emissions produced
by an individual, company, or country they often refer to the relevant carbon footprint.
When policymakers discuss the possibility of discouraging CO2
emissions by taxing them,
they commonly refer to this as a carbon tax.
The primary sources of CO2
emissions are the burning of coal, oil, and natural gas.
Every time you drive in a car or fly in an airplane, the car’s or the airplane’s engine burns
gasoline to create energy, thereby producing greenhouse gases. When you use electricity to
operate devices or appliances like electric lights, televisions, or computers, the electricity
they use was most likely generated in a power plant through the burning of coal, oil, or
natural gas (though it is true, of course, that a small but increasing percentage of electricity
generation is coming from solar and wind power).
Solutions and Responses: Mitigation,
Adaptation and Geo-Engineering
The long term solution to global warming is for mankind to further develop renewable
or “clean” forms of energy, such as hydropower, solar power, and wind power, which do not
generate GHG emissions. However, with the exception of hydropower, renewable methods
produce energy at prices that are currently so much more expensive than energy derived
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Climate Change|43
from coal, oil, and gas that it seems very unlikely that many countries will switch over
rapidly to clean energies.
One well-established form of energy production, nuclear, appears to meet the need for
reasonably cheap and plentiful energy produced without generating GHG emissions, but
nuclear energy has other strong disadvantages. Nuclear power plants use the controlled fission
of radioactive uranium to heat water into steam, which then turns turbines to generate
electricity. In their daily operations, nuclear power plants do not produce CO2
. However,
when the uranium fuel is depleted, it remains dangerously radioactive and must be disposed
of carefully.
Even more disturbing, from the public’s point of view, is the danger associated with
accidents at nuclear power plants, such as the 1986 Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine, or the
2011 Fukushima Daiichi disaster in Japan. Though such accidents are rare, they can result
in the release of highly toxic radioactivity into the atmosphere, which poses both short- and
long-term health risks for the surrounding population, and even for distant populations.
Following the Fukushima disaster, Germany decided to phase out all use of nuclear energy
(in 2010, 17% of Germany’s energy came from nuclear plants).
Meanwhile, however, over 400 nuclear plants continue to operate in 31 countries. A
few countries, such as France, Belgium, and Slovakia, derive most of their energy from
nuclear plants. Given that such plants can yield a great deal of energy but they do not
produce GHGs, they pose a great dilemma for people who are concerned about global
warming. On one hand, additional nuclear plants could satisfy the world’s demands for
more energy without producing GHGs. On the other hand, a major expansion of nuclear
energy production would increase the risk of accidents, which could release dangerous
levels of radioactivity. Although some prominent climate change activists, most notably the
respected former NASA scientist James Hansen, have called for increased use of nuclear
energy as the only realistic way of limiting climate change, such arguments have yet to
convince most environmentalists.
Therefore, most experts do not believe that there is any easy fix that will be readily
available in the near future to solve the problem of global warming. Consequently, most experts
believe that humans should focus on strategies of mitigation, or reducing the negative
impacts of global warming until technological progress makes alternative forms of energy
cheaper.13 When solar or wind power becomes cheap and powerful enough to permit a
worldwide move to clean energies, we will have solved the CO2
problem. However, that
point now seems several decades away, possibly even longer.
In the meantime, how do we mitigate the danger of global warming? The key strategy
is to gradually reduce our dependence on energy that emits GHG. As we will see, governments
all over the world have committed themselves to reducing the amount of GHG
each nation emits. They do this by reducing energy consumption and by gradually moving
toward increased usage of clean energy. For example, when consumers purchase electronic
appliances that use less electricity, or when they switch from cars with gasoline engines to
hybrid engines that generate fewer GHGs, the countries in which those consumers live
gradually reduce the growth of GHG emissions.
Governments everywhere, from national to city and local administrations, are seeking
ways to conserve energy and to encourage consumers to use less energy. Since some companies
and countries have had more success in reducing GHG emissions, one policy that
has been promoted is to create a market-based mechanism for encouraging reductions in
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Climate Change|44
GHG. These mechanisms have alternatively been referred to as cap and trade or carbon offset
Under a cap and trade system, a government sets a maximum limit on the amount
of emissions a company is allowed—the so-called cap. Cap and trade was used in the
United States to control acid rain by limiting emissions of sulfur dioxide, but it has never
been adopted for controlling climate change by limiting emissions of carbon dioxide.15
The “trade” part of the equation comes in when a company wants, for business reasons, to
go beyond the allowed limit. It can do so by trading, or purchasing unused permits from a
company that had stayed below its limit. In this way, companies are encouraged to reduce
their emissions—because they can sell their unused allowances—while companies that find
themselves unable to do so can obtain a measure of flexibility by buying permits.
In 2005, the European Climate Exchange was created in Europe to permit trading of
carbon emissions permits. This system worked in Europe because many European countries
had committed themselves to mandatory carbon emissions caps under the Kyoto Protocol.16
Similar to the cap and trade system is the use of carbon offsets, which is a voluntary
system. With carbon offsets, companies that continue to generate carbon emissions pay
other companies or organizations to reduce their emissions. In this fashion, the overall
amount of carbon emissions between the two companies should decrease or remain stable.
Common carbon offsets include a number of GHG-reduction projects, such as tree plantings,
renewable energy expansion, and energy efficiency projects. Even individuals can
participate in the carbon offset system. For example, it is well known that one of the easiest
ways for an individual to make a negative impact is to take a long airplane flight, because
airplane engines produce a great deal of carbon emissions. This can be quite a dilemma,
because many people today are very concerned about global warming, yet they still love
to travel. One solution is to purchase a personal carbon offset when you take a plane trip.
In this way, you can keep from increasing your personal carbon footprint. Al Gore is one
prominent individual who travels in this fashion.
Adaptation involves preparing people and countries to better resist the negative impacts
of climate change.17 One of the most widely-discussed risks associated with increased
global warming is the increased intensity of hurricanes. The harmful impact of such hurricanes
can be augmented by a gradual increase in sea level, also associated with global
warming.18 For example, it was a combination of a severe hurricane with an unusually high
tide that resulted in the devastation and flooding of New York City by Hurricane Sandy in
2012. Adaptation by New York City might involve preventing future encroachment upon
the city of hurricane sea surges by building barriers similar to the massive ocean barriers
that have been built in the Netherlands.
Often relegated to the realm of science fiction or fantasy by experts, geo-engineering
responses continue to be discussed as a possible fallback option if, as seems increasingly
likely, humans are unable to reverse the long-term growth of carbon emissions in the
twenty-first century. Geo-engineering involves using a number of novel or advanced technologies
to reduce carbon emissions or lower the planet’s temperature.19 One example is the
massive planting of trees, because trees drain CO2
out of the atmosphere, thereby creating
Good Corporation, Bad Corporation Chapter 3
Climate Change|45
a large “carbon sink” and reducing the level of atmospheric CO2
. Another solution, more
far-fetched, would be to spray inert sun-blocking gases high into the stratosphere, creating
a sort of “global sun-block.” Some concerned scientists are even more frightened by the
thought of ill-advised geo-engineering of this nature than they are of global warming itself.
The United Nations and the IPCC
In light of the scientific community’s consensus on the possible danger of continued
global warming, in 1988, the United Nations created a special agency to coordinate the
world’s efforts to control climate change: the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
(IPCC), which brought together the world’s top scientific and public policy experts.20 The
IPCC is a large coordinating committee of scientists and government representatives. More
than 2500 climate experts are affiliated with the IPCC and about 350 representatives from
120 countries regularly attend the IPCC’s periodic meetings. Although the IPCC does
not directly conduct research itself, it summarizes current global warming research into a
special document that can be used by governments around the world, the IPCC Summary
for Policymakers.
The IPCC has also produced a few larger, comprehensive surveys called “Assessment
Reports,” which seek to consolidate the results of all global warming research to date. The
first assessment report was published in 1990 and concluded that man-made emission
of greenhouse gases was accelerating global warming. It was estimated that the projected
growth in CO2
emissions would lead to a future warming throughout the twenty-first
century on the order of 0.3°C per decade.22
The United Nations Framework Convention
and the Kyoto Protocol
In 1992, at the so-called Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the United Nations
undertook concerted action for the first time to fight the danger of climate change,
with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (also known as the
Framework Convention, FCCC or the UNFCCC). The UNFCCC eventually was signed
by some 190 countries, with 37 countries agreeing to legally-binding limits.23
The UNFCCC is an international treaty that is continually updated. That is why it is
called a “framework convention”: The basic framework remains the same, but the specifics
of what the signing countries intend to achieve is periodically refined in successive revisions,
and these subsequent agreements are named after the city where the main negotiating
conference takes place. Recent updates to the UNFCCC have occurred, notably, at Doha,
Cancun, and Copenhagen, but the most historic of the UNFCCC updates still remains the
famous Kyoto Protocol, the first time that the world’s nations agreed to commit themselves
to controlling and reducing carbon emissions.
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Dissenting Voices and Public Opinion
Despite the increasing alarm with which the scientific consensus pressures policymakers
for convincing solutions, a vocal minority of politicians and scientists has continued
to attack the consensus viewpoint. These global warming skeptics have often been derided
as irrational and unscientific “deniers” by the media. Many of these so-called deniers, it
has been claimed, are actually paid or otherwise indebted to large oil companies and other
corporate producers of CO2
. However, many of these skeptics have impressive academic
credentials, and they have managed to convince a growing number of policymakers and
citizens that the consensus viewpoint is either erroneous, alarmist, or overstated.
Some of the critics continue to argue that they are not convinced that increased levels
of CO2
will inevitably lead to higher global temperatures, but this is certainly a marginal
viewpoint, and very few respected scientists go so far. Notably, Danish economist Bjørn
Lomborg, perhaps the most famous representative of the skeptics, admits that global
warming is a real and serious threat, but argues that the scientific community is pressing
for excessively costly solutions that will not help in the long run. Lomborg believes that
sharp reductions in carbon emissions, the principal prescription issued by the IPCC, could
be counterproductive, because this would not do much to reduce global warming but could
have severe negative impacts on the global economy. Lomborg favors a modest reduction
in carbon emissions coupled with heavy investments in scientific research for alternative
means of energy.24 Other critics, such as Richard Lindzen, professor of climatology at MIT,
question the scientific basis of the consensus view that disastrous warming is an inevitable
consequence of increased CO2
Case Study: UBS Seeks an Appropriate
Global Warming Policy
In 2005, the Union Bank of Switzerland (UBS), one of the world’s largest financial
services institutions, was trying to decide what action to take on global warming. Many of
UBS’s large competitors, notably Hong Kong Shanghai Bank Corporation (HSBC), had
made significant public commitments to help mitigate global warming. UBS wanted to do
the right thing, and it also wanted to keep up with its competitors, without spending too
much money. UBS was determined to take some concrete action to fight global warming,
but it was not easy to decide how much of a commitment it should make—a major commitment,
an average commitment, or merely a symbolic commitment.
Some of the steps that UBS could take would actually produce long-term cost savings
for UBS, and therefore these actions were clearly in UBS’s interest. For example, UBS
could reduce the number of airplane flights taken by its top executives, replacing in-person
meetings with international video-conferencing. Such a step would not only reduce UBS’s
carbon emissions, it would reduce the cost of sending executives to foreign locations, which
was quite expensive. Despite such potential cost savings, it soon became clear that it would
cost money for UBS to be able to say it was taking action against global warming.
Good Corporation, Bad Corporation Chapter 3
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At the time of this case, UBS was one of the world’s largest financial services institutions,
with offices in over 50 countries and more than 70,000 employees. The company was
organized into several major divisions, including a leading investment bank and a wealth
management operation providing special banking services to very wealthy people. Like
many other Swiss banks, UBS catered to a sophisticated, global clientele.26
UBS’s commitment to CSR and sustainability went far beyond global warming issues
alone. In general, UBS believed that CSR was more than just a business issue; it was also a
moral issue and a matter of company values. Consequently, UBS created a special Corporate
Responsibility Committee, which was composed of many of the bank’s senior executives.
Interestingly, however, UBS did not measure the impact of its CSR activities. In contrast,
it carefully measured the impact of its sponsorship activities on the UBS brand. Thus, UBS
seemed to draw a distinction between community involvement, from which it expected
returns in marketing awareness and public relations, and CSR, which was to be pursued for
its own good.27
On the industry level, UBS had begun to develop expertise in analyzing investment
funds for their social and environmental responsibility. On the local level, UBS believed
in supporting communities through cash donations to educational and environmental
projects of $38 million per year. As for UBS’s own overall environmental impact, UBS
audited its own impact by having an independent inspector subject UBS’s activities to an
ISO 14001 environmental audit, the world’s leading standard for measuring environmental
UBS Competitors’ Actions on Global Warming
In researching possible options for its anti–global warming strategy, UBS reviewed the
actions taken by its chief competitors. Here is what the research revealed:
HSBC, the world’s largest bank, was also the banking industry’s leader in the battle
against global warming. As early as 2004, HSBC announced that it would offset 100% of
its greenhouse gas emissions through a variety of market-based mechanisms. Among the
beneficiaries of HSBC’s offset purchases were a New Zealand wind farm, an Australian
waste composter, a German methane reducer and an Indian biomass generator. HSBC’s
leadership was widely recognized in industry circles, and included a Sustainable Banking
Award from the Financial Times.
Citigroup, which operates Citibank, was also one of the world’s largest financial services
companies, managing over $1 trillion in assets. Citigroup was tackling global warming by
compiling records on energy use at all of its company buildings and then using that information
to refurbish many of its facilities so as to reduce energy consumption. Citigroup also
committed itself to a 10% reduction in its greenhouse gas emissions to be achieved by 2011.
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Credit Suisse
UBS’s main competitor in Switzerland, Credit Suisse had announced that all of its
buildings in Switzerland would be greenhouse-gas neutral by 2006. In order to fulfill its
commitment to achieving a completely neutral carbon footprint by 2008, Credit Suisse
ordered nearly 250,000 tons of carbon credits at a cost of CHF 2.2 million.
UBS Four Options for Action
After conducting its research and evaluation, UBS settled on four possible scenarios for
action on global warming.29 In the end, it became a question of how much UBS was willing
to pay for different levels of reduction of carbon emissions:
Option Commitment 2012 cost
(in $ millions)
Reduction in
CO2 emissions
1 CO2
emissions stabilized at 2005 levels $2.8–5.0 0%
2 Keep up with competitors $3.7–5.9 10%
3 Good public relations $6.4–8.6 40%
4 Match industry-leader HSBC $9.1–11.3 100%
Topic for Debate: Appropriate CSR Action
on Global Warming
The question you are to debate is as follows: If you could advise UBS on what course of
action to take, what option would you recommend?
Take a position specifically on what UBS should do about global warming. You must
base your arguments to some extent on the statements and publications of scientific and
public policy experts.
The debate positions may be formulated as follows:
UBS should adopt the more aggressive, powerful, and costly alternative to fighting
global warming, by choosing option 1 or 2 from the list.
Possible Arguments
• Global warming is very serious and all companies should take action.
• UBS is a respected company that will inspire other companies to follow suit.
• All corporations should be part of the solution.
• It will send a message to other financial institutions.
• It will motivate employees by improving perception of their employer.
• It will provide good public relations.
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UBS should settle for a less-costly and -aggressive alternative, by choosing option 3 or
4 from the list.
Possible Arguments
• UBS reduction of carbon emissions will have a minuscule effect on global warming.
• Switzerland is not a major source of carbon emissions.
• UBS clients do not choose UBS because of its global warming actions.
• UBS should focus on banking services and not get distracted by CSR or global
• Banks cannot solve the global warming problem alone.
• Symbolic action is acceptable but strong action is unnecessary. Let HSBC win this
3.1 “We Can’t Wish Away Climate Change”
Gore, Al. “We Can’t Wish Away Climate Change.” New York Times, February 27, 2010,
3.2 “The Climate Science Isn’t Settled: Confident
Predictions of Catastrophe Are Unwarranted”
Lindzen, Richard. “The Climate Science Isn’t Settled,” The Wall Street Journal, November
30, 2009.
3.3 “Climate Change Worse Than Expected, Argues
Lord Stern”
Nayantara Nayaran and ClimateWire, “Climate Change Worse Than Expected, Argues
Lord Stern,” Scientific American, April 3, 2013, accessed on November 30,
3.4 “Heretical Thoughts about Science and Society”
Dyson, Freeman. “Heretical Thoughts about Science and Society,” in Many Colored Glass:
Reflections on the Place of Life in the Universe, 43-60. Charlottesville, VA: University
of Virginia Press, 2007.
The Need for Heretics
The public prefers to listen to scientists who give confident answers to questions and
make confident predictions of what will happen as a result of human activities. So it hap-
Good Corporation, Bad Corporation Chapter 3
Climate Change|50
pens that the experts who talk publicly about politically contentious questions tend to
speak more clearly than they think. They make confident predictions about the future, and
end up believing their own predictions. Their predictions become dogmas which they do
not question.
Climate and Land Management
…My first heresy says that all the fuss about global warming is grossly exaggerated.
Here I am opposing the holy brotherhood of climate model experts and the crowd of
deluded citizens who believe the numbers predicted by the computer models…
When I listen to the public debates about climate change, I am impressed by the enormous
gaps in our knowledge, the sparseness of our observations, and the superficiality of
our theories. Many of the basic processes of planetary ecology are poorly understood. They
must be better understood before we can reach an accurate diagnosis of the present condition
of our planet. When we are trying to take care of a planet, just as when we are taking
care of a human patient, diseases must be diagnosed before they can be cured. We need to
observe and measure what is going on in the biosphere, rather than relying on computer
Oceans and Ice Ages
We have accurate measurements of sea level going back two hundred years. We observe
a steady rise from 1800 to the present, with an acceleration during the last fifty years But
the rise from 1800 to 1900 was probably not due to human activities. The scale of industrial
activities in the nineteenth century was not large enough to have had measurable global
effects. So a large part of the observed rise in sea level must have other causes…
Another environmental danger that is even more poorly understood is the possible
coming of a new ice age… If human activities were not disturbing the climate, a new ice age
might already have begun. We do not know how to answer the most important question:
Do our human activities in general, and our burning of fossil fuels in particular, make the
onset of the next ice age more likely or less likely?
The Wet Sahara
At many places in the Sahara desert that are now dry and unpopulated, we find rockpaintings
showing people with herds of animals…
I would like to ask two questions. First, if the increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere
is allowed to continue, shall we arrive at a climate similar to the climate of six
thousand years ago when the Sahara was wet? Second, if we could choose between the
climate of today with a dry Sahara and the climate of six thousand years ago with a wet
Sahara, should we prefer the climate of today?
The biosphere is the most complicated of all the things we humans have to deal with.
The science of planetary ecology is still young and undeveloped. It is not surprising that
honest and well-informed experts can disagree about facts…
3.5 UBS Ordered to Pay 1.5 Billion Fine for Fraud
Bart, Katharina, Tom Miles, and Aruna Viswanatha. “UBS Traders Charged, Bank Fined
$1.5 Billion in Libor Scandal.” Reuters. December 19, 2012. http://www.reuters.
Good Corporation, Bad Corporation Chapter 3
Climate Change|51
Synthesis Questions
1. Are consumers more likely to buy products from companies that are more active in
the fight against global warming?
2. Should companies strive to be industry leaders in the fight against global warming?
3. What is the best overall solution or response to the problem posed by global
1. “U.S. – China Joint Announcement on Climate Change,” White House, November
12, 2014,
2. Matthew Bampton, “Anthropogenic Transformation” in Encyclopedia of Environmental Science,
ed., David E. Alexander and Rhodes W. Fairbridge (Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer Academic
Publishers, 1999), 22-27.
3. America’s Climate Choices: Panel on Advancing the Science of Climate Change; National
Research Council, Advancing the Science of Climate Change (Washington, DC: The National
Academies Press, 2010).
4. Thomas R. Karl TR and Kevin E. Trenberth, “Modern global climate change,” Science 302, no.
5651 (2003): 1719–23, doi:10.1126/science.1090228.
5. D.M. Etheridge et al., “Natural and anthropogenic changes in atmospheric CO2 over the
last 1000 years from air in Antarctic ice,” Journal of Geophysical Research 101, no. D2 (1996):
6. Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network, “Trends in Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide,” Earth
System Research Laboratory Global Monitoring Division, last updated August 8, 2012, http://
7. I.C. Prentence et al., “The Carbon Cycle and Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide: Executive Summary,”
Chapter 3 in Climate Change 2001: The Scientific Basis, Contribution of Working Group
I to the Third Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, ed., J.T.
Houghton et al. (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 185–187.
8. S. Soloman et al., “Net Global Radiative Forcing, Global Warming Potentials, and Patterns of
Forcing,” Technical Summary 2.5 in Climate Change 2007: The Scientific Basis (Cambridge, UK:
Cambridge University Press, 2007), 31–34.
9. Or in the popular vernacular, “farting.” Ruminants (animals with multiple stomachs, which
permits them to digest grasses), such as cows, deer, sheep, goats, and camels, produce significant
amounts of methane during their digestive process, known as enteric fermentation. Most of the
methane thereby produced comes out the front end of the cow, but significant amounts also come
out the other end. Twenty-three percent of the methane produced in the United States comes from
10. Henning Steinfeld, et al., “Livestock’s Long Shadow: Environmental Issues and Options.”
Livestock, Environment and Development, FAO, 2006, 79-122.
11. Laurence A.Wright, Simon Kemp, and Ian Williams, “’Carbon Footprinting’: Towards a
Universally Accepted Definition,” Carbon Management 2, no. 1 (2011): 61–72.
Good Corporation, Bad Corporation Chapter 3
Climate Change|52
12. Peter Hoeller and Markku Wallin, “Energy Prices, Taxes, and Carbon Dioxide Emissions,”
OECD Economic Studies, no 17 (Autumn 1991), 92.
13. Brian Fisher et al., “Interaction between Mitigation and Adaptation, in the Light of Climate
Change Impacts and Decision-Making under Long-Term Uncertainty,” Section 3.5 in Climate
Change 2007: Mitigation of Climate Change, Contribution of Working Group III to the Fourth
Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2007, ed., B. Metz et al.
(Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 225–233.
14. Jenna Goodward and Alexia Kelly, “Bottom Line on Offsets,” World Resources Institute, 17
(August 2010), 1–2.
15. Robert N. Stavins, “Experience with Market-Based Environmental Policy Instruments,”
Discussion Paper 01-58 (Washington, DC: Resources for the Future, November 2011).
16. United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Kyoto Protocol (UNFCCC,
17. United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, “UNFCCC Glossary of Climate
Change Acronyms,” accessed November 30, 2014,
18. Andrea Thompson, “Study: Global Warming Could Hinder Hurricanes,” LiveScience, April
17, 2007,
19. United States Government Accountability Office, Climate Engineering: Technical Status, Future
Directions, and Potential Responses (Washington, DC: Center for Science, Technology, and Engineering,
July 2011), p. 3.
20. Spencer Weart, “International Cooperation: Democracy and Policy Advice (1980s),” The
Discovery of Global Warming, American Institute of Physics, last modified February 2014, http://
21. IPCC, “Summary for Policymakers,” in Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis, Contribution
of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on
Climate Change, ed., S.D. Solomon et al (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2007).
22. United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
23. “Status of Ratification of the Convention,” United Nations Framework Convention on
Climate Change,
24. Sophie Elmhirst, “The NS Interview: Bjørn Lomborg,” New Statesman, September 24, 2010,
25. William K. Stevens, “Scientist at Work: Richard S. Lindzen; A Skeptic Asks, Is It Getting
Hotter, Or Is It Just the Computer Model?” The New York Times, June 18, 1996.
26. “Our Clients and Businesses,” UBS, last modified August 12, 2014,
27. Katharina Bart, “UBS Lays Out Employee Ethics Code,” The Wall Street Journal, January 13,
28. “ISO 14000—Environmental Management,” ISO,
29. Sid Maher, “Europe’s $287bn carbon ‘waste’: UBS report,” The Australian, November 23,
Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)|53
Chapter 4
Genetically Modified
Organisms (GMOs)
Source: Paul and Cathy, Creative Commons License (CC-BY 2.0, 2013)
Figure 4.1 Worldwide concern over GMO and GMO-labeling has made leading GMO-seed
producer Monsanto one of the world’s most controversial corporations. Here, a pro-labeling
activist group is protesting against Monsanto in Columbus, Ohio in 2013.
What Are Genetically Modified Organisms?
No corporate activity today is more controversial than the production and sale of genetically
modified organisms (GMOs; another common abbreviation is GM for genetically
modified foods). One company in particular, Monsanto, has become so closely associated
with GMOs that it has become the target of worldwide criticism and a number of public
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Though news articles and editorials appear daily about public interest campaigns
against GMOs, many consumers still are not sure exactly what GMOs are or why they
are so controversial. As you walk down the aisle of your local supermarket, you may have
noticed package labels that state, “This product does not contain GMOs.” Should you buy
such products? Should you prefer them to other products that do not make the same claim?
A GMO is any organism whose genes have been modified unnaturally.1
gene modification involves isolating a gene from one species and splicing it into another. For
example, this could involve isolating a mildew-resistant gene from one plant and splicing it
into a different species of plant in order to create a product that stays fresh longer.2
In one
sense, genetic manipulation is quite ancient. Ever since the origins of agriculture thousands
of years ago, farmers have known how to improve crop quality by selectively breeding strains
of vegetables, fruit, or grain. However, such hybrids are not GMOs because the process of
creating them does not involve the transfer of genes from one species to another.
The term GMO refers not only to food products, but also to animals, insects, and medications
that have been produced through genetic modification. The first medicine produced
through genetic engineering was insulin. Previously, insulin for diabetes patients had been
harvested from animals.3
Introduction of GMO-derived insulin reduced dependence on
animals for the creation of this drug, and also reduced the number of negative allergic
reactions among diabetes patients who were sensitive to animal-derived insulin. Genetic
engineering has been used to develop medicines and treatments for a number of diseases,
including cancer. This ability to engineer the genetic make-up of an organism has been
referred to as conscious evolution.
Genetically modified crops can be designed to provide benefits for producers or consumers.
To date, the primary focus has been on improved farming productivity. Most GMO
crops available today were created to be resistant to specific pests, pesticides, diseases, or
difficult environmental conditions such as flood or drought.5
For example, one of the most
commercially successful genetic modifications for crops is one that makes them resistant
to glyphosate, an especially effective herbicide developed by Monsanto and sold under the
trademark Roundup, but which is now produced by many other companies.6
Monsanto has
developed seeds for GM crops that are resistant to glyphosate and are therefore marketed
as “Roundup Ready.” By using GM crops that are resistant to glyphosate, farmers can
control weeds more easily. This allows farmers to increase harvests while using less labor,
because there is less need to plow fields once they have been cleared of weeds with glyphosate.
Clearing weeds also reduces the presence of insect predators that could diminish crop
One commonly cited example of the potential benefits of GMOs comes from the
extensive reliance on GM crops in China, which has allowed China to greatly improve farm
Cotton plants genetically modified to be resistant to local pests are already
widely-used in China. By switching to this cotton, use of pesticides has decreased by 80%.
Genetically modified organisms play a larger role in our world than most Americans
realize. In the United States today, over 90% of soybean, cotton, corn, and other crops are
genetically modified.8
If you were not aware of the extent of GMO usage, you are not alone.
A 2005 survey asked Canadians, Americans, and Britons if they were paying close attention
to genetic engineering in their medication and food: Only 9% of Americans reported that
they paid close attention to the issue and 31% were somewhat interested, but 25% answered
that they had not paid any attention to the issue, and an additional 35% had paid little
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Arguably, one of the reasons the public does not know more about genetically modified
organisms is that research in the field is primarily conducted by the main companies who
develop GMOs, and these companies do not wish to alarm the public.10 Large corporations
have dominated the world of genetic engineering since the Supreme Court ruled that genes
could be patented.11 Patent protection and enforcement by large corporations make it difficult
for smaller companies or research firms to enter the genetic modification market. As
a result, it is difficult for independent researchers to study patented genes without approval
from the companies that own them.12
In the view of GMO skeptics, available research on GM food is usually biased in favor
of GMOs.13 It has been alleged that independent researchers who threaten the interests
of the large corporations risk losing research funding.14 The relative lack of independent
research makes it more difficult for the general public to arrive at an informed, objective
opinion. Many of the articles, websites, and other publications on this topic are biased: They
either are produced by corporations that have developed GM foods, or they are published
by lobby groups who are strongly opposed to GM foods.
GMOs and Biodiversity
The impact of GMOs on biodiversity is widely debated. Pro-GMO researchers maintain
that if crops are genetically modified for pest resistance, farmers can reduce their reliance on
insecticides, so that local fauna, such as birds, rodents, and insects, can flourish in the area.
Secondary pests that would have been eliminated through widespread insecticide application
are not suppressed by the scaled-back insecticide use permitted by GMOs. Because
these secondary pests remain, other small predators—the birds and rodents that feed on
the secondary pests—remain viable.15 In addition, the development of drought-resistant
or flood-resistant crops allows arid or flood-prone land to be used for growing crops. This
means that less high-biodiversity terrain needs to be converted for farming.16
On the other side of the debate, GMO skeptics have argued that up to 75% of plant
genetic diversity has been lost since farmers switched to uniform GM crop varieties. In
this view, less popular, non-GM seed varieties are being neglected.17 Moreover, widely used
GM crop varieties can spread to neighboring fields and eventually mix in with non-GM
crops. A farmer who wishes to continue using a non-GM seed variety, or who desires to
maintain the organic status of his crops, must adopt potentially expensive measures to
protect his crops from contamination or cross-pollination with his neighbor’s GM crops.
It has also been argued that the over-popularity of certain GM crops may lead to greater
susceptibility to pests and disease.18 Pests may evolve to target the monoculture of popular
and overused crop varieties. Moreover, it has been argued that the evolution of glyphosateresistant
weeds has required farmers to make ever-greater use of glyphosate, the toxicity of
which poses dangers for human health.
It has been hypothesized that GM crops can harm insect species that are not pests.
Insects that feed on GM crops will carry GM pollen, which may prove toxic in the long
term and result in depletion or even extinction of insect populations.19 The genetic integrity
of any plant or insect that lives in close proximity to GM crops can be compromised
because gene transfer from one organism to another can occur, and such genes may pose
unanticipated risks. GM traits have been found transferred to insects, water life, and soil.
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GMOs and Food Supply
It is frequently argued that GM crops are helping farmers solve the world’s hunger
problems. Conceivably, GM crops help improve food sustainability, enhance environmental
farming methods, and produce more nutritious food. Thus, it is generally accepted that
GM crops can yield greater amounts of food (though not in all cases). Since GM crops
can be designed to grow at a uniform speed and size, harvesting is simplified and yield
is increased.20 GM crops are commonly engineered to require fewer pesticides and to be
planted with no-till methods, thereby decreasing erosion, fuel consumption, and herbicide
use. Moreover, GM crops can yield more nutrients. For example, the widely cited example
of the GM crop known as Golden Rice illustrates the use of GM techniques to develop
food staples with higher-than-usual nutrient levels. Proponents contend that, in the long
term, Golden Rice and similarly nutrient-enhanced GM crops can help reduce malnutrition
in developing countries. Supporters of GM crops argue that over-regulation of the
GMO industry limits the realization of potential benefits from GM food. As a result,
consumers in developing countries are deprived of potential public health benefits.
On the other side of the discussion, advocates for organic farming methods argue that
sophisticated organic farming can actually produce higher crop yields than GM crops.
Proponents of this view argue that world food problems are more often caused by poor
distribution rather than a lack of available food. Improving the availability of food through
the increased yields of GM crops cannot solve distribution problems. Anti-GMO groups
also maintain that GM crops make farmers reliant on corporations that supply seeds and
chemicals, thereby perpetuating poverty by yoking farmers into a cycle of dependence.21
The Case for GMOs and against Labeling
Given the above-described debates over the impact of GMOs on food supply and
biodiversity, it is clear that there is strong support for GMOs as well as a determined lobby
against them. While it currently seems unlikely that any major food-producing nations
will outlaw GMOs, a vigorous debate is taking place on the mandatory labeling of foods
containing GMOs. Opponents of mandatory labeling contend that GM foods are safe and
do not require labels, while proponents maintain that consumers have a right to know what
is in their food.
The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), an organization
that promotes scientific integrity and publishes the journal Science, has stated that
attacks against GMOs and the fight to have them labeled can cause unnecessary alarm
among consumers. The AAAS considers fears about GMO safety unfounded.22 The AAAS
has pointed out that other types of natural breeding are universally encouraged and that
genetic modification is fundamentally no different and no more harmful than these natural
methods.23 The AAAS argues that since GM foods and non-GM foods are nutritionally
equivalent, labeling of GM foods could lead consumers to erroneously believe that GM
foods are harmful.
Other opponents of mandatory labeling argue that genetic modification of food is not
different from the widely accepted practice of adding fluoride to our water, which does not
require labeling under American law.24 Since labeling would discourage the use of GM
ingredients in food products, we would essentially be preventing better food products from
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Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)|57
reaching consumers. For example, genetic modifications can eliminate fungal infections
in foods that might otherwise cause sickness or lead to expensive food recalls.25 Greater
regulation of GM foods could generate unfounded suspicion of good food products, and
this suspicion could hinder further GM development and research.26
Unnecessary regulation of GM crops could also cause hardship to farmers. It has been
claimed that some farmers have lost income because they cultivated GM crops that had
been approved but were subsequently rejected for use as a result of lawsuits or revocation
of USDA approval.27 Likewise, developers of GM crops have faced difficulty in trying to
research and develop new seed varieties because regulations limit their ability to plant test
crops outdoors.
The Case against GMOs and for Labeling
The anti-GMO lobby has called for labeling of all GMO food products so that
consumers can make informed choices about whether to avoid the potential harm from
GMOs. One widely publicized and highly controversial study published in 2012 examined
laboratory rats that had consumed Roundup Ready corn—including both corn that was
Roundup Ready but had not been sprayed with Roundup, and corn that was Roundup
Ready and had been sprayed with Roundup. The researchers observed death rates two to
three times higher among the Roundup Ready–fed rats than in the control group, in addition
to major kidney impairments.28 This research was notable because most research
conducted by corporations that develop GM foods is based on a ninety-day observation
period. However, the study by Séralini et al. tracked the research animals for a period of two
years, allowing for observation of long-term effects. The authors of this study pointed out
that no regulatory body requires GM foods to be tested for consumption on animals before
being sold to humans. Many GMO detractors seized upon this study as evidence that GM
food is potentially dangerous. Since its publication, however, the study has been challenged
by other scientists and was formally retracted by the publishers of the scientific journal in
which it appeared.29
Another study examined pregnant mothers who ate GM corn, which had been modified
with a pesticide-resistant gene that has been shown to cause tissue and autoimmune
damage in mice.30 The study revealed that 93% of pregnant mothers tested positive for a
toxin from the pesticide-resistant gene in their blood. The toxin also showed up in 80% of
the umbilical blood of their babies. In addition, the authors of this study mention that farm
laborers who work with this type of GM crop report serious allergies, and that animals
grazing on these GM crops have higher death rates.
As mentioned above, independent research on GM food is difficult to conduct and is
therefore scarce. However, there are a small number of studies that do suggest that GM
food can cause impaired liver and kidney function as well as impaired embryo development.
In addition, it has been conjectured that GM foods cause antibiotic resistance, and
that they provide less nutrition because they may have lower levels of naturally occurring
nutrients or hormones.31 Additionally, GM foods are alleged to pose higher risks for allergy
sufferers. Clear labeling would allow individuals who may be especially susceptible to the
harms of GMOs to avoid GMO foods.
Many anti-GMO groups argue that not enough research has been done to know if
GM crops are safe for human consumption.32 Groups like Greenpeace and Friends of the
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Earth have warned consumers that there is no solid evidence that GM food is safe for
At present, the only way a consumer can be confident that he or she is not purchasing
GM food is by buying food with an “organic” label: The USDA only permits this label to
be used on food products that are GM free.33 As an alternative, some companies voluntarily
label their food as GM free to indicate that it has no traces of GM ingredients. This label
is not regulated, however, and no inspection is conducted to ensure that all foods with this
label are in fact free of GM ingredients.
According to a 2011 study of over one million Americans by the Mellman Group, 93%
of poll respondents said they would like food with genetically engineered ingredients to be
labeled as such.34 Approximately 75% of poll respondents were worried about the health
effects of GM food, and 37% of respondents feared increased risks for cancer or allergies
from these foods. Among those concerned about GM food, 26% thought these foods were
not safe to eat and 13% worried about environmental problems caused by GM crops and
foods. Forty percent of respondents thought that the fruits and vegetables they purchased
were likely genetically modified; half of respondents said they would not eat modified veggies,
fruits, and grains. Two-thirds of people surveyed claimed that they would not eat
genetically modified meat.35
Labeling is admittedly difficult to introduce, due to both the cost and the complexity
of food production. Many food companies today may be unaware of the extent to which
their products contain GM ingredients. Consequently, in order to be effective, labeling
must start at the very root of the food chain, when a GM seed is planted and grown into a
GM crop.
GMO Labeling Around the Globe
While GM foods are freely grown in the United States, other regions, most notably
the European Union, enforce strict regulations on GM crops.36 The European Food Safety
Authority examines three aspects of GM food: genetic composition of the food, risk, and
environmental impact. The European Union requires labeling because it believes that consumers
should be able to make informed choices.37 Labeling of all GM food is mandatory
in the European Union and in over 60 countries around the world, including China, Japan,
and Australia.38 In other countries, such as Canada, labeling remains voluntary.39
Australia has imposed a strict regulatory framework for dealing with GMOs. Notice
must be given of all applications for licensing of new GMOs. Following this, invitations
to comment on these applications are widely published and feedback is invited from individuals,
nonprofit organizations, researchers, and experts in the field. A separate regulatory
body, staffed with experts in the field of GMO research, has helped ensure the success
of this program by maintaining high standards for reporting and debate. Unfortunately,
Australia’s regulatory system has not worked as smoothly as expected. Lobbying by strong
interest groups continues to delay the release of some approved GMO products. However,
proof of the regulatory system’s effectiveness has been shown through changed public
opinion toward GMOs in Australia. As public education has increased and transparency
about GM products has improved through this regulatory process, attitudes toward GMOs
have become more positive.40
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The Philippines contemplated introduction of mandatory labeling over the last decade
and decided against it. A study of Filipino food production and the retail system concluded
that labeling for GMO foods would result in cost increases of up to 12% for manufacturers.
If any of this increase were passed along to consumers, in a country where 54% of the
average household budget is already allocated for food, consumers would be less likely to
buy the labeled GMO products.41
Approaches to Labeling in the United
A number of reasons have been advanced for strengthening regulation of GMOs in
the United States, most notably that American farmers have suffered from the misuse
of GM food products. In 2008, the United States was responsible for about 50% of GM
crops planted globally, including 80% of GM corn, 92% of GM soybeans, and 93% of GM
canola. It has been reported that over 70% of processed food sold in the United States
contains GMOs.42 In the past, accidental release of unapproved GE crops into the market
has led to trade embargos by other countries that enforce more stringent control of GM
products, resulting in losses for American farmers.43
Several states have begun independently looking at mandatory labeling for GM foods
within the state. Connecticut, Hawaii, and Maine passed bills in 2013 to require various
levels of labeling for GM foods. Hawaii’s legislation is the most detailed, requiring labels
on GM foods imported from outside the state of Hawaii, as well as labels related to the
sale of GM fish products. In 2013, New Hampshire’s House of Representatives proposed a
GM labeling system, which was approved for further study by the State Senate in January
As of October 2013, bills for various degrees of mandatory labeling had been proposed
and were awaiting a vote in Alaska, Arizona, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Massachusetts, Minnesota,
Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania,
Rhode Island, Tennessee, Washington, and West Virginia. Bills for mandatory labeling
had been proposed and voted down in Colorado and New Mexico. A bill for mandatory
labeling was introduced in Florida but died in committee, and a bill for labeling was introduced
in Maryland but was subsequently withdrawn as a result of an unsupportive report
from the state’s Health and Government Operations committee.45
One of the most publicized campaigns for labeling was California’s Proposition 37.
Proposition 37 required labeling of all GM food, and it forbade food producers from using
the word “natural” on any food containing GM ingredients. Ultimately, it was defeated
53% to 47% in the 2012 elections. Had it passed, California would have been the first state
to adopt anti-GMO legislation. The California Right to Know campaign raised major
support, but a strong “No on Prop 37” campaign was also mounted with massive funding
from corporations such as Monsanto and Hershey’s.46 While this bill was ultimately unsuccessful,
noted author and food activist Michael Pollan has pointed out that Proposition 37
started a national conversation about food and food safety, gave the public an opportunity
to vote about their confidence in the food industry, and made the public increasingly aware
of lack of transparency within the food industry.47
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Topic for Debate: To Label or Not to Label?
For this debate, you are the assigned to the role of owner of Just Food, a large (fictional)
supermarket chain in the southwestern United States. A bill has just been tabled in your
state’s House of Representatives to require mandatory labeling of all food products containing
GMOs. Your major competitor, organic-loving Soul Foods, has come out publicly
in support of this bill. Various lobby groups for both sides of the debate have approached
you for support, and you must now decide whether you and your supermarket chain will
take a public stand on the issue of GMO labeling.
The CEO of Just Food, Emily Progresso, is very mindful of the potential public relations
benefits of coming out in favor of mandatory GMO labeling. On the other hand, Ms.
Progresso has a degree in agricultural science and she is a very sincere person who does
not want to take a position just for the sake of expediency; she would prefer to think she is
doing the right thing. She asks two of her executives to prepare briefs for an internal debate
about the topic.
Just Food should publicly support mandatory labeling of all products that contain
Possible Arguments
• GMOs are not adequately researched and may be harmful for human consumption.
• Consumers have a right to know what they are purchasing for consumption.
• GMOs reduce plant biodiversity.
• Taking a stance against labeling will risk a consumer boycott or shift of consumer
preferences to our competitor, Soul Foods.
Just Food should not publicly support mandatory labeling of all products that contain
Possible Arguments
• GM foods are as nutritious as, or even more nutritious than, conventional foods.
• GMO use reduces a number of environmental problems.
• Genetic modification occurs naturally.
• Unnecessary labeling creates consumer fear and suspicion.
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4.1 Food Safety Fact Sheet: Genetically Engineered
Food: The Labeling Debate
Center for Food Safety. “Genetically Engineered Food: The Labeling Debate.” Food Safety
Fact Sheet. April 2013.
If you want to know if your food was irradiated or contains gluten, aspartame, high
fructose corn syrup, transfats or MSG, you simply read the label. But if you want to know if
your food was genetic engineered, you’re not going to find any information on the package.
Why? Because despite the fact that 64 countries around the world (including all European
Union member states, Japan, Australia, Brazil, Russia, and China1
) grant their citizens
the right to know what is in their food, the United States continues to ignore consumer
demands to label GE foods. Numerous polls2
have indicated that more than 90 percent
of US consumers believe GE foods should be labeled, yet the US has refused to grant its
citizens this basic right.
Unlabeled, Untested, and You’re Eating It
Consumers across the country are being allowed to purchase and consume unlabeled
GE foods, without our knowledge or consent. Already, this novel technology has invaded
our grocery stores and our kitchens by fundamentally altering some of our most important
staple food crops. Currently, more than 88 percent of US corn is genetically engineered,
as are 93 percent of soybeans and 94 percent of cotton3
(cottonseed oil is often used in
food products). According to industry estimates, up to 95 percent of sugar beets may now
be GE varieties. It has been estimated that upwards of 75 percent of processed foods on
supermarket shelves—from soda to soup, crackers to condiments—contain genetically
engineered ingredients.
The United Nations, the World Health Organization, and the American Medical Association
have all called for mandatory safety testing of GE foods. Nonetheless, FDA does
no independent testing of their safety, even though documents uncovered in CFS litigation
show that scientists within FDA indicated that GE foods could pose serious risks…
The State of GE Food Labeling
…Just over twenty years ago, FDA decided that GE foods need not be labeled because
they were not “materially” different from other foods.
The biotech industry has also fiercely opposed GE labeling, and has convinced many
in Congress and FDA that such a label would “mislead” consumers into thinking the
food is dangerous. But we don’t label dangerous foods; we take them off the market. The
government mandates food labeling not based on safety, but upon “material” change that
consumers should be informed about. In fact, the agency already requires labels for over
1 Center for Food Safety, Genetically Engineered Food Labeling Laws Map, http://www.
2 Center for Food Safety, U.S. Polls on GE Food Labeling,
3 Jorge Fernandez-Cornejo, Genetically engineered varieties of corn, upland cotton, and soybeans,
by State and for the United States, 2000-12, Washington, D.C.: USDA National Agricultural
Statistics Service, 2012.
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3,000 ingredients, additives, and processes in food production, for all kinds of reasons, none
of which are because the food has been deemed dangerous…
State and Federal Labeling Initiatives
As concerned citizens across the country grow tired of waiting for the federal government
to take action, they are turning to state and local governments. In 2013 alone, over half
the states in the country introduced bills that would require labeling for GE foods.4
of these bills use language that CFS crafted, or are based on CFS’s model GE labeling bill.
On the heels of the narrow defeat of California’s landmark Proposition 37, states from
Washington to Vermont are debating state legislation and citizen driven ballot initiatives
to do what the federal government won’t: label GE food…
Interested parties seeking counsel on getting an initiative started in your city or state
should contact CFS at
Center for Food Safety. “Genetically Engineered Food: The Labeling Debate.” Food
Safety Fact Sheet. April 2013.
4.2 “Why Genetically Modified Foods Should Be
Bartolotto, Carole. “Why Genetically Modified Foods Should be Labeled,” HuffPost: Food
for Thought. December 4, 2013.
Did you know that you have been enrolled in the largest research study ever conducted
in the United States but you never signed a consent form or agreed to participate? That’s
because since 1996 you—and basically everyone you know—have been eating genetically
modified foods…
Most soybeans, corn, canola, cotton, sugar beets, and Hawaiian papaya, and some zucchini,
yellow squash, and alfalfa are genetically modified. Products such as oil, high fructose
corn syrup, and sugar are created from these crops and added to processed foods. This
explains why nearly 80 percent of processed and most fast foods contain GMOs.
The question is are GMOs safe for us and the environment? Actually, the answers are
not clear. There are no long-term studies demonstrating that GMOs are safe for humans and
the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not do its own safety testing of GMOs…
The environment is another issue. What are the implications when a genetically modified
plant crossbreeds with other plants? The monarch butterflies are declining due to the
destruction of milkweed. What other consequences are possible? Super bugs and super
weeds are already showing up…
The bottom line is that we have a product in our food supply with unknown health
and environmental implications. At the very least, we should have these foods labeled.
However, try as we might, we cannot make that happen in the U.S. Even though 9 out of 10
people want them labeled, the biotech companies and food manufacturers do not… Over
60 countries, including China, label GMOs and some countries ban them. Why can’t we
have transparency in our food supply?
Washington’s Initiative 522 to label genetically engineered foods, on the November
[2013] ballot, will help us get the transparency we desire. But companies such as Monsanto,
4 Center for Food Safety, State Labeling Initiatives,
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Dupont Pioneer, Bayer CropScience, Dow Agrosciences, and the Grocery Manufacturers
Association (a trade group) will pay millions to create misleading and factually incorrect
ads telling Washingtonites that labeling will cost money, hurt farmers, and isn’t necessary
because GMOs are safe. However, we know if a food has high fructose corn syrup or trans
fat, or is irradiated. Why can’t we know if it’s genetically engineered? The biggest fear of
these companies is that once GMOs are labeled, we won’t want to eat them anymore. And
that may happen, just like it did when we found out there was pink slime in our hamburgers!
4.3 Monsanto’s Position
Monsanto. “Labeling Food and Ingredients Developed from GM Seed.” Monsanto.
com. (accessed
November 30, 2014).
At-a-Glance: Our View on Food Labeling
The safety of our products is our first priority, and multiple health societies, hundreds
of independent scientific experts, and dozens of governments around the world have
determined that foods and ingredients developed through biotechnology [or genetic modification
(GM)] are safe.
Each country establishes its own food labeling laws. Within the United States, the government
has established clear guidance with respect to labeling food products containing
GM ingredients; we support this approach. We also support food companies’ choices to
voluntarily label food products noting certain attributes (e.g., organic) based on their customers’
preferences and provided the labeling is truthful and not misleading.
We oppose current initiatives to mandate labeling of ingredients developed from GM
seeds in the absence of any demonstrated risks. Such mandatory labeling could imply that
food products containing these ingredients are somehow inferior to their conventional or
organic counterparts.
Viewpoints on Labeling GM Foods and Ingredients in the United States
…Within the United States, the  Food and Drug Administration (FDA)  oversees
food labeling. FDA guidance  requires labeling of food products containing ingredients
from GM seed if there is a meaningful difference between that food and its conventional
counterpart. The American Medical Association (AMA)  supports FDA’s approach and
approved a formal statement asserting that there is no scientific justification for special
labeling of foods containing GM ingredients.
…FDA allows food manufacturers the choice to voluntarily label their products noting
certain attributes or production methods (e.g., organic) provided the label is truthful and
not misleading. We support this approach.  Food companies are in the best position to
determine what type of information meets the needs and desires of their customers.
Monsanto website, accessed November 30, 2014,
4.4 “Why We Shouldn’t Label (or Worry about)
Genetically Modified Products”
English, Cameron. “GMO Foods: Why We Shouldn’t Label (or Worry about) Genetically
Modified Products.” PolicyMic. March 9, 2012.
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Last year, 14 states attempted to pass legislation requiring that genetically modified
(GMO) foods be labeled as such. And I learned this week that California is now following
in their footsteps to become number 15. The petition in my home state is being sold with
the tagline “It’s our right to know” what we’re eating, and ominous suggestions about the
health risks associated with eating GMO foods.
Appealing to voters’ “rights” and stirring up health concerns are guaranteed ways to
bring attention to political causes, but in the case of GMO food labeling, both tactics are
fallacious. There is no reason to label these generally harmless foods and doing so could
create unnecessary concern among the public…
The idea of food laden with foreign genes may sound scary, but it really isn’t. Since we
don’t live in a sterile environment, all the plants we eat, genetically modified or not, are
loaded with bacteria, viruses, and other living organisms— and their DNA. According
to agricultural scientist Steve Savage, this fact shouldn’t concern us. “Even though we are
eating microbes, their genes, and their gene products on a grand scale, it is almost never a
problem. In fact, some of these microbes go on to become part of our own bank of bacteria,
etc., that live within our digestive system—often to our benefit.”
Savage goes on to point out that the only difference between the foreign genetic materials
found naturally in plants and the genes we intentionally add to them is that we know
more about the latter. “We know the exact sequence of the gene, its location in the plant’s
chromosomes, what the gene does,” Savage says. The result is that we can more easily determine
how safe GMO foods are for consumption, compared to their natural counterparts.
But, that’s not the only good thing about GMO foods. Genetic engineering has allowed
scientists to develop crops that consume less water, grow in harsh environments, and
produce less carbon dioxide, as molecular biologist Henry Miller points out. Put another
way, these technological advances have made it possible to produce cheaper food in greater
quantities and in a more sustainable fashion. Food security and environmental protection
are political causes typically championed by progressives. So why are these same people
pushing for GMO food labeling?
…Most importantly, science education doesn’t come from food packaging. There’s
simply no way to properly educate consumers about the foods they’re eating at the point of
sale. That requires a concerted effort on the part of scientists and educators (which is already
underway), and a desire to learn on the part of consumers. There’s no reason to begin that
process by feeding people misleading information during their weekly grocery runs.
Of course, that last sentence assumes that supporters of food labeling petitions are
interested in educating people about nutrition, which they aren’t. The environmentalists
and public health advocates behind these measures are trying to force their preferences on
the public through the initiative process. If you think that’s just the ranting of an idealistic
libertarian, considering that prominent scientists and science writers have been saying the
same thing for many years.
If for no other reason, the opinion of experts ought to be enough to put a stop to exaggerated
fears of genetic engineering and baseless food labeling campaigns.
Synthesis Questions
1. What impact will labeling of GM food products have on producers and developers
of GMO foods?
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2. What impact will labeling of GM food products have on research of GMOs?
3. What impact will labeling of GM food have on consumers?
4. What would be the most effective and efficient system for labeling GM food?
1. World Health Organization, 20 Questions on Genetically Modified Foods, accessed October 4,
2. Nancy Harris, ed., “Introduction,” in Genetically Engineered Foods (San Diego: Greenhaven,
2004), 3-9.
3. J. S. Coker, “Crossing the Species Boundary: Genetic Engineering as Conscious Evolution,”
Futurist, 46, no. 1 (2012), 23–27.
4. Ibid., p. 23.
5. World Health Organization, 20 Questions.
6. Food and Water Watch, “The Case for GE Labeling,” Fact Sheet, May 2012, http://documents.
7. Foresight. “The Future of Food and Farming: Final Project Report (London: The Government
Office for Science, 2011).
8. Coker, “Crossing the Species Boundary.”
9. Shelley Mika, “Britons Show Distaste for Biotech Foods: Americans More Optimistic about
GM Food Safety,” Gallup, Inc., October 18, 2005,
10. Michael Antoniou, Claire Robinson, and John Fagan, GMO Myths and Truths: An EvidenceBased
Examination of the Claims Made for the Safety and Efficacy of Genetically Modified Crops,
(London: Earth Open Source, 2012).
11. Josh Schonwald, The Taste of Tomorrow (New York: Harper, 2012).
12. Schonwald, The Taste of Tomorrow.
13. Antoniou, GMO Myths and Truths.
14. R. Cummins, “Hazards of Genetically Engineered Foods and Crops: Why We Need a Global
Moratorium,” in R. Sherlock and J. Morrey, eds., Ethical Issues in Biotechnology (Lanham, MD:
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2002), 213–219.
15. J.E. Carpenter, “Impact of GE Crops on Biodiversity,” GM Crops, 2, no. 1 (2011), 7–23,
16. Ibid., p. 7.
17. D. Gertsberg, “Loss of Biodiversity and Genetically Modified Crops,” GMO
Journal: Food Safety Politics, June 17, 2011,
18. Janet E. Carpenter, “Impact of GM Crops on Biodiversity,” GM Crops 2(1) (2011), 1-17.
19. R. Cummins, “Hazards of GE foods and crops.”
20. Schonwald, The Taste of Tomorrow.
21. Soil Association, Feeding the Future: How Organic Farming Can Help Feed the World (Bristol,
UK: Soil Association, 2012).
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22. American Association for the Advancement of Science, “Statement by the AAAS Board of
Directors on Labeling of Genetically Modified Foods,” news release, June 12, 2013, http://www. .
23.G. Conko and H. Miller, “The Rush to Condemn Genetically Modified Crops,” Policy Review,
165 (2011), 69–82,
24. Henry I. Miller, “Genetically Modified Foods Have Numerous Benefits and No Known Risks,”
Genetic Engineering, Ed. Noël Merino. (Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 2013), Rpt. from “When
Technophobia Becomes Toxic,” 2012, “Opposing Viewpoints in Context,” accessed 30 Nov. 2014,
25. Ibid.
26. Ibid.
27. G. Conko and H. Miller, “The Rush to Condemn.”
28. G. Séralini, et al., “Long-Term Toxicity of a Roundup Herbicide and a Roundup-Tolerant
Genetically Modified Maize,” Food and Chemical Toxicology, 50 (2012), 4221–4231.
29. Steven Novella. “The Seralini GMO Study: Retraction and Response to Critics,”
Science-Based Medicine, December 4, 2013,
30. J. M. Smith, “GMO Toxins in Women and Fetuses,” AMASS Magazine, 41 (April 1, 2011),
31. R. Cummins, “Hazards of GE foods and crops.”
32. United States Government Accountability Office, Genetically Engineered Crops: Agencies Are
Proposing Changes to Improve Oversight, but Could Take Additional Steps to Enhance Coordination and
Monitoring (Washington DC: United States Government Accountability Office, 2008).
33. Food and Water Watch, “The Case for GE Labeling,”
34. Ibid.
35. The Mellman Group, memorandum to Just Label It!, “Voters Overwhelmingly Support a
Labeling Requirement for GE Foods,” March 22, 2011,
36. World Health Organization, 20 Questions.
37. M. Valletta, “Consumer perception and GMOs in the European Union,” in Policy Responses to
Societal Concerns in Food and Agriculture: Proceedings of an OECD Workshop (Paris: Organisation for
Economic Co-operation and Development, 2010), 87–93.
38. Guillaume Gruère, “Labeling Policies of Genetically Modified Food: Lessons from an International
Review of Existing Approaches,” Brief Number 7, 2007,
39. Michael Pollan, “Vote for the Dinner Party,” New York Times Magazine, October 10, 2012,
40. J. Hewitt, (2010). “GMO Policy in Australia,” Policy Responses to Societal Concerns in Food and
Agriculture: Proceedings of an OECD Workshop (Paris: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and
Development, 2010), 95–97.
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41. A. de Leon, A. Manalo, and F. C. Guilatco, “The Cost Implications of GM Food Labeling in
the Philippines,” Crop Biotech Brief, IV, no. 2 (2004),
42. United States Government Accountability Office, Genetically Engineered Crops.
43. United States Government Accountability Office, Genetically Engineered Crops.
44. Center for Food Safety, “State Labeling Initiatives,” accessed November 30, 2014, http://www.,
45. Center for Food Safety, “State Labeling Initiatives.”
46. Anna Almendrala, “Prop 37 Rejected: California Voters Reject Anti-GMO Labeling,” The
Huffington Post, last updated November 8, 2012,
47. Almendrala, “Prop 37 Rejected.”
Social Entrepreneurship|68
Chapter 5
Social Entrepreneurship
Kate Ter Haar (CC-BY 2.0, 2011)
Figure 5.1 The proud owners of TOMS Shoes are often willing to help promote the brand.
While there is no universally accepted definition of social entrepreneur, the term is typically
applied to an individual who uses market-based ideas and practices to create “social
value,” the enhanced well-being of individuals, communities, and the environment. Unlike
ordinary business entrepreneurs who base their decisions solely on financial returns, social
entrepreneurs incorporate the objective of creating social value into their founding busi-
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Social Entrepreneurship|69
ness models. Social entrepreneurship has become exceedingly popular in recent years and
a number of prestigious business schools have created specific academic programs in the
field. It is often said that social entrepreneurs are changing the world. They are lauded for
their ability to effect far-reaching social change through innovative solutions that disrupt
existing patterns of production, distribution, and consumption. Prominent social entrepreneurs
are celebrated on magazine covers, praised at the World Economic Forum in Davos,
and awarded millions of dollars in seed money from “angel” investors, and and applauded as
“harbingers of new ways of doing business.”1 Social entrepreneurs are thus often hailed as
heroes—but are they actually affecting positive social change?
Undeniably, social entrepreneurship can arouse a striking level of enthusiasm among
consumers. Blake Mycoskie, social entrepreneur and founder of TOMS Shoes, tells the
story of a young woman who accosted him in an airport, pointing at her pair of TOMS
while yelling, “This is the most amazing company in the world!”2
Founded in 2006, TOMS
Shoes immediately attracted a devoted following with its innovative use of the so-called
One for One business model, in which each purchase of a pair of shoes by a consumer
triggers the gift of a free pair of shoes to an impoverished child in a developing country.
The enthusiasm associated with social entrepreneurship is perhaps emblematic of
increased global social awareness, which is evidenced by increased charitable giving worldwide.
A 2012 study showed that 83% of Americans wish brands would support causes; 41%
have bought a product because it was associated with a cause (a figure that has doubled
since 1993); 94% said that given same price and quality, they were likely to switch brands to
one that represented a cause; and more than 90% think companies should consider giving
in the communities in which they do business.
Despite the eager reception from consumers, critics of social entrepreneurship have
raised concerns about the creation of social value in a for-profit context. Thus, TOMS is
sometimes mistaken for a charity because it donates shoes to children in developing countries,
yet it is also in business to sell shoes. The company earns an estimated $300 million
a year and has made Mr. Mycoskie a wealthy man. While companies are starting to look
more like charities, nonprofits are also increasingly relying on business principles to survive
an uncertain economy in which donors expect to see tangible results from their charitable
Our understanding of social entrepreneurship is complicated by the absence of any
consensus on ways to measure social outcomes. As a result, there is little concrete statistical
data available on the impact of social entrepreneurship. Indeed, there is not much agreement
on a precise definition of social entrepreneurship, so it becomes difficult to say to
what extent any given company is an example of social entrepreneurship. TOMS’ Chief
Giving Officer, Sebastian Fries, recently told the New York Times that the company is “not
in the business of poverty alleviation.”3
Does this mean that increased social value is merely
a happy externality of the business of selling shoes? If so, what makes Blake Mycoskie a
social entrepreneur?
Some critics go so far as to suggest that social entrepreneurs are merely using public
relations tactics to engage in social or environmental greenwashing—taking advantage
of consumers’ desire to do good. In some cases, it has been argued, social entrepreneurs
can even do more harm than good (as we will see, this criticism has even been leveled at
TOMS). Lacking a full understanding of the socioeconomic and cultural dynamic of the
developing countries in which they intervene, social enterprises can undermine fragile local
markets and foster dependence on foreign assistance.
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In our chapter-ending debate, we will put ourselves in the position of a startup company
that is inspired by the example of TOMS Shoes. The company is considering adopting a
one-for-one model and you will be asked whether it should. To arrive at an informed answer
to this question, we must first address two related questions: (1) Do social entrepreneurs
create social value to the same degree as a traditional nonprofit or charity? (2) Does the
blurring of distinctions between charity and business dupe consumers into believing that
consumption equals caring? Given the mixture of enthusiasm and ambivalence aroused by
social entrepreneurship, our first task is to understand it.
The Growth of Social Entrepreneurship
In 1974, a Bangladeshi economics professor named Muhammad Yunus visited a small
rural village in Bangladesh in an effort to connect the economic theories he was teaching
with the reality of poverty in his native country. Amidst the tragedy of rural poverty, Yunus
believed he saw an opportunity to transform perceptions of poverty relief. Yunus felt that,
although rural people were skilled and hardworking, they were unable to obtain loans from
banks primarily due to a lack of collateral. Yunus’s innovation was to seek to alleviate poverty
directly by establishing a bank for the poor. This bank would make microloans (very
small loans, often less than $100) with low interest rates to enable small entrepreneurs to
slowly build up their capital to reinvest, grow their businesses, and rise from poverty.
Yunus was able to launch this idea in 1976 in the form of Grameen Bank, which began
operations by making a small number of loans to members of a local village. The business
grew quickly, with an extraordinarily high loan repayment rate of 99%. The explosion of cellular
access served as a catalyst for the microfinance market. Through their mobile phones,
rural entrepreneurs had access to a global network of investors and business tools, where
traditionally they might have had to travel hundreds of miles to a city to borrow money or
buy goods and services.
By 2005, the Grameen Bank had more than 1,500 branches in nearly 50,000 villages,
covering about 70% of India, with approximately five million borrowers and annual revenues
of about $80 million. The success of the Grameen experiment fostered the modern
microfinance industry, which connects thousands of entrepreneurs to donors all over the
world, through sites like Kiva, GiveDirectly, Accion USA, and the Grameen Foundation.
In 2006, Yunus won the Nobel Peace Prize, which recognized him as a pioneer in microfinance.
The social entrepreneurship revolution was underway.
While Yunus focused on microfinance, other thinkers and social activists developed alternative
methods for using entrepreneurial techniques to foster social change. In 1981, Bill
Drayton, a former EPA administrator and management consultant, formed Ashoka, the
first organization specifically devoted to promoting and supporting social entrepreneurs.
Ashoka invests in promising social entrepreneurs, providing them with start-up financing,
professional support services, and connections to a global network of business and social
sector players. Today, Ashoka funds nearly 3,000 Fellows in 70 countries.
Since Ashoka was launched, scores of other organizations all over the world have
formed to support social entrepreneurship. According to a 2012 study,4
there are more than
60 national or international social entrepreneur networks worldwide, with an average of
four to five new networks being set up every year.5
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Governments have hopped aboard the social entrepreneurship bandwagon. In 2011,
the European Union established social entrepreneurship as one of the 12 pillars of its policy
for growth and social progress. France appointed a Minister for Social and Cooperative
Economy, and in 2012, the European Commission launched a call for proposals to produce
and collect statistics on social entrepreneurship in the EU, under the Initiative for Social
In the United States, new legal corporate forms have emerged that allow for the inclusion
of social value objectives in a company’s articles of incorporation. In 15 states,
companies can legally incorporate as a benefit corporation (B Corp), a new class of corporation
that by definition must (1) create a materially positive impact on society and the
environment; (2) expand fiduciary duty to require consideration of non-financial interests
when making decisions; and (3) report on its overall social and environmental performance
using recognized third-party standards. B Corps allow directors and officers to consider
non-financial decisions in reporting to multiple stakeholders. Today, there are more than
520 certified B Corps across 60 different industries representing $3 billion in revenues.
Patagonia was the first company to take advantage of the new law, officially becoming a B
Corp in California in 2012.
Similar to the B Corp is the flexible purpose corporation (FPC), a designation that
allows a corporation to select at least one specific mission to pursue in addition to profitmaking.
A low-profit limited liability company (L3C) is a for-profit social enterprise that
has a stated goal of performing a socially beneficial purpose rather than maximizing income.
It is a hybrid structure that combines the legal and tax flexibility of a traditional limited
liability corporation (LLC) with the social benefits of a nonprofit organization, and the
branding and market positioning advantages of a social enterprise. The L3C is designed to
make it easier for socially oriented businesses to attract investments from foundations and
private investors.
Some social entrepreneurs have sought to enhance their fundraising capacity by creating
a hybrid model—a commercial enterprise linked to a nonprofit subsidiary, or vice
versa. The nonprofit side is tax exempt and can apply for grants and accept donations, while
the for-profit side can enlist investors and leverage debt.
An example of this form is Mozilla, the company that makes the web browser Firefox.
In response to the explosive growth of Firefox, the nonprofit Mozilla Foundation formed
a for-profit subsidiary in 2005, the Mozilla Corporation. The for-profit makes about $104
million a year from revenue sharing agreements with search partners such as Google and
Yahoo. Meanwhile, the Mozilla Foundation, which is the corporation’s sole shareholder,
handles the development of open-source software and brings in just over $222,000 in
charitable donations per year.
Social Entrepreneurship and Global
Is social entrepreneurship a form of philanthropy? Given that both concepts are rooted
in the creation of positive social value, it makes sense to consider the strong relationship
between the two fields. Indeed, policy makers have cited social entrepreneurship as a powerful
ally for philanthropy, and perhaps even as its successor. Increasingly, many donors see
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themselves as investors rather than as providers of charity. Such donors, who have been
dubbed “philanthro-capitalists,” expect measurable social returns on their investments. They
tend to view the for-profit social enterprise model as an efficient, innovative, and scalable
method of creating social value in markets where nonprofits and governments have seemingly
Bill Gates, former Microsoft CEO and one of the world’s wealthiest individuals, has
attained leadership status in the global philanthropic community as the head of the world’s
largest charitable institution, the Gates Foundation. At the World Economic Forum in
2008, Gates called for a new form of “creative capitalism,” which “matches business expertise
with needs in the developing world to find markets that are already there, but are
untapped.” Gates pointed out that “sometimes market forces fail to make an impact in
developing countries not because there’s no demand, or even because money is lacking, but
because we don’t spend enough time studying the needs and requirements of that market.”6
Gates cited economist C.K. Prahalad’s bottom of the pyramid (BoP) approach to
eradicating poverty, which postulates that the billions of people in the world who live on
less than $2 a day represent the “unserved and underserved.” Prahalad argues that collectively
the BoP has immense buying power. By selling products and services to this segment,
companies both profit and serve the needs of the poor. The Gates/Prahalad approach was
seconded in a 2011 speech by World Bank President Robert Zoellick, who postulated that
the time had come to move “beyond aid” to a system in which “assistance would be integrated
with—and connected to—global growth strategies, fundamentally driven by private
investment and entrepreneurship. The goal would not be charity, but a mutual interest in
building more poles of growth.”7
Zoellick called for entrepreneurship and innovation to create expanded markets, acknowledging
that “new players and new donors are already transforming the aid world
as we know it.” This new multilateral system would be rooted in “a notion of stakeholder
responsibility, more connected to private sector and civil society networks, more committed
to practical problem solving and innovation.”
The call by Gates and Zoellick to develop new forms of private entrepreneurial support
for global aid reflects the reality that the private sector has become a much bigger factor
than government aid in international development. In 2010, global private philanthropy
totaled $575 billion. U.S. giving from foundations, corporations, private and voluntary
organizations (PVOs),8
individual volunteers, religious organizations, and academic institutions
totaled $39 billion. Corporations and private and voluntary organizations (PVOs)
accounted for the largest portion of U.S. philanthropy, making up more than half the total.9
While these figures offer a fair estimate of philanthropic activity worldwide, they likely
under-report the total amount of money donated to developing nations each year. Financial
reporting is typically done voluntarily by PVOs, corporations, foundations, and religious
groups in developing countries. In the United States, organizations with less than $5,000
in annual revenue are not required to register with the IRS. The Urban Institute estimates
that, of the approximately 1.1 million public charities in the United States, only 366,000
report data to the IRS each year.10
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Social Value: Measuring the Impact of
Entrepreneurship and Philanthropy
While it is clear that global philanthropic activity is generally increasing, measurement
of its impact on social value and aid effectiveness has only recently become a priority.
Increased demands for transparency and accountability from donors and governments
have resulted in hundreds of competing methods of measuring social value. Foreign aid
is predominantly measured in terms of total capital investment, not by how many people
are actually helped. Historically, reports of aid effectiveness have frequently consisted of
unreliable individual anecdotes and testimonials.
Without accurate financial and impact data, it is difficult to tell exactly where donor
dollars are going. This information is unfortunately quite complicated and costly to acquire.
Not only must the concepts of benefit or value be quantified, but external factors affecting
research validity must be ruled out. While many donors demand to know how their money
is spent, most of them do not like the idea of paying for the administrative costs associated
with producing such statistics. Most aid organizations want to see their money going
toward groundwork, not paperwork.
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) is the main
international body that collects and evaluates data on aid effectiveness. A coalition of 34
countries dedicated to stimulating world economic growth and international trade, the
OECD, through its Development Assistance Committee (DAC), coordinates agreements
between donor countries, developing nations, and private interests to help developing
country governments. Based on “trade, not aid” principles, the DAC is ultimately geared
toward improving local systems so that developing countries are able to manage economic
growth without depending on foreign aid. Much of the DAC’s data suggests that aid works
best when it is properly directed and managed. By some estimates, it costs a nonprofit an
average of $33 to raise $100 in the United States and up to 80% of a nonprofit’s time and
energy is devoted to raising funds.
Social return on investment (SROI) is one method of impact measurement that has
been gaining in popularity. SROI is basically a cost–benefit analysis that measures nonfinancial
(social and/or environmental) value created relative to resources invested. This
approach is sometimes accused of being simplistic: While “hard outcomes,” such as the
number of children passing a literacy test, can be easily measured, “soft outcomes,” such
as increased happiness, self-confidence, or communication skills, cannot be measured and
weighed against dollar amounts. While SROI is usually applied to charities and NGOs,
many believe that the method works best when applied to for-profit businesses, such as
those created by social entrepreneurs. Proponents of SROI point out that it forces organizations
to have meaningful discussions with their stakeholders.
Much of the impetus for improved measurement is driven by a widespread frustration
with the perceived ineffectiveness of foreign aid. According to the World Bank, many
forms of aid are ill-conceived and do not make optimal use of resources.11 Studies on the
impact of development aid in the form of in-kind donations, or gifts of materials or goods
rather than money, suggest that, while potentially benefiting recipients in the short term,
in-kind donations have a negative impact on local markets in the long term. Thus, Oxfam
International has argued that, while much foreign food aid helps to save lives in the immediate
aftermath of natural disasters and conflict, in-kind food donations have often been
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a way for donor countries to dump their surplus production and promote exports.12 For
example, in the aftermath of the 2010 Haiti earthquake, an influx of rice donations hurt
local rice farmers’ livelihoods and threatened the local agricultural economy.13 A 2008 study
from the University of Toronto compared in-kind clothing donations with food aid, stating
that used clothing imports have a negative impact on apparel and textile production in
Africa, resulting in a roughly 40% decline in African apparel production and a 50% decline
in apparel employment.14
The Dark Side of Social Entrepreneurship
Critics of social entrepreneurship draw attention to its potential to encourage corporate
and consumer hypocrisy. Social philosopher Slavoj Zizek observes that adherents of “conscious
consumerism” often state that they are trying to address problems such as poverty,
inequality, and environmental degradation, which are the principal negative externalities of
a capitalist economy. However, in Zizek’s view, it is an obvious self-contradiction to think
that one can overcome the defects of capitalism by engaging in yet more capitalism. TOMS
shoes, for example, are manufactured by poor people in overseas factories. When their
famously flimsy design wears out, they are discarded into landfills.
There is evidence that conscious consumerism can generate surprisingly counterintuitive
effects. A study released by the University of Toronto in 2010 found a negative
connection between altruism and ethical behavior.15 Student volunteers were divided into
groups and instructed to look at two online stores: one that offered mostly green products
and another that carried mostly conventional products. Half the students in each group
were asked to purchase products, and half were asked to simply rate them. Afterward, in
a money-sharing game, the students who only rated the green products shared the most
money, while the students who purchased green products shared the least. Furthermore,
in a computer game that tempted the students to cheat, those who had purchased green
products were not only more likely to cheat than the other groups, but they took extra
money when asked to pay themselves from envelopes on their desks.
The researchers concluded that mere exposure to green products (experienced as an
ethical act) encourages prosocial behavior, while engaging in ethical purchasing may decrease
the likelihood of future ethical behavior. It appears that people may have a limited
amount of ethical motivation, which can be used up. This tendency is referred to as the
single-action bias and has been confirmed as a potential drain on charitable giving. A University
of Michigan study found that if two consumers are given a chance to purchase
the same product but one of them buys the product as a “cause-related” purchase, that
consumer’s charitable giving will be lower than the other’s.16
Critics of social entrepreneurship also cite the so-called halo effect, a cognitive bias in
which we assume that because someone is good in one area, they will be good in other areas.
The phrase was coined by psychologist Edward Thorndike in 1920 to describe the way
commanding officers rated their soldiers as either good or bad across the board. Arguably,
when consumers see a company as having a positive social impact via social entrepreneurship,
we assume that it is ethical across the board, which may not be the case.
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Case Study: TOMS Shoes
In 2006, Blake Mycoskie, a young entrepreneur from Arlington, Texas, started a shoe
company with a simple premise: For every pair of shoes sold, the company would donate a
similar pair to a child in need. Mycoskie, self-described Chief Shoe Giver of TOMS Shoes,
is considered the pioneer of the one-for-one giving model, which has since been imitated
by companies making everything from hospital scrubs to chewing gum.
Mycoskie claims that with TOMS he has created not just a business but a social movement
that has fundamentally changed the way we consume products. He has trademarked
the tagline, “One for One,” and plans to expand the model into many more product categories,
a move that supports his view of giving as an across-the-board lifestyle choice. It’s
also Core Value #8, according to an inspirational sign in the TOMS office space: “Giving is
what fuels us. Giving is our future.”
Mycoskie was vacationing in Argentina when he got the idea for TOMS (the name
is a play on the phrase “Shoes for Tomorrow”). After meeting charity workers who were
collecting used shoes to distribute to poor children in the local villages, he was struck by the
fact that so many children go barefoot in the developing world, and resolved to find a more
sustainable alternative to straightforward donation. In his 2011 book, Start Something That
Matters, Mycoskie reflects on his thought process: “Why not create a for-profit business to
help provide shoes for these children? Why not come up with a solution that guaranteed a
constant flow of shoes, rather than being dependent on kind people making donations? In
other words, maybe the solution was in entrepreneurship, not charity.”17
Mycoskie’s business model proved remarkably successful. TOMS experienced phenomenal
growth in market penetration and consumer loyalty in a very short period of time.
By 2013 the company had over 2 million social media followers and had given away more
than 10 million pairs of new shoes to children in over 60 countries.
The majority of TOMS shoes are produced in China in order to keep manufacturing
costs down, but a small number of the Giving Shoes are produced in Ethiopia, Kenya, and
Argentina, where they can be distributed cheaply using local supply partners. The company
plans to add shoe manufacturing in India and Haiti. By producing shoes in regions where
they’re donated, TOMS lowers its distribution costs. In the case of Ethiopia and Kenya, the
company benefits from the open borders of the African Free Trade Zone.
The company has also suggested that it is evaluating approaches to increasing employment
in “Giving” regions, while offering existing workers more benefits, such as higher
wages, childcare, and financial education. “Within two years, we will produce one-third of
our Giving Shoes in the regions where we give them. By producing more shoes locally, we
will create and support jobs in places where they are needed. We are testing production in
India and are looking to expand manufacturing in Africa and other regions.”18
Although TOMS does not own any factories, it has a strict code of conduct for its
supply chain. The company assures its customers that supply, production, and labor comply
with corporate responsibility standards and local laws, including the prevention of slavery
and human trafficking.
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Product Mix
Mycoskie started TOMS with just one product: the alpargata shoe, a simple design that
was popular with Argentinean laborers in the late nineteenth century and became an important
part of the Argentine national identity. The shoes are inexpensive and lightweight,
with canvas or fabric uppers and synthetic rubber soles.
TOMS gradually began to add more designs and, by 2013, featured additional categories
such as ballet flats, lace-up boots, wedges, kids’ shoes, wedge booties, and vegan shoes. The
company regularly partners with celebrities, brands, and charities to create limited-edition
collections; past collaborators have included Charlize Theron, Ben Affleck, Jonathan Adler,
Sub Pop Records, The Row, the Movember Foundation, and the Haiti Artist Collective, a
group of Haitian artists who customize Chinese-made TOMS for the U.S. market.
All of TOMS’s Giving Shoes are based on the original alpargata design, and usually
come in black, red, or blue. A common criticism of the brand is that they do not always
satisfy children’s basic environmental needs. The shoes have a very short lifespan in muddy,
rough terrain, and do not offer insulation in colder climates. In response to these criticisms,
TOMS is beginning to produce and distribute a winter boot in Afghanistan, India,
Kyrgyzstan, Nepal, Pakistan, and Tajikistan.
In 2011, TOMS began selling sunglasses using the One for One model. Made in
Italy, the $135 sunglasses come in three basic styles and a variety of colors; each consumer
purchase pays for prescription glasses, eye surgery, and other sight-related procedures in
developing countries. The eyewear line shows promise of becoming as successful as TOMS
footwear, even though the connection between “buy one” and “give one” is less clear. TOMS
has not released any sales data on its sunglasses, but claimed that, as of 2013, it had helped
to deliver eye care to more than 150,000 people in 13 countries.19 Upon launching the new
product line, Mycoskie announced, “From this day forward, TOMS will no longer just be a
shoe company, it will be a one-for-one company.”20
This strategy has allowed TOMS to position itself as a lifestyle brand that will eventually
turn every purchase into a philanthropic opportunity. A search of the U.S. Trademark
Electronic Search System (TESS) reveals that the company has also registered trademarks
for numerous other product categories, including baby clothing, hats, pet accessories, water,
coffee, tea, jewelry, and books (as of the publication date of this text, TOMS had already
begun operations in the coffee sector).
Target Market
TOMS attracts a demographic of young men and women. These consumers tend to
be creative, individualistic trendsetters who use multiple media and technology platforms;
have progressive political, environmental, and social views; and prefer to shop at small,
independent boutiques. In addition to perceived design and style, they are attracted to
the emotional value of the buy-one-give-one model. They buy organic clothing, ask for
charitable donations in lieu of gifts, and shop at farmers’ markets. Their choice to buy
TOMS is both an aesthetic preference and a public statement about their socially responsible
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Locations and Distribution
TOMS shoes are sold at more than 500 stores nationwide and internationally, including
Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman, Nordstrom, Urban Outfitters, Whole Foods Market,
and many independent boutiques. The company is also experimenting with standalone
locations. It opened its flagship store in Venice, California, in 2012 and plans to expand its
retail presence in the future. Mycoskie included a cafe in the flagship store, and describes it
as more of a community meeting place than a retail location.
TOMS distributes donated shoes in two ways—with traveling shoe drops involving
volunteers, employees, and contest-winning consumers; and through partner organizations
with significant on-the-ground resources. The strategic Giving Partners are usually
nonprofit humanitarian organizations that choose where and how the shoes are dispensed,
often integrating donations into health and education programs. In some places, the shoes
are gifts for families who bring their children in for checkups or immunizations; in others,
they are simply given away, as at the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan, where over 115,000
displaced Syrians are living in a massive makeshift city.
As of 2013, TOMS collaborated with 75 Giving Partners in over 50 countries, including
Bridge2Rwanda, World Vision, goods for good, Save the Children, the Cambodian
Children’s Fund, Partners In Health, and the Seva Foundation.
Impact Studies
Critics have questioned whether or not TOMS is truly a social enterprise, or if it
merely uses cause marketing as a way to differentiate the brand and drive revenues. The
inspirational message is so effective, and the feeling of moral certitude among supporters
is so strong, that most customers do not ask the company to provide any statistical proof
of its social, environmental, or economic impact on the developing world. At a time when
consumers are demanding increased transparency and accountability from MNEs (multinational
enterprises) and NGOs (non-governmental organizations), TOMS has somehow
managed to avoid criticism from this group for failing to measure its philanthropic efficiency
or efficacy.
Journalists, academics, and aid workers have shown less restraint. In response to criticism
from the media—from the New York Times to a Peace Corps volunteer’s blog—TOMS
funded a two-year study at the University of San Francisco to measure the company’s
effect on local economies in one of its Giving Areas. In August 2013, researchers released
a report entitled, “Do In-Kind Transfers Damage Local Markets? The Case of TOMS
Shoe Donations in El Salvador.” After studying 979 households in 22 communities, they
concluded that there was “little evidence to support the hypothesis that donated shoes
exhibit negative impacts on local shoe markets.” However, the report goes on to say, “El
Salvador [is] in many ways an ideal context to test the impact of in-kind donations on local
markets because, although there are many children that do not wear shoes out-of-doors,
most children do indeed own a pair of shoes (ed. emphasis), providing greater scope for finding
a negative impact on local markets than a context in which shoe ownership, and hence
market purchases, are rare. Indeed there are many countries such as El Salvador, which are
recipients of donated shoes and clothing, but where existing ownership of these goods is
relatively widespread compared to developing countries with even lower income levels.”22
In effect, TOMS is arguing that it does not impact local shoe markets in El Salvador part
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because children there already own shoes, which raises the question of whether the donated
shoes are actually necessary.
Topic for Debate: Follow the TOMS Model?
In this chapter’s debate section, you are asked to play the role of an executive at a
company that is considering adopting the TOMS model.
Our fictional company, Swensen Bags, Inc., owns a leading brand of backpacks and
handbags in the United States, based in Albany, New York. The owner, Joe Swensen, has
decided that the company needs to adopt a more active CSR profile. Swensen has decided
to allocate $1 million over the next 5 years to support some sort of charitable or socially
responsible activity. Swensen has asked his senior executives to develop proposals.
Swensen’s vice president for marketing, Alma Marlow, has proposed an idea that Joe
is supporting: to create a subsidiary brand to be called Earth Bags, which would be made
from recycled polyester and which would employ a one-for-one giving approach. For every
bag purchased, a backpack would be given to a promising student in a developing country.
Joe Swensen has always insisted on the highest quality for his bags and is fanatical about
the life span of zippers. He is convinced that low-income people in developing countries
probably have to settle for low-quality bags, which break easily, and make it difficult for
students to transport their school supplies.
The role of devil’s advocate is taken on by Joe’s vice president for finance, Suzanne
Rentof, who believes that the plan is impractical and that it would be simpler to give
money to a promising charity. “How are we going to get these bags to the kids?” she asks,
“We don’t have any overseas sales offices. So how much money are we going to spend flying
someone around the world, transporting bags through customs? The kids would probably
prefer the cash; they could buy their own bags. Besides, how many of our customers are
going to buy an expensive backpack just so kids overseas can get a free one? It’s different
with TOMS Shoes; most Americans have many pairs of shoes and they feel bad for a kid
without shoes. But most people only have one backpack, and they probably don’t feel that
sorry for someone who doesn’t have a good backpack. If we don’t sell any of these bags, how
are we going to pay for sending them overseas?”
Swensen admits that Rentof makes some interesting points, but he still supports the
idea. He organizes a meeting and assigns two executives to develop pro and con arguments
for the idea of the one-for-one bag. In this case, as opposed to some of the others in this
text, if you are arguing the negative side of the debate, do not limit yourself to pointing
out flaws in Alma Martin’s idea of a one-for-one approach. Remember, Swensen is ready
to commit $1 million to some charitable enterprise. If you do not think the one-for-one
approach is a good idea, give examples of projects that you feel would represent a better use
of the money.
Swensen Bags should create a backpack line based on the one-for-one giving model
pioneered by TOMS Shoes.
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Possible Arguments
• It would be an inspiring and fun way for company employees to interact with
schools in developing nations, which would foster understanding across class, culture,
and community.
• The project would promote education, as many children in developing countries
cannot afford good backpacks.
• It would inspire other entrepreneurs to follow the one-for-one model and find new
ways to fight poverty, which is something we should support.
Swensen Bags should not create a backpack line based on the one-for-one model, but
should instead adopt a different form on social project.
Possible Arguments
• Giving away free products does not address the underlying problems of poverty.
• Donations foster dependency on foreign aid, which is unsustainable.
• The one-for-one model gives consumers the feeling that they’ve “done enough,”
instead of looking for ways they can really help.
• Donated products hurt local merchants who sell similar products.
5.1 “Shoes for Business: The Unintended
Consequences of Doing Good”
Jain, Niharika S. “Shoes for Business: The Unintended Consequences of Doing
Good.” The Harvard Crimson. April 27, 2011.
TOMS is well known for its one-for-one business model: For every pair of shoes it sells,
the company donates a pair of shoes to a child in need. At first, I thought this sounded like
a great way to leverage business to help communities. But a skeptical friend prodded me to
think more carefully about the impact TOMS—and other companies with similar business
models—are making. By giving free shoes to impoverished populations, she pointed out,
TOMS competes with local businesses and takes away customers that might otherwise buy
locally made shoes.
Apparently, this isn’t uncommon in philanthropy. Several acknowledged instances can
be found where in-kind donations have disrupted local markets in developing countries.
A 2008 study found that used-clothing imports to Africa explained 50 percent of the fall
in employment in that sector from 1981–2000. After the Haiti earthquake, an influx of
foreign food aid—particularly donations of rice—hurt rice farmers’ livelihoods. Oxfam
has also found that secondhand clothing imports to nations like Senegal and Ghana have
likely hurt local industries and contributed to unemployment. The Oxfam report quotes the
General Secretary of the International Textile, Garment and Leather Workers’ Federation
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on the job losses: “Unable to compete [with secondhand clothing imports], local businesses
are collapsing, leaving hundreds of thousands of workers jobless.”
Although TOMS likely has good intentions, its donation strategy may negatively
impact the communities it seeks to support. Like the litany of organizations that donate
shoes, clothes, and other items to developing countries, TOMS may be undermining the
development of local businesses. And while making in-kind donations benefits consumers
in the short run, stifling local industry and increasing unemployment in this way will intensify
poverty in the long-term.
Another issue with organizations like TOMS is that donating shoes can be financially
inefficient. Shoes are typically inexpensive in developing nations—in Mumbai, as in Portau-Prince,
one pair is sold for as little as $2. Shipping a used pair of shoes often costs
more; for instance, Soles4Soles solicits donations of $3–$5 to ship a pair of shoes to Haiti.
In addition to hurting local business, in-kind donations sometimes simply waste money.
We could actually save money and simultaneously help stimulate local economies by just
keeping our old shoes and instead buying new ones from community-based vendors…
As consumers of “socially conscious” products, we need to be aware of the impact of our
purchases. In a culture where giving back through consumption is increasingly popular, and
where myriad companies market items that purportedly help those in need, we should be
cautious and deliberate about how we choose to support international development.
5.2 “The Best and Simplest Way to Fight Global
Yglesias, Matthew. “The Best and Simplest Way to Fight Global Poverty: Proof That
Giving Cash to Poor People, No Strings Attached, Is an Amazingly Powerful Tool
for Boosting Incomes and Promoting Development.” May 29, 2013.
Poverty is, fundamentally, a lack of money. So doesn’t it make sense that simply delivering
cash to poor people can be an effective strategy for alleviating it?
When it comes to the global poor—the hundreds of millions of slum-dwellers and
subsistence farmers who still populate the world—one might be more skeptical. Perhaps
the problems facing these unfortunates are simply too profound and too complex to be
addressed by anything other than complicated development schemes. Well, perhaps. But
there’s striking new evidence that helping the truly poor really is as simple as handing them
money. Money with no strings attached not only directly raises the living standards of those
who receive it, but it also increases hours worked and labor productivity, seemingly laying
the groundwork for growth to come…
The research comes from a 2008 initiative in Uganda’s very poor northern sections. The
government announced plans to give roughly a year’s worth of average income (about $382)
to young people aged 18–34. Youths applied for the grants in small groups (to simplify
administration) and were asked to provide a statement about how they would invest the
money in a trade. But the money was explicitly unconditional—parceled out as lump sums
with no compliance monitoring.
[Researchers] surveyed 2,675 youths from both the treatment and the control group
before dispersal of money, two years after dispersal of money, and four years after dispersal
of money. The results show that the one-off lump-sum transfer had substantial long-
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term benefits for those who got the cash. As promised, the people who received the cash
“invest[ed] most of the grant in skills and business assets,” ending up “65 percent more
likely to practice a skilled trade, mainly small-scale industry and services such as carpentry,
metalworking, tailoring, or hairstyling.” Consequently, recipients of cash grants acquired
much larger stocks of business capital and thus earn more money—a lot more money.
Compared to the control group, the treatment group saw a 49 percent earnings boost after
two years and a 41 percent boost after four.
…One of the most interesting results from the experiment is that recipients of grants
actually report 17 percent more hours worked, suggesting that the money serves as a true
bridge to economic opportunity. Grant winners increase both the quantity and quality of
labor supplied, suggesting there should be at least some spillover benefits to the broader
community. No doubt there are major limits to how far up the development ladder you can
climb with this strategy: It might not work in moderately prosperous countries with more
access to capital. But these results are extremely encouraging…
Poor people just need more money.
5.3 “Sacrificing Microcredit for Megaprofits”
Yunus, Muhammad. “Sacrificing Microcredit for Megaprofits” [op-ed]. New York Times.
January 14, 2011.
5.4 “Our Ineffectiveness at Measuring
Pallotta, Dan. “Our Ineffectiveness at Measuring Effectiveness” (blog). Harvard
Business Review. November 1, 2010.
Synthesis Questions
1. Do you think the one-for-one model can be expanded to all product categories?
Why or why not?
2. Would you like to start a social enterprise? What sector or type of product line do
you think might work?
3. Do you think the world needs more people like Blake Mycoskie?
4. Are there any social enterprises that you support or whose products you buy? What
attracts you to these companies and their products?
1. Richard M. Murphy and Denielle Sachs, “The Fireflies Next Time: The Rise of Social Entrepreneurship
and the Future for Global Capitalism.” Skoll World Forum in partnership with Forbes,
May 2 2013,
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2. Blake Mycoskie, “SXSW 2011 Keynote: Blake Mycoskie Gives Tip #1 for Business,” YouTube
video, 3:39, from a keynote speech at the SXSW festival, posted by “SX TX State” on March 15,
3. Adriana Herrera, “Questioning the TOMS Shoes Model for Social Enterprise
(blog) New York Times, March 19 2013,
4. For more information on the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, go to http://
5. A detailed outline of the study can be found on the website of the Convergences World Forum,
“Convergences,” accessed December 1, 2014,
6. Bill Gates “A New Approach to Capitalism in the 21st Century,” transcript of remarks at the
World Economic Forum 2008, January 24, 2008, Davos, Switzerland,
7. Robert B. Zoellick, “Beyond Aid,” transcript of speech given at George Washington University,
September 14, 2011, Washington, DC,
8. PVOs are nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) they receive cash contributions from the
general public.
9. Hudson Institute Center for Global Prosperity, “Index of Global Philanthropy,” 2013 (updated
yearly), accessed December 1, 2014,
10. Amy S. Blackwood, Katie L. Roeger, and Sara L. Pettijohn. “The Nonprofit Sector in Brief:
Public Charities, Giving, and Volunteering, 2012.” Urban Institute, September 2012, http://www.
11. Craig Burnside and David Dollar, “Aid, policies, and growth,” World Bank, Policy Research
Working Paper 1777.
12. Oxfam International, “Food Aid or Hidden Dumping? Separating Wheat from Chaffs,”
Oxfam Briefing Paper 71, March 2005,
13. Adam Davidson and Caitlin Kenney, “How Foreign Aid Hurts Haitian Farmers,” Planet
Money (blog), NPR, June 11, 2010,
14. Garth Frazer, “Used Clothing Donations and Apparel Production in Africa,” accessed October
28, 2013,
15. Nina Mazar and Chen-Bo Zhong. “Do Green Products Make Us Better People?” Psychological
Science, vol. 21 no. 4. April 2010, 494-498.
16. Aradhna Krishna, “Can Supporting a Cause Decrease Donations and Happiness?:
The Cause Marketing Paradox “, Journal of Consumer Psychology, 21 (3), (2011), 338-345.
17. Blake Mycoskie, Start Something That Matters (New York: Spiegel and Grau, 2012), 6.
18. Robert Zoellick, “Beyond Aid.”
19. “TOMS Announces It Has Given 10 Million Pairs Of New Shoes To Children In Need
And Has Helped Restore Sight For 150,000 People Around The World,” PR Newswire, June25,
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20. Booth Moore, “TOMS Founder Blake Mycoskie Is Known for Pairing Fashion and
Causes,” Los Angeles Times, June 11, 2011,
21. For a typical speculative analysis of TOMS target market demographics, see for example
“TOMS: In Business to Help Save Lives,” accessed December 1, 2014, http://tomspoli461.
22. Bruce Wydick, Elizabeth Katz, and Brendan Janet, “Do In-Kind Transfers Damage Local
Markets? The Case of TOMS Shoe Donations in El Salvador,” March 12, 2014, http://tinyurl.
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Chapter 6
Marketing Ethics: Selling
Controversial Products
Source: Frank Gruber, (CC BY-NC-NDS, 2.0, 2008)
Figure 6.1 Advertisers are continually exploring new media for advertising as they seek to break
through the promotional clutter of modern life to attract the attention of consumers. Here, the
Budweiser beer logo is imprinted on the top of a house adjacent to the Wrigley Field baseball
park in Chicago, Illinois.
Legal and Ethical Constraints on Marketing
and Advertising
This chapter explores the ethics of marketing and advertising. As the most visible form
of marketing, advertising is one of the principal motors of a capitalist economy and also
one of the largest modern industries: The global advertising market was valued at $495
billion in 2013 (the United States was the largest national market at $152 billion).1
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vertisements not only inform consumers of available products, services, promotions, and
sales, they serve a vital business function by allowing brands to distinguish themselves from
competitors, which rewards firms for improving the quality of their offerings. Advertising
is a key ally for innovation, because advertising allows firms to create awareness and desire
among consumers to buy new products. Despite these benefits, the advertising industry
has long been suspected of using devious tactics. As a result, many consumers are highly
skeptical and even disdainful of advertising in general.
Advertisers sometimes take the risk of shocking the public with their ads because they
are seeking to break through the communications clutter of modern life. Today, the average
American is exposed to a great number of advertising messages every day, with estimates
running from several hundred to several thousand ads per day.2
In order to attract the
public’s attention, advertisers may resort to appeals and tactics of questionable taste. Little
wonder that more than half of Americans believe that advertising today is out of control.
Social critics point to advertising as one of the most objectionable aspects of our consumer
economy. From the billboards that blot out the countryside along highways, to the television
shows that are interrupted every few minutes by outlandish commercials, to the mailboxes
and e-mail accounts that become cluttered with direct marketing, advertising methods are
often criticized for being intrusive, offensive, silly, and even dishonest.
As a result of the perceived abuses of advertising, national governments all over the
world have imposed laws and regulations on the advertising industry. Every country or
region has its own area of sensitivity. In many Muslim nations, for example, there are prohibitions
against advertisements that display nudity or offend traditional notions of decency.
France and Germany prohibit comparative advertisements in which one brand claims to be
superior to another.
The modern marketplace abounds with products that pose difficult challenges for
regulators. Consider the example of tobacco and alcohol. These products can be harmful or
dangerous, but many people nonetheless desire to consume them. Most Western countries
have decided that it is counterproductive to outlaw the sale of tobacco and alcohol, as doing
so may create a black market and stimulate organized crime. The official response of most
governments has been to allow the sale of such products but to prohibit or strictly constrain
their advertising. Other product categories that tend to be governed by specific advertising
regulations include pharmaceuticals and financial products.
Many products have positive uses but can also be dangerous if misused, like automobiles,
knives, razors, lighter fluid, pesticides, toys, athletic equipment, and so on. In such
cases, the law usually prohibits advertising that encourages the consumer to use the product
in a dangerous fashion. Another common type of marketing regulation is one that prohibits
advertisements from making false, deceptive, or misleading claims. In most countries, such
rules are enforced by the ministry for consumer affairs. In the United States, rules against
deceptive advertisements are promulgated and enforced by the Federal Trade Commission
There are certain product categories in which exaggerated claims are commonly made.
For example, in the case of skin creams, cosmetics, perfumes, deodorants, toothpaste,
mouthwash, and so on, advertisers typically claim (or suggest indirectly) that their products
make the consumer more physically attractive, especially to the opposite sex. The problem
is that some consumers may not be sophisticated enough to discern the difference between
innocent puffery and claims of effectiveness. Thus, teenage boys have been known
to douse themselves with Unilever’s Axe deodorant products in the hope that they will
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attract females as effectively as is suggested in Axe’s notoriously provocative advertising.
Many advertisements for such products come so close to making deceptive appeals that
they may trigger the FTC’s attention. As a result, advertisers have learned to be cautious
in the precise wording of their claims. For example, advertisements for skin cream may
permissibly suggest that the user’s skin will “look and feel better” after use of the product,
but they cannot include text guaranteeing the disappearance of wrinkles.
In many countries, regulators are especially vigilant when it comes to advertising aimed
at children, because it is felt that children are sometimes more susceptible to manipulation
or suggestion and are less likely to understand the dangers associated with the use of an
advertised product. In Greece, for example, toy advertisements are prohibited between the
hours of 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. In Sweden and Norway, all advertising aimed at children is
prohibited, and in France, a child may not appear as the spokesperson in a commercial. In
Holland, advertisements for sweets must include a toothbrush at the bottom of the ad to
remind children to brush their teeth after eating sweets.
In this chapter, we will begin with a review of the advertising industry’s “self-regulation”
of objectionable or unethical advertising. Many advertisements and marketing tactics fall
into a regulatory gray area, where the advertisement is technically legal but still manages to
offend some of the population. A frequent cause of such offense is the advertiser’s quest to
develop a humorous or surprising advertisement. For example, one Danish advertisement
featured an image of the Pope wearing a particular brand of sneakers, which offended
many Catholics. In Italy, the fashion company Benetton shocked the nation by using an
advertisement in which a priest is seen kissing a nun. In cases like these, it is not possible
to make the advertisements illegal, but advertising industry associations feel it is necessary
nonetheless to police the market for objectionable advertisements.
Our chapter-ending case study will deal with the ethical dilemma faced by executives
at an advertising consultancy that is considering accepting an account for a global brand
that manufactures skin-whitening products. The CEO of our company will call upon us to
consider and debate the pros and cons of developing a US advertising campaign for Fair
and Lovely, an Indian brand. In the United States, this product is demanded primarily by
immigrants from South Asian countries, a large and growing demographic.
Many people feel that advertisements for such products contain racist appeals, since
they are implicitly based on promoting the superiority of white skin. Is it ethical to market
and promote such a product? Why or why not? Let us first consider some background to
allow us to answer these questions.
Principles of Marketing Ethics
As stated earlier, every country has a basic framework of advertising law. Many types of
advertisement are simply prohibited by law. However, with respect to advertisements that
are legal but morally questionable (or otherwise objectionable), the advertising sector polices
itself by applying self-regulatory codes of marketing and advertising ethics. This means
that the advertising industry sets up its own committees to police questionable advertisements.
Virtually every country has at least one advertising industry trade association with a
self-regulatory panel or committee that reviews consumer complaints. After examining the
advertisement in question, the panel decides whether or not to ask the advertiser to remove
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the advertisement; although advertisers are not legally obliged to follow the decisions of
such committees, they usually do.
The self-regulatory panels base their decisions on ethical principles contained in codes
of advertising ethics. The most influential codes are those established by the International
Chamber of Commerce (ICC); ICC Codes are followed by advertising bodies in over 30
countries. The ICC Codes are based on the core principles of legality, decency, honesty,
and truthfulness in all marketing communications. The ICC further emphasizes that “all
marketing communications should be prepared with a due sense of social and professional
responsibility and should conform to the principles of fair competition, as generally accepted
in business. No communication should be such as to impair public confidence in
Self-regulatory codes are deliberately framed in general terms, because it can be very
difficult to objectively define what kind of advertisement can be considered “decent.” It is
assumed that standards of decency vary on a national or cultural basis, and in addition are
likely to change over time. Thus, the ICC Code thus provides general guidelines: “Marketing
communications should not contain statements or audio or visual treatments which
offend standards of decency currently prevailing in the country and culture concerned.”
The ICC Code further stipulates the following:3
• Marketing communications should be so framed as not to abuse the trust of consumers
or exploit their lack of experience or knowledge. Relevant factors likely to
affect consumers’ decisions should be communicated in such a way and at such a
time that consumers can take them into account.
• Marketing communications should respect human dignity and should not incite
or condone any form of discrimination, including that based upon race, national
origin, religion, gender, age, disability, or sexual orientation.
• Marketing communications should not without justifiable reason play on fear or
exploit misfortune or suffering.
• Marketing communications should not appear to condone or incite violent, unlawful,
or antisocial behavior.
• Marketing communications should not play on superstition.
Examples of Objectionable Advertising
Discriminatory Advertisements
As we review the history of advertising, we will observe that certain ads and campaigns
were previously considered acceptable, and even popular, but today would generally be regarded
as objectionable (in clear violation of one or more of the principles outlined above).
Such cases can help illustrate the ongoing evolution of community standards in marketing
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Source: Kim Bhasin and Patricia Laya, “26 Shockingly Offensive Vintage Ads,” Business Insider, June 14, 2011.
Figure 6.2 This is a vintage Schlitz beer advertisement from 1951.
Consider the vintage ad for Schlitz beer in Figure 6.2. A suit-clad husband is comforting
his tearful wife, who has just burned the evening’s dinner. The advertising copy reads
as follows: “Don’t worry, darling, you didn’t burn the beer.” This advertisement appears to
be aimed at men and contains a mocking and patronizing reference to young housewives
of the day. In its time, such an advertisement was probably considered by many to represent
light-hearted humor, but today it would be considered offensive by many viewers. The
unstated implication is that men are breadwinners while women are weepy and emotional
homemakers. By contemporary standards, the Schlitz ad is overtly sexist.
While it might seem that such advertisements are relics of the past, controversial discriminatory
appeals and references continue to appear in the media. As a further example,
consider the advertisement for the Mountain Dew soft-drink in Figure 6.3:4
Source: Christopher Heine, “Mountain Dew Pulls ‘Arguably Most Racist Commercial in History’,” Adweek (2013)
Figure 6.3 Mountain Dew’s zany but ill-fated campaign featuring a Mountain Dew-crazed
Mountain Dew had run a successful series of edgy commercials targeted at Internet
viewers and users of social media (an increasingly popular tactic). Perhaps influenced by
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the remarkable success of insurance company GEICO’s advertising mascot (a green gecko
with a cockney accent), Mountain Dew had created a series of ads featuring a goat with a
crazed passion for the caffeine-laced green soda. For one of these commercials, Mountain
Dew hired hip-hop artist Tyler the Creator to create and produce the advertisement. In the
ad in question, the goat is driving a car and is pulled over and arrested by a policeman. In
flashback, we see the goat attacking a woman to wrench away her bottle of Mountain Dew,
leaving the woman bloodied and wounded. In the next scene, the woman tries to identify
her assailant from a police line-up that features the goat and four black men. Drinking
steadily from a bottle of Mountain Dew, the policeman prods the woman to make a choice.
The goat responds to the situation by speaking in a parodic hip-hop style, employing slang
phrases such as “do her up” and “ya better not snitch on a playa.” Meanwhile, the Dewamped
policeman urges the woman to “nail this little sucker” and suggests it is “the one
with the doo-rag.”
In retrospect, one wonders how such an offensive advertisement could have been released
by a subsidiary of one of the world’s largest marketing organizations (Mountain
Dew is a PepsiCo subsidiary). There was a great deal of outrage voiced when the ad was
posted on Mountain Dew’s music/arts website. One college professor labeled the commercial
as “arguably the most racist commercial in history.” The ad was promptly pulled
and PepsiCo accepted full responsibility and apologized. To no avail, PepsiCo had pointed
out that Tyler was African-American and that the four black men featured in the lineup
were actually his close friends. Apparently, the irony intended by Tyler was meant to mock
racism and discriminatory police practices. However, as many other advertisers had learned
before, humor is a two-edged sword in advertising. It can attract attention, but it can also
be misunderstood and cause offense.
Encouraging Harmful or Dangerous Practices
The advertisement in Figure 6.4 illustrates two categories of advertising that merit
special scrutiny: advertisements featuring children and advertisements encouraging misuse
of a product. Would any parent think it appropriate to have his or her infant shave himself
with a razor? Of course not, but clearly that was not the intent of the advertiser.
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Source: Kim Bashin, “20 Creepy Ads Featuring Children,” Business Insider, Oct. 26, 2011.
Figure 6.4 This is a vintage Gillette advertisement from 1905.
The ad is attempting to be humorous by employing an absurd image, a baby shaving
itself. The ad is also trying to make the point that the new Gillette safety razor is so safe that
even a baby could use it without harm. There also may have been an intention to create an
association between the smoothness of a baby’s skin and the closeness of the shave provided
by the razor. By today’s standards, however, the advertisement appears reckless. While it is
not possible that a baby would be influenced by an advertisement, it is not inconceivable
that a small child of five or six years of age might be encouraged by this advertisement to
play with a razor: The baby seems to be having such fun, and the small child might have
seen his or her father shaving. Regardless of the likelihood that the advertisement could
cause harm, today’s advertisers have become increasingly wary of using advertising that
features children engaged in dangerous activities.
Potentially Dangerous Products:
Advertising Bans and Restrictions
As stated above, there are products that are sold legally but that are considered to have
such a high potential for harm or abuse such that their advertising has been banned or
regulated. Let us consider just two such product areas: cigarettes and alcoholic beverages.
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Source: Cory Doctorow, “Particularly Despicable Cigarette Ad,”, Nov. 25, 2011.
Figure 6.5 This is a 1962 advertisement for the L&M cigarette brand featured in the edition of
Popular Science magazine.
Concerned with medical research that revealed the health hazards of smoking, the US
and European governments began to regulate tobacco advertising in the 1960s. The print
ad in Figure 6.5, from 1962, features an idyllic family scene that suggests that a smoker
gets “lots more” from a particular brand. The ad suggests that one acceptable way to enjoy
the smoking experience is to smoke in the company of one’s spouse and children. In 1964,
however, the US Surgeon General issued a formal report that concluded that smoking
caused lung cancer and chronic bronchitis. This led to the government instituting a series
of regulations aimed at the tobacco industry. The new laws required health warning labels
on all cigarette packages and required that all cigarette companies file annual reports to the
FTC. One goal of these regulations was to oblige the large tobacco companies to disclose
their advertising expenditures and strategies, so that the government would be able to assess
the link between tobacco advertising and smoking-related health risks.
Throughout the late 1960s, the US government accumulated and analyzed data on the
marketing and advertising practices of the large cigarette companies and finally concluded
that tobacco advertising encouraged smoking. As a result, the Public Health Cigarette
Smoking Act was passed and signed into law in 1970. This act banned all cigarette advertising
on television and radio advertising in the United States. At the time the prohibition
went into effect, tobacco companies were spending eighty percent of their advertising budgets
on television advertising, so the impact of the law was significant.
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Subsequently, the United States enacted further restrictions on cigarette advertising. In
1999, billboard advertising of tobacco products was banned. In 2010, tobacco companies
were prohibited from sponsoring athletic, musical, or artistic events, and from featuring
their logos on apparel. However, the government has stopped short of banning print advertising.
These governmental efforts have been matched by a certain level of self-regulation
on the part of tobacco companies. For example, after a public outcry over its use of a
cartoonish camel to sell cigarettes (it was feared that such advertising would be appealing
to children and teenagers), Camel Cigarettes voluntarily stopped advertising in magazines
in 2007. However, in 2013 Camel resumed its practice of advertising in magazines.
Alcohol has been classified by the International Agency on Research for Cancer
(IARC) as a Group 1 carcinogen, meaning that the circumstances in which humans are
exposed to alcohol are sufficient to create a risk of cancer. According to the World Health
Organization (WHO), alcohol causes approximately 1.8 million deaths per year. In the
United States alone, approximately 10,000 deaths per year are the result of automobile accidents
caused by drunk driving. Despite these sobering statistics, the US government has
taken a very different approach to alcohol advertising as compared with tobacco advertising.
In essence, the FTC has primarily asked the alcohol industry to self-regulate.
Given that advertising is known to be an effective means of increasing sales and market
share, why would alcoholic beverage companies agree to abide by self-regulation? Here,
the example of advertising bans on tobacco products is instructive. Other industries whose
products are seen as controversial have been influenced by the threat of an advertising ban
similar to that placed on tobacco products. Consequently, trade associations for such industries
have sought to maintain an open dialogue with legislators in the hope of appeasing
them with effective self-regulation, so as not to be faced with a total ban. In the United
States, the self-regulatory focus has been to minimize the exposure of underage drinkers to
the advertising of alcoholic beverages. Currently, the alcoholic beverage industry has agreed
to restrict advertising in print, TV, and radio to those venues where studies show that more
than 70% of viewers will be of drinking age (i.e., older than 21). Further, the industry has
agreed to support a public campaign against underage drinking and to include warnings
about drinking responsibly in all advertising. The FTC has urged industry to apply the
70% rule to sponsorship of musical and sporting events as well but no agreement has been
Even with these self-regulatory measures in place, there remains a good deal of concern
among watchdog groups about the appeal of TV advertising to young people, who are
considered more likely to abuse alcohol than older viewers. Moreover, the alcohol industry
continues to employ advertising appeals based on the implicit sexual allure of drinking
in bars or at parties. This approach is disturbing to industry critics who see the glamorizing
and sexualizing of alcohol consumption as another way of attracting young people
to alcohol products. As with cigarettes, the implicit threat is that if the industry can get
young people “hooked” early in life, then they will become lifelong consumers of a product
with known health risks. Youths who begin drinking at age 15 are four times more likely to
become alcoholics than those who begin drinking at age 21.5
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Case Study: The Marketing of SkinWhitening
Americans—in particular, white Americans—spend hours in tanning salons going to
great efforts (and sometimes even incurring great pain and health risks) to make their skin
darker. In other parts of the world, such as the Caribbean, Africa, East Asia, and the Indian
sub-continent, people go to much expense to lighten their skin. They do so through the
purchase and application of skin-whitening or skin-lightening creams that purport to make
dark skin lighter. (Whether or not they actually work is controversial.) In many of these
regions, lighter skin is more highly regarded socially. Arguably, this phenomenon is a sad
by-product of colonialism, in that it is based on a positive association with the skin color
of Caucasians. The flip-side is that, in the United States and Europe, darker skin is often
considered attractive and exotic.
Fair and Lovely is an Indian brand of skin-whitening products manufactured and marketed
by Hindustan Lever Ltd. (HLL). Fair and Lovely is the top-selling skin-whitening
brand in India, followed closely by Fairever which is made by CavinKare. HLL advertising
touts Fair and Lovely as a “miracle worker” and claims that it is “proven to deliver one
to three shades of change.” As a result of competition from Fairever, HLL stepped up
its marketing efforts in recent years, which led to a great deal of controversy. One of the
controversial HLL ad campaigns was based on the theme “The fairer girl gets the boy.”
In one of the typical television commercials used in this campaign, a poor father is
lamenting the fact that he does not have a son who can work and help support the family.
His daughter, who has dark skin, looks on and clearly feels a sense of guilt. When she
seeks employment, she is rebuffed because of her dark skin. Her unhappy lot is magically
transformed with the use of Fair and Lovely skin-whitening cream. Suddenly, she not only
appears to have much lighter skin, but the other characters in the commercial perceive her
as much more beautiful. She dons a miniskirt and finds employment as a flight attendant,
receiving the romantic attention of a fair-skinned Westerner. Among the many improbable
benefits associated with use of Fair and Lovely, it seems, are a wardrobe change, secure
employment, and a foreign boyfriend. The newly confident young woman is now a success
and can take her proud father out for a lavish dinner.
The popularity of Fair and Lovely, as well as other skin-whitening creams, is tied to
Indian cultural traditions. Lighter skin has been associated with a higher caste and therefore
greater social status. Most of the famous female stars in India’s popular Bollywood
movie industry are light-skinned. Do the Fair and Lovely products—or those of competitors—really
make someone’s skin lighter? Or is this idea just an illusion perpetuated by
effective advertising? In its official documentation regarding Fair and Lovely, HLL only
states that the cream contains vitamins essential to skin care and UV blocking agents (as
in sunscreens). In other words, rather than actually turning the skin lighter, Fair and Lovely
may only work by keeping skin from getting darker, something likely to happen in sundrenched
areas of India. Critics claim that at best such products temporarily bleach skin
Not everyone in India is comfortable with the promotion of skin-whitening creams. A
number of groups have come out against HLL and Fair and Lovely, charging the company
with deceptive advertising and the promotion of discrimination and sexism. Many critics
point out that the celebration of lighter skin is implicitly a rejection of darker skin. Thus, the
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Women of Worth Foundation launched a campaign called “Dark is Beautiful” to protest
skin-whitening products.
Indian fashion writer Rumnique Nannar observed the following:
I’ve heard the stray dig “for a Punjabi, you’re quite dark” or jokingly mentioned, “are
you sure you haven’t been adopted from Kerala?” or even the infamous, “wow, you are,
like, so exotic”—all standard fare for me as the darker blip in family photos. Having
your identity reduced to skin tone can be crushing, particularly when it doesn’t fit with
the more fair ideal admired by most cultures. In India, ads by Emami and Fair and
Lovely often seemed laughable and pompous to me, with grandfathers sanctioning
the use of skin lightening creams to ensure the success and subsequent beauty of their
dusky daughters.6
Nannar points out that to be identified or even judged according to one’s skin color is
demeaning and diminishes a woman’s self-esteem and creates a sense of insecurity.
Topic for Debate: Should an American
Advertising Agency Represent Fair and
In this fictional case, a small but highly successful new advertising agency based in New
York City, Enviralism, Inc., has become known for its ability to craft effective social media
campaigns targeting the so-called millennial generation (young people born between the
early 1980s and early 2000s). Enviralism has become successful especially with rapidly
growing high-tech, fashion, and communications groups. This small agency is known for
its cutting-edge creativity.
The CEO of Enviralism, Ralph Rodriguez, has been approached by Unilever, one
of the world’s largest consumer goods conglomerates, with a US advertising budget in
the tens of millions, to craft a strategy for marketing Fair and Lovely products to South
Asian and East Asian immigrants and their first-generation children. Unilever is aware of
the controversies surrounding Fair and Lovely products, but is also aware that there is a
significant US market for skin-whitening products. As a result, Unilever would like to tap
into Enviralism’s knack for thinking up unusual, outside-the-box marketing strategies. In
its initial discussions, Unilever has talked about starting with an annual $2 million budget,
which might be doubled or tripled in subsequent years. This would instantly make Unilever
the largest client at Enviralism, which is still a very small boutique agency with only 18
However, when Rodriguez discusses the opportunity with his Creative Director, Elaine
Williams, she demurs: “That’s a straight-up racist product, Ralph. We can’t go there, no
matter how much money it makes us.”
Ralph, who has just invested $200,000 in renovating a Williamsburg loft into beautiful
new offices for Enviralism (complete with state-of-the-art computer and graphics equipment),
is not so sure.
He counters, “What about Coppertone? What about Hawaiian Tropic? Those products
make people’s skin darker, supposedly, but nobody complains. What about Afro Sheen and
other hair-straighteners for the black community? Nobody says those are racist. This is a
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$500 million market in India alone, not to mention a standard skin-care product category
in Japan, China, Indonesia, and Thailand—we’re talking about a market with well over two
and a half billion people!”
Ralph can see that Elaine is not convinced, so he schedules a board meeting where his top
executives will argue the case, pro and con, for accepting the Unilever account. You will be assigned
to one of those teams. Should Enviralism agree to craft advertising campaigns for the
Fair and Lovely product line?
Enviralism should agree to represent Fair and Lovely in the United States.
Possible Arguments
• We have a responsibility to customers to provide them with the products they
desire; we should not demean our customers by treating them like children.
• Fair and Lovely is not dangerous and may provide psychological benefits to customers,
like other cosmetics products.
• Fair and Lovely’s skin enrichment, sun blocking, and moisturizing features are
Enviralism should refuse to represent Fair and Lovely.
Possible Arguments
• Fair and Lovely is an ineffective product and its related advertising claims are
therefore deceptive.
• Fair and Lovely promotes and sustains social, racial, and ethnic stereotypes and
• Marketing Fair and Lovely would be socially irresponsible.
6.1 “Whiter-Skin Ad Campaign Spurs Debate Among
Chomchuen, Warangkana. “Whiter-Skin Ad Campaign Spurs Debate Among Thais.”
Wall Street Journal. October 25, 2013.
6.2 “Skin Whitener Advertisements Labeled Racist”
Sidner, Sara. “Skin Whitener Advertisements Labeled Racist.” CNN. September 9, 2009.
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6.3 The Dark Side of Skin-Whitening Cream
Hundal, Sunny. “The Dark Side of Skin-Whitening Cream: The Dangerous Fashion
for Skin-Whitening across Asia Perpetuates Racism and Should be Stigmatized
as Such.” The Guardian. April 1, 2010.
Synthesis Questions
1. Is there anything wrong in marketing cosmetics products with the suggestion that
they make the buyer more beautiful, even if this is unrealistic in many cases?
2. Should skin-whitening products be legal? Why or why not?
3. Does modern society have too much advertising? How could we control it? Can
you suggest any specific mechanisms or regulations that should be implemented?
1. “Magna Global 2013 Advertising Market Forecast,” Magna Global, accessed October 23, 2012,
2. For example, the article “Anywhere the Eye Can See, It’s Likely to See an Ad,” (New York
Times, January 15, 2007), quotes figures ranging from 2,000 to 5,000 per day. Advertising industry
sources argue that the number is much smaller, commonly around 300 per day.
3. “ICC Code of Consolidated Advertising and Marketing Practice,” International Chamber of
Commerce (2011), accessed December 2, 2014,
4.The commercial can be viewed on YouTube via the following link:
5. AAFP, “Alcohol Advertising and Youth” (Position Paper), American Academy of Family Physicians,
accessed October 25, 2013,
6. Rumnique Nannar, “Is Dark Beautiful? The Fairness Debate Opens Wide in India,” Huffington
Post, August 26, 2013,
Organic Food: Health Benefit or Marketing Ploy?|97
Chapter 7
Organic Food: Health Benefit
or Marketing Ploy?
Source: Richard Smith, (CC-BY 2.0, 2010)
Figure 7.1 Farmers and food distribution and retail companies have learned to capitalize on the
allure of organic foods, as we see in this eye-catching display of organic produce farmed in India.
Many claims are made for the benefits of organic food—but is it really healthier?
What are the pros and cons of growing and eating organic food?
The Organic Trend
Consumers all over the world are becoming increasingly health conscious and are more
than ever concerned about the quality of their food supply. Food is also crucial economically:
Forbes magazine estimates that food is the world’s biggest industry, citing 2006 World
Bank statistics that indicated that food represented about 10% of global gross domestic
product, roughly $4.8 trillion dollars.1
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One of the major food choices facing consumers today is whether to buy organic or
conventional food. While consumers wishing to buy organic food once had to seek out a
specialized health food store or a farmers’ market, organic food is now a standard offering
at major supermarket chains. Today, organic food is the fastest growing segment of the
American food industry. Between 1997 and 2010, US sales of organic food increased from
$3.6 billion to $26.7 billion, an extraordinary rate of growth.2
By 2011, organic foods earned
over $31 billion in the United States and accounted for about $450 million in exports in
2012. There are now over 17,750 USDA certified organic food producers and processors in
the United States, and over 25,000 worldwide that meet USDA standards.
The growth in organic food sales has been so rapid over the past two decades that
the phenomenon begs for explanation. Is it just a massive social fad, or does it reflect a
profound change in our modern marketplace and in our personal consumption habits?
Given the importance of food in the global economy, the trend toward organic foods is
destined to have a major impact on a wide range of business sectors, including agriculture,
food processing, supermarkets and groceries, fast food chains, restaurants, hotels, school
and workplace cafeterias, caterers, and so on. Businesses in each of these sectors will have
to make strategic decisions regarding the extent to which they will feature organic food
products or related services.
In order to make responsible decisions, companies will need to understand the pros
and cons of organic food, and especially why consumers are gravitating toward organic
options. In fact, consumers who choose organic foods are driven by a number of different
motivations and factors. The most common reasons for choosing organic foods are health
concerns, including fear of pesticides and bacterial-borne illnesses; higher nutritional value;
better taste; and environmental sustainability. However, as we will see, there is no clear
consensus on the benefits to be derived from organic foods in any of these areas.
Regardless of the discussion over the benefits claimed for organic foods, there is no
question but that they are more expensive. Organic foods are more costly to produce and
as a result the prices to consumers are higher, with some organic options costing twice as
much as their conventional counterparts. As a general rule, consumers will not pay significantly
higher prices unless they are driven by some clear motivation. As with so many other
areas in our society, the access to organic food—and the ability to afford it—comes most
easily to those with deeper pockets. This creates a dilemma for many businesses faced with
a choice between organic and conventional alternatives. If they offer organic food options,
they will incur greater costs and have to charge a higher price. Whether or not this is a
smart, strategic decision is an issue that every company (and every consumer) will have to
decide on a case–by-case basis.
In this chapter’s debate section, we will consider the case of a private hospital deciding
whether or not to institute an all-organic food service. Many hospitals are already beginning
to provide some organic and locally produced food. As consumer demand increases for
organic food, should hospitals follow this trend? The disturbingly high cost of health care
is already one of the most contentious issues in American politics today. Should hospitals
nonetheless accept the higher costs (and hospital charges) associated with organic offerings,
so as to model and promote a public health policy related to nutrition? Should a hospital
devote a greater percentage of its operating budget to providing organic food? The more a
hospital spends on food, the less it will have available for other important health-related
services. Will the health outcomes associated with eating organic food (even for the short
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time of the average hospital stay) outweigh the potentially higher costs entailed, or are the
benefits too uncertain, taking money away from more pressing medical needs?
In order to answer these questions, we need to have a better understanding of the pros
and cons of organic foods, especially relative to health outcomes. Organic farming practices
attempt to promote a healthy and sustainable relationship between animals, humans, and
the environment. Organic food production is a booming industry, but is it actually providing
healthier, more nutritious food, or is it a successful packaging and marketing strategy
with no real value to consumers?
What Is “Organic”?
In general, organic means that food was grown or produced without the use of synthetic
pesticides or fertilizers, without GMO ingredients, without chemical food additives or
artificial food-ripening substances, and without irradiation. Meats labeled as organic must
come from animals raised without hormones or antibiotics. Processed foods may be allowed
to contain a small percentage of non-organic ingredients and still be labeled organic
(in the United States, no more than 5% non-organic). Note, however, that organic fruits
and vegetables may be grown with a certain usage of natural (non-synthetic) pesticides and
natural fertilizers. Animals raised for meat on organic farms may be treated briefly with
antibiotics to manage disease.
In the United States, the 1990 Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) set the national
standards for the meaning, regulation, and certification of organic food. Only farms and
facilities that have been inspected and certified by the USDA can claim to be organic
and use organic on their labeling and packaging. Other countries around the world have
different standards for what it means to be certified organic, which makes the import and
export of organic foods difficult. In response to these constraints, the European Union and
the United States created a new partnership in organic trade equivalence in 2013 with the
objective of allowing organic products to flow more easily internationally.
For most of human history, agriculture was, by default, what we now call organic.
Chemical pesticides only came into regular use about 60 years ago, allowing for expanded
farming and greater output. Early on, most pesticides used were insecticides, but as potency
increased, the amount of insecticides needed began to drop. Now about 70% of pesticides
used are herbicides, and most of those are used in the cultivation of corn. Although pesticides
are used widely across the United States, there is some fluctuation depending on the
current pest infestations and types of crops. As public awareness grew about the potential
dangers of chemical pesticides, certain pesticides were banned during the 1960s and 1970s.
Consumers and public health advocates began demanding a return to natural and organic
food production. The increased scrutiny led to new restrictions on the toxicity of allowable
pesticide use. Today, chemical pesticides must adhere to health and environmental
standards, and chemical companies continue developing new pesticides that may be less
harmful to humans and the environment.
In addition to organic pesticides, organic farmers battle insect and pest infestation with
crop rotation and cover crops.
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Organic Food Evaluated: Pros and Cons
A poll conducted in 2011 by NPR–Thomson Reuters found that 58% of American
consumers preferred organic foods.3
The reasons cited by those that preferred organic were
support for farmers’ markets (36%), avoiding toxins (34%), environmental impact (17%),
and taste (13%).
Let us now briefly examine some of the claimed benefits and alleged disadvantages of
organic food and organic farming.
Environmental Impact
• Because organic farming is done without the use of pesticides and chemicals, toxic
residues do not poison the land, water, and air. Organic farming is a sustainable use
of land and resources. Crop rotation promotes fertile, healthy soil.
• Pesticide use in conventional farming contaminates runoff, water flowing over
land, which is a natural part of the water cycle. Pesticide residues are found in
ground water, surface water, and rainfall. This means that contamination may not
be isolated in food produced with pesticides, but affects the environment as well.
• Healthy soil is a key component of organic farming.
• Organic farming seeks to protect and promote biodiversity.
• Conventional food production often involves thousands of miles of transportation
from point of production to the grocery store, using oil and gas that contribute to
global warming.
• While one of the arguments for organic farming is the absence of chemical pesticides,
natural pesticides may be used on organic farms, and these may also have
potentially harmful effects. Organic plants grown without chemical or natural
pesticides or fertilizers may produce naturally occurring pesticides, called phenols,
to protect themselves against insect infestation. The effects of phenols on humans
is an ongoing area of research and debate, as those in favor of organics tout their
benefits while those skeptical of organics purport their potential health risks.4
• Pesticides allow farmers to obtain larger harvests and are therefore an economic
asset to food production. Every dollar invested in pesticides results in about four
dollars’ worth of crops produced. Pesticide use makes more economic sense, and
provides more food to more people.
• Organic farming is too costly in terms of its greater use of land and resources.
Organic farms are less productive (80% in one study) than conventional farms,5
and therefore require greater land use. In organic farming, weeds are removed
without the use of chemicals. However, mechanical cultivation—including turning
soil between crops to reintegrate plant parts and physically removing unwanted
plants—can actually damage soil structure, remove needed moisture, release carbon
into the atmosphere, and lead to increased soil erosion.
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• As organic food carves out a greater share of the market and international markets
expand, the carbon footprint of organic food distribution may exceed that of conventional
Health Impact
As often happens when opposing groups look at the same data, they come to different
conclusions. In the view of proponents, organic food is much better for your health than
conventionally grown alternatives. However, a number of studies, including a controversial
metastudy published by researchers at Stanford University Medical School in 2012, find
no evidence of significant benefits from organic food consumption in terms of health outcomes.
There have been no long-term studies following children and adults who consume
only organic food, and such studies would actually be rather cost-prohibitive to conduct.
Nonetheless, let us review the arguments put forward by both sides.
• Organic produce has much lower—as much as 81% lower—levels of pesticide
residue than conventional food. It also almost never contains high-risk pesticides.
And while conventional produce can harbor multiple pesticide residues, that is
rarely the case with organic produce.
• Evidence suggests that fetuses exposed to pesticides have higher rates of neurodevelopmental
problems and disorders, birth defects, autism, ADHD, asthma, and
lower IQ. In one study, school-aged children who began a primarily organic diet
showed no pesticide exposure after only five days. Switching to an organic diet
can thus have immediate and very beneficial advantages. Like fetuses and young
children, other segments of the population, especially the elderly and people with
degenerative diseases, are particularly vulnerable to the damaging effects of pesticide
exposure. Another area of pesticide use that cannot be overlooked is its impact
on the health and safety of farmworkers who have higher levels of exposure with
conventional farming practices than organic.
• Proponents of organic farming maintain that organic food is more nutritious than
conventional food. Organic apples, strawberries, grapes, carrots, milk, and grains
have been found to have higher levels of vitamin C, antioxidants, and phenolic
acids as compared to conventional food. On average, organic produce has nutrient
levels 12% higher than conventional fruits and vegetables.
• Organic dairy products and meats contain an optimal balance of omega-6 and
omega-3 fatty acids. Fats, consumed in the right amount, are crucial to human
health. They provide energy, are the building blocks of cell membranes, and can be
converted into other essential substances, like hormones, which are necessary for
healthy bodily functioning. Diets higher in omega-6 and lower in omega-3 fatty
acids can lead to a higher incidence of myocardial infarction and heart disease. On
the other hand, eating diets with the optimal ratio of omega-6 and omega-3, found
in organic food, can decrease the risk of heart disease.
• Organic farming virtually eliminates the consistent use of antibiotics in meat
and dairy production, limiting the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria into the
human population. Conventional meats are 300% more likely than organic to test
positive for bacteria resistant to three or more antibiotics.6
About 70% of antibiotics
given in the United States are used for animals in meat production, not in
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treating sickness, but to enhance growth and to mitigate the ill effects of overcrowding.7
Antibiotic resistance makes the treatment of infectious diseases much
more difficult to control. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) lists antibiotic
resistance as one of its top concerns. The production of organic meat therefore has
an immense public health benefit.
• The now well-known and often referenced Stanford study, a meta-analysis and
comprehensive review of academic research on organic food and production, found
virtually no health benefits associated with consumption of organic food. The Stanford
research reported that organic food had only a 30% lower risk of pesticide
residue than conventional food, compared to the 81% lower risk claimed by those
in favor of organics.
• The Stanford study also found no significant differences in the nutritional value
of organic versus conventional produce. The researchers noted that the risk for the
presence of E. coli (a common bacteria) was about the same in organic and conventional
produce. Although they also acknowledged that only five studies have been
done, they found that four out of the five studies actually found a slightly higher
risk for E. coli in their organic samples.
• Other studies have found that manure, a natural fertilizer, often transfers E. coli
to soil, plants, and water used in irrigation and cleaning. Even though organic
farming requires manure to be composted before usage and may only be applied to
soil not used for growing food for human consumption, E. coli may still survive and
can live in soil for over 200 days. This means that even if crops are rotated, E. coli
can remain a threat to a new crop and to human consumers.
• Actual practices in organic farming differ widely. Although the USDA has attempted
to define “organic” for certification purposes, these regulations nonetheless
permit a great deal of variation of production methods in organic farming, just as
in conventional food production. Simply having an organic label may not be a
guarantee of best practices or of safe and nutritious food.
• In October 2012, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued their first
statement about organic food consumption, stating that there simply is not enough
evidence to support claims of clear health benefits from an organic diet. While the
AAP confirmed research that higher levels of pesticide residues and antibiotic-resistant
bacteria are found in conventional rather than organic food, they advocated
for parents to provide their children with a well-rounded diet, including a variety
of fruits and vegetables, whether organic or not.
Hospitals, Health Care, and Organic Food
Just as ordinary consumers are showing a steadily increasing market preference for organic
food, medical patients are following suit, expecting and demanding fresher, healthier,
organic, and local foods. Many hospitals are beginning to respond to this demand, offering
more organic food, hosting farmers’ markets in their facilities, and providing more information
about nutrition to patients and medical workers. In addition to patient demand,
organizations like the international coalition Health Care without Harm (HCWH) have
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pushed for changes to provide healthier and more sustainable food options in the healthcare
industry as well as education about nutrition. HCWH has issued a blueprint for
change, including a variety of ways that hospitals can incorporate healthier food in their
facilities, ranging from forming food “teams” and holding conferences to purchasing local
and/or organic food.8
Traditionally, economic costs and organizational issues have made buying and providing
organic food in hospitals a challenge. Hospitals have their own regulations and
standards concerning food and food delivery. For example, some hospitals require potatoes
to be delivered already peeled and cut, which lies beyond the production and distribution
capabilities of most small organic farms.
Hospitals in the United States have predominantly relied on large-scale, nationwide
food distributors. However, in 2005, MedAssets, a major purchasing agent for the health
care industry, teamed up with United Natural Food, the leading distributor of natural and
organic food, to supply healthier food options to hospitals around the country. In the first
quarter of 2013, United Natural Food earned revenues of about $1.64 billion, up 22% from
the previous year. There are almost 6,000 registered hospitals in the United States today.9
More than 2,000 hospitals in the United States offer some permutation of organic and local
foods to patients and staff.
Many hospitals already do community outreach, running educational programs
targeting nutrition and healthy eating. Some examples of local/organic food initiatives supported
by hospitals today include the following:
• Catholic Healthcare West, a health system with 42 acute care facilities in three
states, has developed an educational program about the relationship between food
production and ecology, and no longer purchases dairy products containing the
hormone rBGH.
• Kaiser Permanente hosts farmers’ markets in 25 of its medical buildings around
the country and serves local and organic produce according to seasonal availability.
To balance cost concerns, Kaiser has made changes in some of its traditional food
service, including eliminating dessert from patient meals and replacing it with fruit.
• Dominican Hospital in Santa Cruz, California, buys organic food from a local
farm and has created its own vegetable garden.
• Good Shepherd Medical Center in Hermiston, Oregon, no longer serves deep
fried food and is switching to more organic food.
• St. Luke’s hospital in Duluth, Minnesota, now provides fair trade coffee, rBGHfree
milk, wild salmon, and local organic salad.
• Alice Peck Day Memorial Hospital in Lebanon, New Hampshire, purchases vegetables
from a local organic farm and provides an informational card with food
served to patients. Food waste is returned to the farm for composting.
• Fletcher Allen Health Care in Burlington, Vermont, buys organic eggs and grows
vegetables on its rooftop garden.
Although food does not make up a large part of a hospital’s operating budget, food
prices continue to rise between 3% and 5% yearly, and with the cost of health care also
increasing, every dollar spent must be justified by hospital management.
While patient demand may be spurring change, physicians and hospital workers also
have a personal stake in the food served in hospital cafeterias and commissaries. Doctors,
nurses, and other hospital workers account for most of the food consumed in hospitals.
As more research shows links between diet and health outcomes, hospitals have the op-
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portunity to model best practices. But that begs the question, what are best practices, and
do they imply 100% organic offerings? Health care costs are often exorbitant and keeping
costs down is a major issue for hospitals operating on a tight budget. Some people argue
that food eaten during a brief hospital stay will have negligible effects on patient health
outcomes and may simply not be worth the cost. Others, however, suggest that hospitals
have a unique and powerful role to play in public health.
Case Study: Organic Hospital
In late January 2014, the (fictional) Lincoln Memorial Hospital of Yonkers is holding
its annual strategic retreat for top executives. The retreat is held on a Friday and Saturday at
the Taconic Hotel, a small hotel on the Hudson River. Item 1 on the agenda is a proposal
by the hospital’s vice president of marketing, Jonah Strong, who has suggested that the
hospital move to a 100% organic food policy for patients as a means of distinguishing itself
from competitors.
Lincoln Memorial is a for-profit hospital owned by a large health-care provider, OmniHealth,
which owns 11 other hospitals in 3 states. OmniHealth management is concerned
that profits have been stagnant for the past 3 years at Lincoln Memorial and has informed
Lincoln’s CEO, Dr. Sandra Maxwell that the company would like to see a return to 2% to
3% growth per year. Dr. Maxwell is prodding her executive staff to come up with new ideas
to control costs and increase revenues.
Lincoln Memorial is an above-average sized hospital of 575 beds that offers a diverse
range of medical services, from emergency care to maternity, pediatrics, cancer treatment,
and so forth. Although it is not facing competition from other large hospitals in the area, a
new trend toward small local clinics seems to be taking business away from Lincoln.
Lincoln is trying to control costs to stay attractive because the average cost of a stay
at Lincoln is currently $1,925/day, which puts Lincoln slightly above several other competitors.
As a result, Lincoln’s marketing approach is to vaunt its superior services. This is
becoming increasingly hard to do as the main hospital building dates from 1968 and is
beginning to need a renovation, which could cost over $10 million.
When the idea of the all-organic option was put on the table, Dr. Maxwell was approached
by the vice president of human resources, Martin Torres, who informed her that
the doctors and nurses would insist that food in the hospital’s cafeterias would also be organic,
so that costs could escalate. The Food Services Director, Jennifer Wang, is extremely
opposed to the idea. Ms. Wang tells Maxwell:
Do you have any idea how hard it is to source organic food for 1,000 people per
day? Our patients and staff are used to eating food like tomatoes and spinach out of
season, and that’s when organic prices go sky-high, sometimes even three times higher
than conventional. Right now, the average food cost per patient is running at $55 a day
and we’re billing them $125 just for food. If we have to go to 100% organic, my costs
are going to go up at least 20% and we’ll have to pass that on, it could add $30–$50
per day to the cost of a hospital stay. Patients are already disturbed by the current cost
per day, if this is what pushes us over the $2,000-a-day threshold, I’m afraid you’ll get
sticker shock.
On the other side, Jonah Strong, the marketing vice president, has argued that it would
be worth it:
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Have you been to the Whole Foods recently? It’s packed every day, with very long
lines, and those people are our customers. They’re already voting for organic with their
pocketbooks. Organic food consumption is going up 20% per year and now we’re getting
patients who get very upset if we can’t tell them if their food has GMOs. There’s
no way we can keep bringing patients in, with all these new clinics, unless we can
distinguish ourselves. If we don’t jump ahead of the other hospitals and distinguish
ourselves first, one of the other hospitals will beat us to the punch.
Dr. Maxwell asks you to prepare the strongest arguments you can think of, on one side
or the other, for presentation at the executive retreat.
Topic for Debate: Go Organic, or Stay
Memorial should go to a 100% organic option.
Possible Arguments
• It will allow us to improve the health outcomes of our patients.
• It will allow us to do public service by performing a leadership role in health
• It will distinguish us from competitors.
• It will motivate our employees and show them that we care about them.
Memorial should not move to a 100% organic option.
Possible Arguments
• There is no evidence that organic food consumption has a significant impact on
• It would simply increase our costs, which will render us less competitive.
• Our average patient stay is only 5 days and, in that time, the benefit of organic
food, if any, would be negligible.
• We should care more about cost and health outcomes than about marketing.
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7.1 “Lots of Chatter, Anger over Stanford Organic
Food Study”
Mestel, Rosie. “Lots of Chatter, Anger over Stanford Organic Food Study.” Los Angeles
Times. September 12. 2012.
7.2 “Michael Pollan Responds to Study Finding “No
Significant Health Benefit” to Organic Food”
Brooks, Jon. “Michael Pollan Responds to Study Finding ‘No Significant Health Benefit’
to Organic Food.” News Fix (blog). NPR: KQED News. September 4, 2012. http://
You may have heard the NPR story this morning about the meta-study from Stanford
University, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, which found “no significant
health benefit” to organic food. As physician R. Dena Bravata, the study’s co-author, told
KQED Science’s Amy Standen today, when it comes to healthfulness, “there is, in general,
not a robust evidence base for the difference between organic and conventional foods.”
A 2010 Nielsen study found 76 percent of respondents bought organic because they
thought it was healthier. So this seemed to merit a call to the person who convinced me
in the first place that it was okay to pay $4.00 for a head of cauliflower: local journalist,
professor, and food advocate Michael Pollan, whose book The Omnivore’s Dilemma was a
major influence in popularizing organic and locally produced food.
JON BROOKS: So is this meta-study a big deal?
MICHAEL POLLAN: I’m not sure it’s a big deal. The media’s playing it as if there
were something new here, but this is not new research, it’s a meta-study [a review of previously
conducted research], and I’ve seen the exact same data analyzed in a very different
direction. A lot of it depends on how you manage your assumptions and statistical method.
I think we’re kind of erecting a straw man and then knocking it down, the straw man
being that the whole point of organic food is that it’s more nutritious. The whole point of
organic food is that it’s more environmentally sustainable …which has a lot more to do
with how the soil is managed and the exposure to pesticides, not just in the eater’s diet but
to the farmworker…
JON BROOKS: Let’s say you’re a consumer standing there at your grocery store and
you have a choice between an organically grown piece of produce grown far away and a
conventionally grown piece grown locally. All things considered, which is the best choice?
MICHAEL POLLAN: It depends on your values. If you’re concerned about nutritional
value and taste, you might find that the local food, which is more likely to have been
picked when it was ripe, is better. Because any food that’s traveled a few days to get to you
or been refrigerated for a long time is going to have diminished nutritional value. That
argues for fresh being more important than organic.
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But if you’re concerned about pesticides—let’s say you’re pregnant or have young kids
you’re feeding—then you might choose organic, because it will have on balance fewer pesticide
residues. You may also be concerned with the welfare of the people picking and the
farmers growing your produce, or you may be concerned about soil health—that would
argue for organic too…
I tend to favor local food, whether it’s certified organic or not. Most of the local food
available to us in the Bay Area, though, tends to be grown organically, even if it’s not
certified. So it is possible to have it both ways. If you’re shopping at your farmers’ market,
you’re getting food that’s very fresh, probably very nutritious, and probably grown without
synthetic pesticides.
7.3 “Mythbusting 101: Organic Farming >
Conventional Agriculture”
Wilcox, Christie. “Mythbusting 101: Organic Farming > Conventional Farming.” Science
Sushi (blog). Scientific American. July 18, 2011. http://blogs.scientificamerican.
7.4 “The Benefits of Organic Food—For Less”
Villacorta, Manuel. “The Benefits of Organic Food—For Less.” Healthy Living (blog).
Huffington Post. July 12, 2011.
…You have people who swear by organics and others who feel the whole movement is
overblown—and often I hear that the organic movement is just a scheme to charge more at
the markets. This whole “organic” concept has complicated our already difficult relationship
with food.
I don’t write this article to fan the flames of the argument. Certainly, I understand that
emotions on both sides run high… What I have learned that’s valuable to everyone, I think,
is that there exists a middle ground between pesticide crops and certified organics: that is,
fruits and vegetables that are seasonal, pesticide-free, and locally grown by farmers. There
is such a thing as “clean” crop that is 100 percent natural in terms of no pesticides, but still
absent an organic label. This comes as a surprise to many as we seem to think now that
everything not marked organic is chemically tainted.
Finding pesticide-free non-organics is a great way to spend less money and enjoy
natural produce. The only downside—if you consider it one—is that you have to eat seasonally,
meaning you have to stop expecting ripe tomatoes and avocados in February in many
parts of the country
Farmers’ markets provide a great opportunity to learn exactly how and where your food
is produced and to sample items prior to purchasing. This option will also reduce cost, as
well as be pesticide-free. Regardless of the kind of produce you buy, please buy it. I believe
the benefits that come from consuming fruits and vegetables will outweigh the hazards of
conventional farming…
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Synthesis Questions
1. Does this chapter increase or decrease your motivation to consume organic food
products? Explain why.
2. What is a more important motivation—in your view—for consuming organic
food: a) that it is better for your health, or b) that it is better for the environment
and for farmworkers? Explain.
3. Let us say that, instead of a hospital as our case study example, we had used the
example of a wealthy private school for K–12 students. Would the argument be
stronger or weaker for adopting organic food in the cafeteria of the school? Why?
1. Sarah Murray, “The World’s Biggest Industry,” Forbes Magazine, November 15, 2007, http://
2. Smith-Spangler, Crystal, et al., “Are Organic Foods Safer or Healthier than Conventional
Alternatives?” Annals of Internal Medicine, 157 (2012): 348–366.
3. Scott Hensley, “Organic Foods Have Broad Appeal, But Costs Temper Demand,”, July 20, 2011,
4. Burke, Maria. “Don’t Worry, It’s Organic.” Chemistry World 1.6 (2004): n.p. Royal Society of
5. Maeder, Paul, et al., “Soil Fertility and Biodiversity in Organic Farming.” Science 296.5573
(2002): 1694-697.
6. Benbrook Charles. “Initial Reflections on the Annals of Internal Medicine Paper “Are Organic
Foods Safer and Healthier than Conventional Alternatives? A Systematic Review.”” 4 Sept. 2012.
7. “Pew Recommendations to FDA Regarding Use of Antibiotics in Food Animal Production.”
The Pew Charitable Trusts, 22 Feb. 2012.
8. Larry Cohen et al., “Cultivating Common Ground: Linking Health and Sustainable Agriculture”
(Oakland, CA: Prevention Institute, September, 2004), , 14–15,
9. “Fast Facts on US Hospitals.” Fast Facts on US Hospitals. American Hospital Association, 2
Jan. 2014.
The author wishes to acknowledge the invaluable research assistance of Vanessa Hemenway in the
preparation of this chapter.
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Chapter 8
Fair Trade
Source: Lisette Cheresson, (CC-BY, 2013)
Figure 8.1 Coffee is the world’s second-most traded commodity, behind petroleum. Because
coffee grows best on hillsides, harvesting can be labor-intensive – it takes a lot of
work to get ripe coffee beans from the bush to your cup. Fair Trade’s goal is to
make life better for those involved in that process.
Fair Trade: Conscious Consumerism
Comes to Coffee
The concept of fair trade arose in the mid-twentieth century as a means of providing
farmers and farm workers around the world with employment benefits similar to those
found in developed nations. At its broadest level, fair trade can be seen as an initiative of the
developed world to reward principled production in the developing world. More specifically,
fair trade operates primarily as a certification system under which qualified producers
(who follow certain environmental and labor standards) are guaranteed a minimum price
for their production. This price guarantee is intended to augment and stabilize the revenues
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of producers in developing countries, so that they can invest in social welfare infrastructure
and environmentally friendly farming methods. It is worth noting at the outset that there
are some slight variations in the way this concept is spelled or presented. The generic term
for this entire field is “fair trade,” but we also commonly it spelled as “Fairtrade” or presented
with capital letters as “Fair Trade.” These latter two versions are actually trademarks
that are owned by fair trade organizations, which certify that a participating company has
met certain standards.
When people discuss fair trade, the conversation usually begins with coffee, which
remains by far the most economically significant product category covered by fair trade.
Although fair trade has expanded to include other agricultural and manufactured products,
such as bananas, tea, honey, sugar, rice, cacao, organic cotton, textiles, and handicrafts, any
attempt to evaluate the success or failure of the fair trade movement must begin with
an examination of its role in the coffee industry. With corporate coffee giants like Starbucks
vaunting their sales of fair trade coffee, most consumers have become aware of the
movement, although few are able to precisely define the mandatory standards that must be
satisfied in order for a product to be called fair trade. Now, fair trade coffee is as ubiquitous
on supermarket shelves as food deemed certifiably organic—but compared to the organic
label, the fair trade certification process is more complex and subject to different interpretations
from different certifying bodies.
In this chapter, you will be asked to consider whether a New York–based specialty coffee
chain should make the transition to selling exclusively fair trade coffee and tea products.
The chain’s CEO is aware that fair trade is generally well viewed by consumers, but she has
also read some disturbing articles in the press about inconsistencies and even corruption in
the fair trade sector. Should she ignore what she has read? Making the switch will increase
costs to her consumers, whose cup of coffee will have to go up in price by twenty-five to
fifty cents—but on the positive side she will be able to claim that her business is socially
responsible and sustainable. Does a coffee shop chain that aspires to the highest level of
social responsibility have an obligation to engage in fair trade, even if the existing fair
trade system is not perfect? In order to discuss this issue, we need to arrive at a deeper
understanding of what fair trade means.
The Origins of Fair Trade
As with many other progressive social programs, the fair trade concept can be traced
back to the personal initiatives of a few dedicated reformers with a social conscience. In
1946, Edna Ruth Byler, an American businesswoman, had the idea of importing needlecrafts
from impoverished Puerto Rican communities and paying their creators a fair wage
for their work. Byler’s efforts became the foundation for Ten Thousand Villages, the first
North American nonprofit organization devoted to connecting handicraft manufacturers
in developing countries with developed-world commodity buyers. Today, Ten Thousand
Villages maintains long-term relationships with artisans in 38 countries that provide stable
opportunities for income.1
Byler’s efforts constituted a precursor of fair trade, but the first organizations to utilize
the fair trade designation in its modern sense were European. The first fair trade organization
in Europe was in the United Kingdom, an offshoot of Oxfam UK, which during the
1950s had sold crafts made by Chinese refugees. By 1964, this had developed into the fair
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trade Organization, and in 1967, the Netherlands initiated its own cooperative, fair trade
Original. Following a concept similar to that of the Ten Thousand Villages storefronts
in the United States, the Dutch opened a fair trade World Shop in 1969. World Shops
became the first retail distribution network of fair trade products and the first European
World Shops conference was held in 1984.2
Guatemalan-grown fair trade coffee was introduced in the Netherlands in 1973. In
1988, the first fair trade coffee brand, Max Havelaar, hit the market. Within a year, Max
Havelaar commanded a 3-percent share of all coffee sales in the Netherlands. By the late
1980s, there were several national fair trade cooperatives operating in Europe under different
umbrella organizations, some of which spanned the jurisdiction of several countries.
One of these was the Network of European World Shops (NEWS!), which was formed in
1994 and soon represented roughly 3,000 different shops across the continent.
Fair trade quickly outgrew its European origins. In 1989, the first global fair trade
network was initiated, the International Fair Trade Association (IFAT). Five years later,
the first network of fair trade organizations was founded in North America, called the Fair
Trade Federation. In 1997, Fair Trade Labeling Organizations International (FLO) was
founded with the intention of creating a unified worldwide certification scheme. There are
currently 23 members of FLO around the world. Founded in 1998, TransFair USA (which
changed its name to Fairtrade USA in 2010) was an early FLO member and became the
leading third-party certifier of fair trade goods sold in the United States. TransFair got its
start in California, importing the production of Nicaraguan coffee farmers.
In 1998, four European Fair Trade organizations banded together to form an international
coalition to promote and more clearly define fair trade practices around the world.
Calling their coalition FINE, these organizations set forth one of the most commonly used
definitions of fair trade:
A trading partnership, based on dialogue, transparency, and respect, that seeks
greater equity in international trade. It contributes to sustainable development by offering
better trading conditions to, and securing the rights of, disadvantaged producers
and workers—especially in the South. 3
Fair trade, in the view of its supporters, is quite different from free trade, the defining
international economic strategy of the twentieth century. The primary goal of free trade is to
increase the economic growth of both developed and developing nations. The massive and
continuing expansion of global free trade has been driven by consumers and manufacturers
in developed nations. Fair trade, on the other hand, is intended to serve the interests of
workers in developing nations. Fair trade is meant to empower manufacturers and farmers
in developing nations by providing them with privileged access to socially conscious consumers
in the developed world.4
Fair Trade in Action: The Key Players
Most socially conscious consumers who are aware of fair trade simply assume that
it signals that an item is somehow a “good product,” either for environmental reasons or
because workers involved in production are well paid. However, as we shall see, the system
is more complicated than one might expect, and a well-informed consumer or business
needs to go deeper to have a sufficient basis for evaluating fair trade and deciding whether
or not to participate in it.
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One of the reasons for the complexity of the fair trade system is that there is no universal
fair trade authority. There are several important international organizations that serve
a coordinating function, but none of these has the power to impose standards on all players
in the field. In fact, there are many different kinds of fair trade organizations: international
nonprofit organizations, regional nonprofit organizations, local nonprofit organizations
that certify fair trade brands, local nonprofit organizations that certify fair trade farming
and exporting cooperatives, and finally, both nonprofit and for-profit inspection organizations
that visit the farming cooperatives to determine whether they meet the criteria to be
certified as fair trade. Let us describe a few of the most important organizations.
Most fair trade certifiers and umbrella organizations are now members of the World
Fair Trade Organization (WFTO; formerly IFAT). The WFTO serves as a global network
and clearinghouse, serving the interests of over 370 independent organizations in more
than 70 countries.5
Fairtrade International (FLO) is an international organization, based in Bonn, Germany,
that promotes the most widely used certification system for products designated as
fair trade or “Fairtrade.” Note that FLO deliberately distinguishes itself by using a special
way of spelling the term with no space between the words. One reason for this approach
is that FLO has registered “Fairtrade” as a trademark, which it then licenses only to those
organizations that meet its standards. The Fairtrade trademark has become the world’s
leading way of designating that a product qualifies as fair trade. Note, however, that other
organizations may still prefer to certify a product as fair trade.
FLO-CERT is a private, for-profit company that carries out certification audits for
national organizations that wish to authorize local brands and vendors to use the Fairtrade
Fair Trade USA is America’s largest fair trade organization; notably, it does not use the
Fairtrade trademark, as it resigned from FLO in 2011 out of disagreement with several
aspects of the FLO system. In particular, Fair Trade USA objected to the fact that FLO
certification is inconsistent with regard to who can be considered a certified producer: With
coffee products, certification is limited to cooperatives made up of independent farms,
while with other products, like bananas and tea, workers on large farms can also receive
certification. Consequently, Fair Trade USA has developed its own certification system that
does not use the Fairtrade label, but rather designates products and producers with its own
trademark: “Fair Trade Certified.”
The above-described organizations are just a few of the literally hundreds of nonprofit
and for-profit organizations operating in the fair trade sector. Next, let us describe how the
process works in bringing fair trade products to your kitchen.
How It Works: From Farm to Supermarket
There are two different types of fair trade certification: organizational recognition and
producer certification.
Organizational Recognition
To become a fair trade vendor or brand and obtain the right to use one of the authorized
trademarks or labels, importers and vendors are certified by national fair trade organizations.
Such brands are recognized as trading only products from authorized suppliers who,
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in turn, buy from farms that pay their workers a fair wage and follow sustainable practices.
When you see a product in a supermarket or store that is labeled fair trade, it indicates that
the brand has sought and obtained certification from a national Fair Trade organization.
Producer Certification
Producers, in fair trade terms, usually refer to cooperatives of independent farms; however,
in the case of particular products, the farms and farm workers themselves may be
certified. Producers gain Fair Trade or Fairtrade certification from independent certification
organizations. FLO-CERT, which provides Fairtrade certification for farmers in more
than 70 countries, is the largest certifying organization in the world. 7
Now let us look more closely at the different operators in the fair trade supply chain,
working backward from your local retailer all the way to the farm workers at the other end.
Any local retailer, whether it is a supermarket, boutique, or coffee shop, can sell Fair
Trade or Fairtrade products. As noted above, the brands and products themselves must be
authorized to use one of the recognized labels or trademarks, but any store or shop that
buys legitimate products at wholesale is free to resell them to consumers any way it pleases.
Note, in particular, that the local retailer is under no obligation to sell the products at any
given price or to return any of its revenues or profits directly to producers in the exporting
country. What this means in practice is that, some retailers, aware that a small percentage
of affluent consumers is desirous of socially responsible products, will simply charge a very
high premium for the fair trade products. The profits generated by such high prices are
purely for the retailer alone. Thus, a consumer who pays a high price for a fair trade product,
under the impression that this premium will go directly to the producers or farm workers, is
somewhat misguided. Indeed, as we will see, some portion of these high prices is indirectly
returned to the farmers, but in most cases, the amount is less than consumers would expect.
Vendors, Brands, and Importers
Companies that wish to market their products as fair trade and feature a certification
label or trademark (such as “Fairtrade” or “Fair Trade Certified”) on their packaging must
conform to the standards of one of the national certification authorities. Essentially, this
means they must buy their product from a certified importer or directly from one of the
certified exporting cooperatives. Fair trade importers must pay a minimum price of $1.20/
pound for Arabica beans or $1.05 for Robusta beans. This minimum price guarantee is one
of the essential features of the fair trade concept.
Exporting Cooperatives
In the coffee sector, there are more than 300 exporting cooperatives in over 20 coffeeexporting
nations. Cooperatives are certified by an international certification authority,
which in most cases means FLO-CERT. Cooperatives buy their coffee from small, independent
farms that adhere to fair trade principles, meaning that workers are paid fairly
and that environmental standards are followed. Fair trade coffee is not required to be fully
organic, though growers may use organic farming methods if they wish; however, limits are
placed on the use of pesticides and herbicides.
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The cooperative has the responsibility of visiting the individual farms to make sure
that they are complying with standards. The trouble is, according to some farmers, that
cooperatives do not always enforce international fair trade standards. Allegedly, the crops
from farmers who bribe fair trade cooperatives to be lax with their inspections are mixed in
with those from farmers that are truly committed to fair trade practices.
The cooperative consolidates its purchases and sells the bulk coffee to certified importers
in developing nations. It is the cooperative that is guaranteed the minimum price
maintained by the fair trade system. Note that most cooperatives are unable to sell all of
their coffee as fair trade due to insufficient demand, so roughly half to two-thirds of their
coffee is sold without a special label. Cooperatives are required to use their profits to engage
in social projects, such as building schools or athletic fields for farm workers.
In order to sell their coffee to fair trade exporting cooperatives, farmers must agree to
limit their use of child labor, GMOs, herbicides, and pesticides. Farmers are not guaranteed
a minimum price for their coffee.
Fair Trade Social Projects
Most fair trade organizations, including Fair Trade USA and FLO, promote social and
economic development projects in the farmers’ communities. One of the principal elements
of the fair trade concept is the requirement that a portion of each cooperative’s earnings
must be invested locally in projects to benefit the farmers, e.g., building schools, hiring
teachers, funding for women’s empowerment groups, and/or investment in healthcare.
Farmers are taught how to lobby large international organizations and demand fair prices
for their labor, and children are encouraged—sometimes required—to go to school rather
than to work. Fair Trade USA requires that all its farmers have access to doctors and affordable
medical treatment in case of illness or injury. Projects are also funded to help protect
the environment, for example, through clean water initiatives, training on ways to reduce
pesticides and herbicides, education about crop cycling, and funding for reforestation.
One problem with fair trade social projects is that their effects are extremely difficult to
quantify. As of 2013, no universal metric had yet been developed to measure the impact that
fair trade projects actually have on the developing world. Moreover, it has been alleged that
many cooperatives devote all of their profits (if they make any) to social projects, leaving
them unable to pay higher cash prices to their farmers. The farmers are thus left with social
projects of arguable utility rather than the higher cash prices for their crops that many of
them might have preferred. Thus fair trade organizations have come under fire for allegedly
making promises they cannot keep.
Fair Trade and the Global Coffee Market
The rise of the fair trade coffee market provides an interesting case study on the interplay
between international politics and the global economy. Although coffee is the world’s
second-most traded commodity, after petroleum, the global coffee market has been subject
to periodic boom and bust periods; when prices are low, living conditions become abject for
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the world’s millions of coffee farm workers.8
In response to this problem, the first International
Coffee Agreement was signed in 1962 to impose export quotas and set international
prices for coffee as a means of protecting the world’s coffee farmers from rollercoaster
market swings in coffee prices.9
By 1989, however, the arrival of new coffee-producing
nations on the market, compounded with a change in consumer tastes favoring Arabica
coffees, led to the demise of the quota system; this in turn led to a global collapse in prices
as farmers were faced with a worldwide coffee glut. The devastating impact on the livelihood
of farmers across the developing world was one of the driving motivations behind the
creation of the first fair trade cooperatives and marketing organizations, such as Holland’s
Max Havelaar, which were intended to provide stable prices so that farmers would be less
vulnerable to volatile world markets.
By 2002, however, the Wall Street Journal reported that an oversupply of coffee beans
had once again driven coffee prices to an all-time low, pushing many farmers out of business.10
This second collapse of world coffee prices was estimated to affect 125 million people
internationally, and most farmers were again at the mercy of a volatile market, without recourse.
In areas where coffee is grown, few other legal crops are as profitable. The collapse of
the global coffee market was relatively painless for consumers: The price of coffee declined
disproportionately in developed-world supermarkets. And yet, in the midst of this market
turbulence, there is some evidence that farmers that had signed on with fair trade cooperatives
enjoyed a relatively stable price for their goods throughout the market collapse.11
Fair trade had grown from humble origins to the point where it could be claimed that
it was having a major impact on global coffee production. By 2009, fair trade coffee had
become a $1.8 billion market.12
Coffee Social Responsibility: The
Starbucks Example
As America’s largest coffee importer, Starbucks was lobbied early on to sell fair trade
coffee. In 1999, Starbucks began working with FLO and TransFair USA to buy and sell
Fairtrade certified products and launched the first official sales of certified coffee in 2000.13
Thereafter, Starbucks established the Coffee and Farmer Equity (CAFE) Practices buying
guidelines to delineate a specific set of rules and regulations pertaining to ethically sourced
coffee, with the goal of eventually ensuring that all of Starbucks’s imported coffee would
qualify as ethically sourced (though relatively little of that would be Fair Trade certified).
The four main areas on which the CAFE guidelines focused were economic accountability,
social responsibility, product quality, and economic leadership. An independent body, Scientific
Certifications Systems, oversees the evaluation of CAFE products.
In 2009, Starbucks announced that, with cooperation from FLO and TransFair USA,
it would promote a $20 million loan program to support small-scale farmers in the developing
world.14 Labeled the Small Farmer Sustainability Initiative (SFSI), the program
was designed to promote responsible trading practices throughout the coffee industry.
Also in 2009, Starbucks became the largest purchaser of Fair Trade certified coffee in the
world, purchasing 40 million pounds of Fair Trade certified crops from vendors on three
continents. By 2012, ninety-three percent of the coffee that Starbucks sold worldwide was
ethically sourced (according to Starbucks)—ninety percent of which was certified through
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CAFE practices. The company has announced that its goal is to ensure that one hundred
percent of its coffee products are ethically sourced by 2015.
One goal of the SFSI program was to streamline the process of small-scale farmers
applying to become a part of the fair trade program. Starbucks and FLO-CERT developed
a single-audit system so that farmers applying for Fairtrade certification and Farmer Equity
Practices verification could become Starbucks vendors in one step. The streamlined process
was intended to eliminate fifteen to thirty percent of the cost of auditing expenses for coffee
farmers in the developing world.
Although Starbucks has acquired a reputation for a strong commitment to CSR,
having appeared on the list of Ethisphere Magazine’s most ethical international companies
for four consecutive years, critics have pointed out that Starbucks’s promotion of their
CAFE program has misled American consumers. Many Starbucks customers have come
to believe that all of Starbucks’s coffee is fair trade, while it actually only accounts for about
6% of Starbucks’s coffee sales.
Good Coffee, Bad Coffee? Evaluating
Criticisms of Fair Trade
Fair trade coffee is often held up as one of the great success stories of responsible consumerism.
Supporters of the fair trade movement argue that it promotes a more direct trade
system, fosters long-term economic improvement in developing nations, provides living
wages, strengthens labor protection for artisans and farmers in impoverished communities,
and provides access to otherwise unreachable global markets.
Critics of fair trade argue that it constrains the beneficial flexibility of the free market
and that most of the social projects promoted by fair trade are such small-scale endeavors
that they are not sufficiently influential. Rather than supporting and protecting the interest
of small-scale farmers, critics contend that fair trade does little more than play on “developed-world
guilt.” Critics argue that staying in the fair trade system raises costs for farmers
who sometimes experience a decrease in profits due to a decrease in yield, and who also
must adhere to labor rules that require them to hire workers rather than employing their
own children or offering “work for trade” within their community. Some researchers have
found that fair trade labeling cooperatives are able to turn a profit while farmers, originally
enticed by the promise of a higher per-pound price, fail to see any significant benefits. In
any event, there is no evidence that farmers on average are receiving higher income due to
selling to fair trade cooperatives.
There are a number of reports and investigations that indicate that fair trade inspections
are unreliable. Some of these criticisms have come from former insiders, such as Christian
Jacquiau and Paola Ghillani, formerly associated with Fairtrade Labelling Organizations. 15
In 2006, a Financial Times investigation of fair trade in Peru revealed that out of ten mills
that claimed to sell fair trade coffee, all ten had sold uncertified coffee as certified. It also
found that workers on fair trade farms were often paid beneath the minimum wage, in
violation of fair trade standards.
Ironically, many of these criticisms began surfacing just as fair trade was starting to
achieve widespread acceptance from consumers and retailers. In many cases, it appears that
retailers believe they can increase profits if they jump on the fair trade bandwagon. Argu-
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ably, though, such retailers have a tendency to exaggerate the benefits of fair trade. Whole
Foods, for example, has boasted that five percent of the money from coffee sales goes to
growers. Investigation revealed, however, that the five percent figure merely reflected the
price that Whole Foods paid its coffee unit. In Europe, supermarket giant Tesco was reportedly
charging upwards of an additional $3.46 for its fair trade coffee, while the farmers
of that coffee only received 44 cents of that premium.
Regardless of its real impact on producers and farmers in developing countries, the fair
trade movement is already beginning to change the ways that consumers in rich countries
think about shopping and consuming. In 2006, Media, Pennsylvania, became the first US
town to become fair trade certified by successfully converting a critical percentage of all
goods it purchases to those certified by third-party certification schemes.16 By 2013, approximately
thirty-two other US towns had followed suit. In Europe, this process is much
further advanced, with hundreds of towns and municipalities having received certification.
The success of fair trade certification has spawned a number of similar certifications, of
which the best known is the Rainforest Alliance, which certifies food products as grown in
a sustainable fashion.
Regardless of the ongoing controversy about its legitimacy, it appears that fair trade
certification is here to stay.
Topic for Debate: Should a Specialty
Coffee Chain Sell Only Fair Trade Coffee?
In the fictional case that is the topic for this chapter’s debate, a small specialty coffee
chain, known as World Coffee, Inc., is considering switching over to a 100% fair trade brew
for its coffee and tea products.
World Coffee is a chain of eleven stores in the greater New York metropolitan area,
with five in Manhattan, three in Brooklyn, two in Long Island, and one in Hoboken, New
Jersey. The founder, Wendy Mueller, opened her first store in the trendy Tribeca neighborhood
of Manhattan in 2004 and quickly attracted a devoted following due to its use
of extremely high-quality coffee, which was complemented with a 100% organic product
line—organic milk and cream for the coffee and tea, organic sugar and honey as sweeteners,
and pastries and baked goods made from 100% organic ingredients. Building on its initial
success, the chain quickly expanded to its current size and each of its store operations is
highly profitable. Wendy has a full-time executive staff of four people and the stores employ
an additional ten store managers and fifty to sixty part-time employees.
A potential franchise partner from San Francisco, Blake Morton, has approached
Wendy and is proposing opening an additional twenty to thirty stores in the western
United States, especially in California, Oregon, and Washington.
However, her potential partner has proposed a significant change to World Coffee’s
operations: They would switch over to 100% fair trade coffee and tea.
Wendy is concerned because she is aware that there has been a lot of criticism of fair
trade as a system that promises more than it delivers. She is also concerned that the supply
is more limited and that she will have to choose lower quality coffees. Additionally, she feels
that it would be hard to source all her coffee from Fair Trade providers unless she raises
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her coffee prices by twenty-five to fifty cents per cup, and she was already worried that they
were too high to begin with.
Despite this, Blake Morton is a vocal supporter of fair trade and is convinced that a
100% fair trade concept will help distinguish her from competitors and drive business to
the store.
Wendy proposes that she and Blake research the topic and present their arguments to a
jury composed of five people whom Wendy considers as New York’s top experts in running
and expanding socially responsible businesses. Blake agrees to Wendy’s list and they both
begin to prepare their arguments.
You will be assigned either to the team supporting Wendy’s position or the team supporting
Blake’s position.
The debate positions may be formulated as follows:
World Coffee should move to 100% fair trade.
Possible Arguments
• Customers are attracted to the fair trade concept.
• Despite the increased cost to consumers and reports that fair trade is not always as
transparent as it should be, every little bit helps. If we wait for a perfect system, we
will never help poor farmers.
• Fair trade raises awareness that it is possible to help citizens in developing countries.
• Fair trade products are more sustainable than conventional products.
• Fair trade helps put an end to unjust and unsustainable practices in global trade.
• If the coffee shop does a good job of promoting why their prices have increased and
gives consumers a reason to pay more, they will.
World Trade should not adopt a 100% fair trade policy.
Possible Arguments
• Fair trade is not all that it is cracked up to be: It is a marketing gimmick aimed at
socially conscious consumers.
• It would be more ethical to buy directly from known farmers, regardless of
• Fair trade coffee is not necessarily organic.
• Our employees and other stakeholders are our first concern, and if we charge too
much for coffee, we will find ourselves out of business.
• We can still make fair trade coffee available to customers who want it, but we do
not have to offer it exclusively.
• If fair trade improves its certification procedures, we can increase our support later.
• Because fair trade may benefit retailers more than suppliers, it actually adds to the
problem by creating a false sense of philanthropy.
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8.1 Benefits of Fairtrade
“Benefits of Fairtrade.” Fairtrade International, accessed Nov. 25, 2014. http://www.fair
For producers, Fairtrade is unique in offering four important benefits:
1. Stable prices: For most products there is a Fairtrade Minimum Price that aims
to cover the costs of sustainable production—even when world market prices fall.
2. A Fairtrade Premium: The Premium helps producers to improve the quality of
their lives. It is paid on top of the agreed Fairtrade price, and producers decide
democratically how to use it. Typically they invest it in education, healthcare, farm
improvements, or processing facilities to increase income.
3. Partnership: Producers are involved in decisions that affect their future. Fairtrade
certified producers jointly own and manage Fairtrade International. Through
Fairtrade International’s Board, its Committees, and consultation processes, producers
can influence prices, premiums, standards, and overall strategy.
4. Empowerment of farmers and workers: This is a goal of Fairtrade. Small farmer
groups must have a democratic structure and transparent administration in order
to be certified. Workers must be allowed to have representatives on a committee
that decides on the use of the Fairtrade Premium. Both groups are supported by
Fairtrade International to develop their capacity in this area.
With Fairtrade, Everyone Wins
Shoppers can buy products in line with their values and principles. They can choose
from an ever-growing range of great products. By buying into Fairtrade, consumers support
producers who are struggling to improve their lives.
Since its launch in 2002, the Fairtrade mark has become the most widely recognised
social and development label in the world. Fairtrade offers companies a credible way to
ensure that their trade has a positive impact for the people at the end of the chain.
Fairtrade rewards and encourages farming and production practices that are environmentally
sustainable. Producers are also encouraged to strive toward organic certification.
Producers must:
• Protect the environment in which they work and live. This includes areas of natural
water, virgin forest, and other important land areas and dealing with problems of
erosion and waste management.
• Develop, implement, and monitor an operations plan on their farming and techniques.
This needs to reflect a balance between protecting the environment and
good business results.
• Follow national and international standards for the handling of chemicals. There is
a list of chemicals that they must not use.
• Not, intentionally, use products that include genetically modified organisms
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• Work out and monitor what affect their activities are having on the environment.
Then they must make a plan of how they can lessen the impacts and keep checking
that this plan is carried out.
8.2 “Fair Trade in Bloom”
Downie, Andrew. “Fair Trade in Bloom.” New York Times. October 2, 2007. http://www.
8.3 “Voting with Your Trolley”: Can You Really
Change the World Just by Buying Certain Foods?
“Food Politics: Voting with Your Trolley.” The Economist: Special Report. December 7, 2006.
8.4 “The Problem with Fair Trade Coffee”
Haight, Colleen. “The Problem with Fair Trade Coffee.” Stanford Social Innovation
Review. Summer 2011.
…As the name implies, Fair Trade has sought not only to protect farmers but also
to correct the legacy of the colonial mercantilist system… To its credit, Fair Trade USA
has played a significant role in getting American consumers to pay more attention to the
economic plight of poor coffee growers. Although Fair Trade coffee still accounts for only
a small fraction of overall coffee sales, the market for Fair Trade coffee has grown markedly
over the last decade, and purchases of Fair Trade coffee have helped improve the lives of
many small growers.
Despite these achievements, the system by which Fair Trade USA hopes to achieve its
ends is seriously flawed… Among the concerns are that the premiums paid by consumers
are not going directly to farmers, the quality of Fair Trade coffee is uneven, and the model
is technologically outdated…
The primary way by which FLO and Fair Trade USA attempt to alleviate poverty and
jump-start economic development among coffee growers is a mechanism called a price
floor, a limit on how low a price can be charged for a product. As of March 2011, FLO fixed
a price floor of $1.40 per pound of green coffee beans…
It is these requirements and pricing structure that create a quality problem for Fair
Trade coffee… A simple example illustrates this point. A farmer has two bags of coffee to
sell and there is a Fair Trade buyer for only one bag. The farmer knows bag A would be
worth $1.70 per pound on the open market because the quality is high and bag B would be
worth only $1.20 because the quality is lower. Which should he sell as Fair Trade coffee for
the guaranteed price of $1.40? …To maximize his income, therefore, he will choose to sell
his lower quality coffee as Fair Trade coffee…
…Membership in a cooperative is a requirement of Fair Trade regulations… Premiums
are retained by the cooperative and do not pass directly to farmers. Instead, the farmers
vote on how the premium is to be spent for their collective use. They may decide to use
it to upgrade the milling equipment of a cooperative, improve irrigation, or provide some
community benefit, such as medical or educational facilities.
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Fair Trade USA is a nonprofit, but an unusually sustainable one. It gets most of its
revenues from service fees from retailers. For every pound of Fair Trade coffee sold in
the United States, retailers must pay 10 cents to Fair Trade USA. That 10 cents helps the
organization promote its brand, which has led some in the coffee business to say that Fair
Trade USA is primarily a marketing organization…
Another challenge for FLO is the issue of transparency in business dealings… Records
kept by cooperatives have shown that premiums paid for Fair Trade coffee are often used
not for schools or organic farming but to build nicer facilities for cooperatives or to pay for
extra office staff…
FLO also provides incentives for some farmers to remain in the coffee business even
though the market signals that they will not be successful. If a coffee farmer’s cost of production
is higher than he is able to obtain for his product, he will go out of business. By
offering a higher price, Fair Trade keeps him in a business for which his land may not be
Synthesis Questions
1. After studying this chapter, are you more likely or less likely to buy fair trade coffee?
2. Is there another way of achieving the objectives of improving the lives of developing-country
farmers and producers than the Fair Trade approach? Describe at
least one option.
3. Why do consumers buy Fair Trade products? List a few reasons and analyze each
of them.
1. “About Us,”, accessed October 5, 2013,
2. “Sixty Years of Fair Trade: A Brief History of the Fair Trade Movement. Nov. 2006, accessed
October 5, 2013,
3. What Is Fair Trade,” Fair Trade Resource Network. accessed October 6, 2013, http://www., 2.
4. What Is Fair Trade: Impact,” FairTrade USA, accessed October 6, 2013,
5. “Who We Are,” World Fair Trade Organization, accessed November 25, 2014, http://www.wfto.
6. “About Us,” FLO-CERT, accessed October 5, 2013,
7. “About Us,” FLO-CERT.
8. Eric Goldschein, “11 Incredible Facts About the Global Coffee Industry,” Business Insider, November
14, 2011,
9. Mary Bohman and Lovell Jarvis, “The International Coffee Agreement: A Tax on Coffee
Producers and Consumers,” Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics University of
California, Davis, 1999,
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10. Peter Fritsch, “An Oversupply of Coffee Beans Deepens Latin America’s Woes,” The Wall Street
Journal, July 8, 2002, .
11. Diane Cameron, Richard M. Locke, and Cate Reavis, “Fair Trade Coffee: the Mainstream
Debate,” MIT Sloan Management, August 27, 2010,
pdf, 2, 12.
12. Alain de Janvry,, Craig McIntosh and Elisabeth Sadoulet. “Fair Trade and Free Entry:
TheDissipation of Producer Benefits in a Disequilibrium Market.” University of California at
Berkeley. July 2010, accessed Nov. 25, 2014,
13. Company Timeline,” Starbucks, accessed May 4, 2014,
14. FairTrade USA, “Starbucks, Transfair USA and Fairtrade Labelling Organizations
International Join in Support of Small-Scale Coffee Farmers Through a $20 million Loan
Program,” press release, April 16, 2009,
15. Steve Stecklow and Erin White, “At Some Retailers, ‘Fair Trade’ Carries a Very High Price,”
The Wall Street Journal, June 8, 2004,,,SB108664921254731069,00.
16. John Roman, “Media, PA Is First Fair Trade Town in US,” Organic Consumers Association,
July 10, 2006,
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Chapter 9
CSR and Sweatshops
Source: Weronika, (CC-BY 2.0, 2013)
Figure 9.1 A relative of one of the workers in a clothing factory at Rana Plaza, Bangladesh,
holds up the picture of his missing family member, presumed dead.
The Importance of Sweatshops
On April 24, 2013, at Rana Plaza on the outskirts of Dhaka, Bangladesh, a building
containing apparel factories collapsed, trapping and killing over 1,100 employees. It was
not only the worst industrial disaster in the history of the garment industry, it was also
the world’s most fatal industrial building collapse. News reports soon emerged that the
factory owners had ignored ominous warning signs, such as visible cracks in the wall, and
had illegally added several stories to the top of the building, creating a weight the building
could not bear. Many of the factories operating in the building were producing apparel for
well-known Western brands, such as Walmart, Joe Fresh, and Mango.
Rescue workers struggled for over a week to reach trapped survivors, while hospitals
tended to the over 2,500 workers who had escaped, many with severe injuries. Survivors
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told heart-rending tales of having lost mothers and sisters who had worked in the same
factories. The deaths of so many innocent workers created a firestorm of controversy in
Bangladesh and around the world. Accusations and recriminations were leveled at corporations
and government officials. A period of intense and profound soul-searching ensued
for the global fashion companies that made substantial use of outsourced factory labor in
Bangladesh. Within a few months, two major initiatives were announced, one American
and one European, to increase safety and accountability in Bangladeshi factories.
In this chapter, we will explore the complex issues underlying the outsourcing of manufacturing
and its relationship to sweatshops and child labor. While the horrific example
of Rana Plaza might lead one to assume that sweatshops are always a bad thing, a closer
examination reveals the limitations of a simplistic view. In fact, Bangladesh relies heavily
on outsourced apparel manufacturing for the well-being of its citizens. Clothing factories
employ over 3 million Bangladeshi citizens and the country obtains nearly 80% of its export
earnings from the apparel sector.1
An outright ban on outsourced manufacturing would
leave many poor Bangladeshis without a job. Although such jobs may not seem desirable
from the perspective of citizens of industrialized countries, in developing countries these
kinds of factories often pay more than the average salary.
In this chapter’s debate section, we will ask ourselves what is the proper attitude of a
major global brand toward manufacturing in a country like Bangladesh, which has suffered
from a spate of manufacturing disasters in recent years. The company we will consider is
Disney, which is known for producing toys, clothes, and movies aimed at children. Disney
has been accused of producing goods in sweatshop factories that employ child labor. Obviously,
Disney cannot afford to become known as a company that is unconcerned with the
rights of children. What should they do? In order to discuss this issue, we first need to come
to a more sophisticated understanding of sweatshops and their benefits and disadvantages.
Understanding Sweatshops: History and
The term sweatshop refers to a factory that is guilty of some sort of labor abuse or
violation, such as unsafe working conditions, employment of children, mandatory overtime,
payment of less than the minimum wage, unsafe working conditions, abusive discipline,
sexual harassment, or violation of labor laws and regulations. The US Government Accounting
Office has chosen to define a sweatshop as any manufacturing facility that is
guilty of two or more of the above types of labor abuses.2
However, it is important to
understand that the term sweatshop is not just a legally defined term but a word that has
entered the general lexicon and is used broadly.
Historically, the term was first used in association with the manufacture of articles of
clothing and apparel. Shortly after the beginning of the industrial revolution, which began in
the United Kingdom at the end of eighteenth century and the beginning of the nineteenth,
a rise in living standards led to a much greater consumer demand for clothing. Although the
raw materials of clothing—fabric, yarn, buttons, and thread—could be produced efficiently
in large, mechanized factories, the same was not the case for the final garment itself. To the
present day, it has remained difficult to mechanize the sewing process involved in making
clothing: The manual dexterity of a human being has always been needed in addition to a
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simple sewing machine. Consequently, the manufacturing of clothing has remained labor
intensive relative to other industries.
Another particularity of the apparel industry is that it is difficult to predict demand
for articles of fashion. In any given year, some styles and colors will be wildly successful,
while others will prove unpopular and need to be sold at a discount (hence the ubiquitous
nature of discount sales of clothing). Given high labor costs and unpredictable demand,
garment manufacturers turned to a system built on outsourcing production to middlemen
who would then parcel out production to a number of small workshops. The middlemen
were tasked with making sure that production deadlines were met, so they put pressure on
the workshops and became known as sweat-ers, meaning that they made the workshops
and their employees sweat. In time, these high-pressure workshops became known as
By the 1830s, the abuse of workers in sweatshops had become a topic of social concern,
and the United Kingdom passed its first Factory Act, which was then amended some 7
times by 1878.3
In 1844, Friedrich Engels, who would attain fame as Karl Marx’s intellectual
partner and one of the founders of Marxism, wrote a critique entitled The Condition
of the Working Class in England. As industrial production developed in the United States,
sweatshops also became a major American political issue. Many of the Abolitionists who
became famous for their staunch opposition to American slavery also fought against
sweatshops, considering them a form of human oppression akin to slavery. By the 1890s, a
number of groups sprung up to try to alleviate and control sweatshop conditions.
Origins of the Anti-Sweatshop Movement:
The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire
By the first years of the twentieth century, New York City had become a center for
apparel manufacturing and, consequently, for sweatshops as well. Tens of thousands of immigrant
workers toiled in the sweatshops of an area that is still referred to as the Garment
District, the heart of which lies along Seventh Avenue in midtown Manhattan.
By 1900, a number of local unions allied to form the International Ladies Garment
Workers Union (ILGWU), the first major attempt to unionize sweatshop labor in the
United States. In 1909, approximately 20% of the workforce of the Triangle Shirtwaist
Factory walked out in the first major strike in the garment sector.4
As the strike wore on
and the owners of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory learned of attempts to unionize the
remaining workers, the owners locked out the entire staff. At a series of public meetings
at which female workers spoke movingly of their deplorable working conditions, a mass
walkout ensued, in which 20,000 out of 32,000 total shirtwaist workers walked off the job,
giving this action the name of the “Uprising of the 20,000.” While a few shops accepted
unions and most agreed to improve conditions, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory did not
accept a union. Shortly afterwards, in 1910, 60,000 workers walked off the job in an action
that became known as the “Great Revolt.” The dispute was mediated by legendary jurist
Louis Brandeis, who later became known as one of the Supreme Court’s greatest justices.5
Despite the central role of the Triangle Shirtwaist Company in these actions, and despite
the promises of improvement made pursuant to Brandeis’s mediation, it soon became
clear that not enough had yet been accomplished. On March 25, 1911, a fire broke out in
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the Triangle Shirtwaist Company factory located next to Washington Square Park.6
several of the main exits locked to prevent employees from stealing, only one exit was available
and it was soon blocked by flames. Many workers succumbed to the heat and smoke
while others, trapped by the growing fire, stepped out onto an eighth floor ledge, and when
the heat became unbearable, jumped off. Dozens of young women fell to their deaths on
the pavement below, creating a horrific image that would transform the entire industry. It
was the worst industrial accident in the history of the United States.
In the wake of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, a number of reforms were promptly undertaken
in New York, with over sixty laws dealing with fire safety and labor rights passed
by the state legislature in the first two years after the fire. These reforms were echoed and
amplified throughout the United States and around the world in the decades that followed.
In 1919, the International Labour Organization was created to protect worker rights.7
1937, the United States passed an important national statute on union and labor rights,
the National Labor Relations Act.8
Despite these and other reforms, however, sweatshops
stubbornly refused to disappear. In 1994, the US Government Accounting Office noted
that thousands of sweatshops continued to operate in the United States.9
Rather than
disappearing, the sweatshop problem would follow the international path of globalization
and spread around the world.
Modern Sweatshop Scandals: Kathie Lee
Gifford, Nike, Saipan, and Bangladesh
Globalization is a term that refers to the growing interconnection of the world’s economies.
The globalization trend greatly picked up speed after international moves to lower
import tariffs were instituted by the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT) in
1947 and even more so after the GATT system was institutionalized in the World Trade
Organization (WTO) in 1995. At the corporate level, one manifestation of globalization
is foreign outsourcing, the practice of moving manufacturing operations to low-cost
countries. Fashion and apparel companies were among the first to take advantage of the
benefits of outsourcing. Throughout the period from 1970 to the present, employment in
American apparel factories dropped sharply as companies moved production to countries
like Indonesia, Vietnam, China, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic.
The outsourcing movement was accompanied by increasing reports of sweatshop
abuses. As a result, a number of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) became involved
in anti-sweatshop activities. One of these was an American organization called the National
Labor Committee, headed by labor activist Charles Kernaghan. Kernaghan was devoted to
ferreting out instances of sweatshop abuse in foreign factories producing for American
brands, and then publicizing the abuses in an effort to shame the companies into changing
their practices. Not surprisingly, both the factories and their American clients were quite
reluctant to share information with Mr. Kernaghan. He therefore developed a number of
sleuthing tactics; for example, he would surreptitiously trail the garbage trucks that picked
up the factory’s waste, following the truck to the local dumpsite. Later, displaying remarkable
commitment to his job, he would sneak in and rummage through the waste, looking
for discarded office files. When he found the factory’s production records, often minutely
described in spec sheets, he was able to determine who the client was and how much the
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client was paying for the labor cost included in assembling a particular garment. Another
technique employed by Kernaghan was to find the local food stands where workers would
go for lunch or coffee. There he would seek to engage the workers in conversation about
the factory. This technique had to be employed with great discretion because, if a factory
owner or foreman heard that a worker was collaborating with Kernaghan, there was a great
likelihood the worker would be punished or fired.
After several years of watching his reports go ignored by the mainstream media, Kernaghan
finally broke a story in 1993 that would transform the public image of American
outsourcing. Kernaghan discovered that a fashion line produced for Walmart under the
label of a prominent American television personality, Kathie Lee Gifford, was manufactured
in Guatemala in a factory that used child labor and engaged in a number of worker
abuses. Although Kernaghan expected that this report would receive little coverage, he was
unwittingly helped by Gifford herself, who went on the air during her popular morning
show, Live with Regis and Kathie Lee, to tearfully deny the allegations. In the United States
as in many other countries, any incident involving a media celebrity becomes fodder for the
popular press. Kernaghan found himself at the center of a news storm. As Kernaghan and
Gifford exchanged accusations and denials, the issue of sweatshop abuses came to the fore.
Gifford eventually promised publicly to ensure that employment of children would cease
and worker rights would be respected, and the controversy abated. Kernaghan has stated
that, in the end, Gifford changed nothing of substance.
Throughout the 1990s, a number of other sweatshop-related abuses came to light in
factories used by American brands. Several of these involved the island of Saipan, a small
American protectorate in the Pacific. A number of factory owners discovered that since
Saipan is technically American territory, clothing produced in Saipan could enter the
United States duty-free and carry the label “Made in America.” Since Saipan is much closer
to Vietnam and the Philippines than to the United States, a number of these factories
recruited Vietnamese and Filipino natives as factory workers. Upon their arrival in Saipan,
however, some of these workers were exposed to flagrant human rights abuses and, in the
worst of cases, outright slavery. In one notorious case, workers were literally imprisoned
in the factory and forced to work without pay. Eventually, these abuses were revealed and
US prosecutors filed charges against factory owners, some of whom were sentenced to
substantial prison sentences.
In the early 1990s, one of America’s most prominent footwear brands, Nike, also came
under attack as reports emerged from Indonesia and Vietnam of worker abuse. In Vietnam,
a young female factory employee was working on basketball shoes when her machine exploded
and sent a bolt through her heart. The American cartoonist Garry Trudeau began
featuring a series of strips satirizing Nike’s sweatshop factories in his popular newspaper
cartoon Doonesbury. At first, Nike refused to accept responsibility, pointing out that Nike
had never manufactured its own footwear and apparel. Nike’s contracts with its sourcing
factories required the factories to obey labor regulations and, in Nike’s view, this meant
that any abuses were the factories’ responsibility. However, by 1998, the continuing negative
publicity obliged Nike to reverse course by instituting a strict code of conduct for its
Through the efforts of a crusading Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, the Clinton administration
sought to leverage the power of the bully pulpit available to the US presidency.
In 1995, the Clinton administration announced the formation of the Apparel Industry
Partnership, a government–industry collaboration aimed at reducing instances of sweat-
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shop abuse. Companies who were able to establish that they had produced their items in
sweatshop-free environments would be allowed to add a special label in their clothes: “No
Sweat.” It seems this approach was ill-advised, as no companies ever made use of it, perhaps
because many people would be disconcerted to find a reference to sweat in their garments.
In 1998, America’s college students created US Students Against Sweatshops (USAS),
which has proven to be an influential public interest group. USAS’s initial goal was to
convince American universities to eliminate sweatshops from the sourcing of college apparel,
such as the sweatshirts and T-shirts bearing university logos that are commonly sold
in campus stores and bookshops. Around the same time, a group of large American brands
announced the creation of the Fair Labor Association (FLA), a group that set standards for
certifying American brands as sweatshop-free if they submitted themselves to a regime of
regular inspections. The FLA was viewed with suspicion by many antisweatshop activists
and NGOs, in part because the FLA did not accept membership from unions, and also
because it was felt that FLA’s principal approach, to reward corporations with certification
for a few years of minimal inspections, was insufficient to truly eliminate sweatshop abuses.
As a result, union groups and the USAS led the way in creating a rival group, the Worker
Rights Consortium (WRC), which took a different approach. The WRC investigated reports
of abuse and published its findings.
In light of continued scrutiny from groups like the WRC, the USAS, the National
Labor Committee, and other international groups such as the Clean Clothes Campaign,
most large apparel brands developed and publicized their own internal codes of conduct
for suppliers. Such codes of conduct were contractually imposed on all suppliers and required
that factories comply with all local labor laws, refrain from employing children,
and maintain safety programs. In addition, most brands began to require that factories
make themselves available for inspections to make sure that they were complying with the
standards set forth in the codes of conduct. A number of inspection companies sprang up
to service the needs of the corporations and groups of young inspectors soon scanned the
globe, moving from factory to factory, checking them for fire violations, reviewing records
to make sure that rules on overtime were respected, and so forth.
Despite all these efforts, reports of violations continued to be heard. The American
consumer seemed to have wearied of the sweatshop issue to some extent, and companies
like Walmart and Nike, which had often been accused of sweatshop abuses, saw their sales
and stock valuations continue to rise. Many companies began to focus more on environmentalism
and anti–global warming issues, and a number of brands began to require that
their supply factories obtain some sort of environmental certification, such as the Bluesign
certification that was established in Germany under the auspices of SGS, the world’s largest
inspection company. Then, in 2012 and 2013, a horrific series of accidents—eerily reminiscent
of the Triangle Shirtwaist fire that had occurred a century before—reminded the
world’s consumers that the sweatshop issue was still with us.
In 2012, a fire broke out at an apparel factory in Pakistan, killing some 270 Pakistani
workers. Among the western companies sourcing from that factory were the UK retailer
Tesco and the German apparel brand Kix. Kix’s offer of compensation to the victim’s
families of $2,000 per fatality was viewed by many Pakistanis as insulting. Then, just a few
months later, at the Tazreen Fashions factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh, another 112 factory
workers perished in a fire. Again, it was discovered that well-known western brands such
as Walmart, Disney, and the Gap has sourced products from the factory. The world’s attention
was squarely focused on Pakistan and Bangladesh when the building collapse at
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Rana Plaza in Bangladesh became the worst industrial catastrophe in the history of apparel
The Other Side of the Story: In Praise of
In light of the above history, it might seem startling that many experts appear to accept
the existence of sweatshops as something positive. Economist Jeffrey Sachs, who is perhaps
the world’s foremost expert on the eradication of poverty (he was the creator of the
United Nation’s Millennium Project to cut global poverty in half ) was quoted in 1997 as
saying, “The problem with sweatshops is not that there are too many, but that there are not
enough.”10 What did he mean by that?
In general, economists are less disturbed by sweatshop abuses than are labor activists,
but most economists would deny that this is because they are heartless or unconcerned
with human rights. Rather, they concede that sweatshop abuses are both common and reprehensible,
but they also believe that the benefits to the local economy from international
outsourcing more than outweigh the harm. According to this point of view, sweatshops are
part of the industrialization process and are an inevitable by-product of economic development.
Factories in poor countries are able to attract foreign customers because local labor
is cheap. As factories proliferate and employment rises, factories must begin to compete for
better workers. Wages therefore increase, and factory conditions improve. With a broader
tax base and greater economic growth, local governments are able to invest in the infrastructure
for further development, building roads, hospitals, and schools.
Some international research studies appear to confirm the economists’ point of view.
One study revealed that, in most countries where the presence of sweatshops had been
reported, apparel factory workers actually earned more than the average national wage.11 A
number of countries have passed through a manufacturing phase in which sweatshop conditions
were more prevalent on their way to full industrialization and a diversified economy.
Examples include the United States, Japan, and Korea. Most recently, China appears to be
following a similar path, though it is still in a transition phase and reports of sweatshop
abuses are still common.
Case Study: Disney in Bangladesh
The Walt Disney Corporation is one of the world’s largest entertainment conglomerates,
known for its theme parks, such as Disneyland and Disneyworld; its long history of
producing blockbuster animated movies from Fantasia and Snow White to The Lion King
and Tangled; and its sale of licensed apparel and toys featuring famous characters from the
Disney movies. Given that an important segment of Disney’s target market is children, the
company is especially exposed to negative publicity related to certain sweatshop abuses, in
particular, the use of child labor.
After the 2011 Tazreen Fashions factory fire in Bangladesh, Disney management
became concerned about the company’s public relations exposure due to its sourcing
operations in Bangladesh. Although Disney’s apparel manufacturing was far from neg-
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ligible, it still represented a very small percentage of Disney’s total earnings, which came
predominantly from its television, film, and theme park divisions. One commonality to
the Disney-branded products was that they all relied on Disney’s image as a wholesome
provider of family fare. If Disney were to become tagged with accusations similar to those
leveled at Kathie Lee Gifford—namely that it was the beneficiary of child labor in sweatshop
conditions—the consequences could be quite devastating for Disney’s public image.
What would Disney do if high-school students started nagging their parents to abandon
Disney vacations or to stop renting Disney movies?
Therefore, in early 2013, Disney decided to pull its manufacturing operations out of
Bangladesh. That Disney departed from Bangladesh shortly before the Rana Plaza building
collapse was misinterpreted by many as having been caused by the collapse, whereas Disney
had actually made its decision well before the collapse. Despite this, many representatives
of antisweatshop NGOs and workers’ rights groups condemned Disney’s decision as an
abdication of responsibility. In the view of such critics, Disney should have stayed behind
to help remedy the problem.
Topic for Debate: Should Disney Return?
In this chapter’s debate section, we ask, would it more ethical for Disney to stay in
Bangladesh and use its considerable reputation to help lobby for improved worker conditions
at Bangladesh apparel factories?
We will assume for the purposes of this debate that the Disney Board of Directors has
been pressured to reconsider its position. Two directors are preparing their presentations
for an upcoming board meeting at which the issue will once again be discussed. One of
the directors, whom we will call Mr. Jones, is one of the founders of an international NGO
dedicated to worker rights. He was invited onto the board specifically because of his ability
to speak to issues of human rights compliance in outsourcing factories. It is Mr. Jones’s
opinion that Disney should resume operations in Bangladesh.
On the other side is a director we will call Mr. Smith, who is one of the principal
shareholders of the Disney Corporation. Mr. Smith is very concerned that a return to Bangladesh
would expose Disney to major financial risk, because another factory catastrophe
coming after Disney’s return could lead to Disney’s name being tarnished. You will be asked
to help one of these directors prepare their presentation at the Board meeting.
Disney should resume manufacturing in Bangladesh.
Possible Arguments
• Disney has sufficient prestige to help lobby for improved human rights compliance
in Bangladesh.
• Disney’s departure may only encourage Disney’s suppliers and related parties to
leave Bangladesh as well, thereby diminishing employment in Bangladesh and
harming the local workers through unemployment.
• By helping support the efforts of other foreign companies sourcing in Bangladesh,
Disney will learn state-of-the-art methods for working with governments and
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community groups to help improve worker safety, which can only serve Disney
positively in the other countries where Disney sources its apparel products.
Disney should not resume manufacturing in Bangladesh.
Possible Arguments
• Disney markets products to children and families; any reports of child labor or the
deaths of teenage workers in factories could be devastating to Disney’s image.
• Disney should reward—with its factory contracts—those countries that are doing
a good job in providing a safe working environment for its employees, free of
sweatshop labor.
• Disney’s departure should help create an incentive for Bangladeshi authorities to
improve conditions in their factories. If no foreign buyers leave, it is too easy for
them to become complacent and do little to change the status quo.
9.1 Address the Real Challenges
Posner, Michael H. “Disney and Other Big Brands Need to Address the Real Challenges
to Outsourcing.” New York Times. May 2, 2013.
9.2 Disney’s Decision Was Appropriate
Kanzer, Adam M. “Disney’s Decision to Leave Bangladesh was Appropriate.
The New York Times. May 2, 2013.
9.3 Disney’s Disgrace
Foxvog, Liana, and Judy Gearheart. “Disney’s Decision to Pull Out of Bangladesh Is a
Mistake.” New York Times. May 2, 2013.
9.4 Responsibility Is Local, Not Global
Bhagwati, Jagdish. “Responsibility for Sweatshops is Local, Not Global”.
New York Times. July 11, 2014.
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Synthesis Questions
1. When you buy clothing do you check the inside label to see where the item was
manufactured? Would it matter to you to discover that an item was manufactured
in Bangladesh?
2. If you found an article of clothing that had a label stating that it was manufactured
in the United States, would this make it more attractive to you? What if the item
was 20% or 30% more expensive, would that keep you from buying it?
3. What is the best way to make sure the workers in factories are treated fairly? Can
you come up with one detailed proposal?
1. Anu Muhammad, “Wealth and Deprivation: Ready-made Garments Industry in Bangladesh,”
Economic and Political Weekly, 46, no. 34 (August 20, 2011), 23–27.
2. United States General Accountability Office, –“Sweatshops” in the U.S.: Opinions on Their
Extent and Possible Enforcement Options, a briefing report to the Honorable Charles E. Schumer,
House of Representatives, no. HRD-88-130BR, August 1988,
3. “The 1833 Factory Act,” UK Parliament, accessed October 28, 2013,
4. M. L. Disher, American Factory Production of Women’s Clothing (London: Deveraux Publications
Ltd, 1947).
5. Tony Michels, “Uprising of 20,000 (1909).” in Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical
Encyclopedia, Jewish Women’s Archive, March, 20 2009,
6. “The 1911 Triangle Factory Fire,” Cornell University, accessed May 5, 2014, http://www.ilr.
7. Savitri Goonesekere, “A Rights-Based Approach to Realizing Gender Equality,” UN Women,
accessed May 5, 2014,
8. National Labor Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 151-169 (1935).
9. “Efforts to Address the Prevalence and Conditions of Sweatshops,” U.S. General Accounting
Office, November 1994,
10. Allen R. Myerson, “In Principle, a Case for More ‘Sweatshops’” New York Times, June 22 1997,
11. Worker Rights Consortium, “Global Wage Trends for Apparel Workers, 2001–2011,”
Center for American Progress, July 11, 2013,
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Chapter 10
Corruption in International
Source:, (CC-BY 2.0, 2012)
Figure 10.1 A common practice worldwide is for government favors to be sought in exchange
for surreptitious payments in cash. Corruption is not merely a problem in developing countries.
In recent years, American, German and Italian companies have been implicated in corruption
scandals, both domestic and international.
The Problem of Corruption
When a large corporation decides to enter a foreign market, it must usually secure a
number of licenses, permits, registrations, or other government approvals. Certain types of
business may be even be impossible or illegal unless the corporation is first able to obtain
a change or adjustment to the nation’s laws or regulations. Since the power to authorize
the foreign corporation’s activities is vested in the hands of local politicians and officials,
and since corporations have access to large financial resources, it should not be surprising
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that some corporate executives resort to financial incentives to influence foreign officials.
While certain financial incentives, such as promises to invest in local infrastructure, may be
legitimate, any form of direct payment to the foreign official that is intended to influence
that official’s public decisions will cross the line into illegal subornation, also commonly
referred to as bribery.
Bribery is one of the archetypal examples of a corporation engaged in unethical behavior.
A number of problems can be attributed to business bribery. First, it is obviously
illegal—all countries have laws that prohibit the bribery of government officials—so the
foreign company engaging in bribery exposes its directors, executives, and employees to
grave legal risks. Second, the rules and regulations that are circumvented by bribery often
have a legitimate public purpose, so the corporation may be subverting local social interests
and/or harming local competitors. Third, the giving of bribes may foment a culture of
corruption in the foreign country, which can prove difficult to eradicate. Fourth, in light
of laws such as the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and the Organization of
Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Convention on Anti-Bribery (discussed
in greater detail below), bribery is illegal not only in the target country, but also in
the corporation’s home country. Fifth, a corporation that is formally accused or convicted
of illicit behavior may suffer a serious public relations backlash.
Despite these considerable disincentives, experts report that worldwide business
corruption shows little signs of abating. Transparency International (TI), a leading anticorruption
organization based in Berlin, estimates that one in four people worldwide paid a
bribe in 2009. It appears that the total number of bribes continues to increase annually. The
World Economic Forum calculated the cost of corruption in 2011 at more than five percent
of global GDP (US$2.6 trillion) with over $1 trillion paid in bribes each year.1
Governments and intergovernmental organizations have redoubled their efforts to
combat the perceived increase in international business corruption. Globalization, which
accelerated in the final decades of the twentieth century, is often cited by specialists as
contributing to the spread of corruption. Corporations and businesses in every nation have
become increasingly dependent on global networks of suppliers, partners, customers, and
governments. The increased interaction between parties in different countries has multiplied
the opportunities for parties to seek advantage from illicit incentives and payoffs.
Although outright bribery is clearly unethical and illegal, there is great deal of behavior that
falls into a gray zone that can be difficult to analyze according to a single global standard.
When does a business gift become a bribe? What level of business entertainment is “right”
or “wrong”? Over the past two decades, governments and regulators have sought to clearly
define the types of behavior that are considered unethical and illegal.
Another factor that has heightened the sense of urgency among regulators is the magnitude
of recent cases of corruption (several of which are described in greater detail below).
The cost to shareholders as well as stakeholders and society has proven enormous. Governments
and international organizations have ramped up their enforcement of anticorruption
laws and sought increasingly severe penalties, sometimes imposing fines amounting to
hundreds of millions of dollars. Largely as a result of these efforts, most multinational
corporations have developed internal policies to ensure compliance with anticorruption
legislation. However, as we will see in the case study featured in this chapter, such compliance
also raises complex ethical dilemmas for corporations. It remains difficult to regulate
ethical behavior when social and cultural norms vary significantly from country to country.
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Acts that are considered unethical in one country may represent a traditional way of doing
business in another. One legal scholar explains the difference as follows:
A common misconception, held in both Western and developing countries, and
even among many researchers on corruption, is to confuse what is corrupt with what is
legal. Laws are defined by values, as are ethical norms, but the two are not equivalent.2
In this chapter, we will explore the impact, reasonableness, and the effectiveness of
anticorruption laws and corporate compliance rules. Finally, we will discuss a case in which
the line between corruption and traditional business practices remains difficult to ascertain.
The Scope of the Problem
Recent cases of corruption in international business have attracted considerable media
attention. Paying a traffic officer to ignore a minor traffic violation is unremarkable; paying
a senior government official a secret bribe of millions of dollars to get a large contract
signed is a different matter.
While virtually all multinational companies have adopted anticorruption policies, it
is not clear how often these policies are fully implemented and internalized as part of the
corporate culture. The emphasis on anticorruption policies is relatively recent and, even in
the most responsible organizations, such policies are still works in progress. However, there
is some evidence that the implementation is not always as effective as might be hoped.
For example, a study by Control Risks and the Economist magazine’s Intelligence
Unit showed that while most companies acknowledge the need to combat bribery and
corruption, many are complacent and unprepared to deal with scandals inside their own
The review of global attitudes on corruption surveyed more than 300 senior
lawyers and compliance heads in April 2013. It painted a disturbing picture. The authors
concluded that “too many companies still fall short of best practices in their anticorruption
compliance programs.” Despite ranking anticorruption high on most corporate agendas,
the report noted a “danger of complacency” among companies, and as a result, “the risk of
a company finding itself in the middle of a corruption-based investigation remains real.”4
Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) ranks countries and
territories according to their perceived levels of public sector corruption. It is an aggregate
indicator that combines different sources of information about corruption, making it possible
to compare countries. Perceptions are used because corruption is generally a hidden
activity that is difficult to measure. The CPI confirms that corruption remains a problem
worldwide and takes place even in the wealthiest countries.5
Research in 2012 by the Austrian
economist Friedrich Schneider placed the annual loss to the German economy alone
at €250 billion.6
The Dow Jones State of Anti-Corruption Survey in 2011, which surveyed more than
300 companies worldwide, found that more than 55 percent of companies have found
cause to reconsider working with certain global business partners due to concerns about
possible violation of anticorruption regulations. Additionally, the biannual survey indicated
than more than 40 percent of companies believe they have lost business to competitors
who won contracts unethically, an increase from only 10 percent in the 2009 study. “Strict
liability provisions in legislation like the UK Bribery Act make businesses responsible for
the activities of their agents and partners overseas, and this is having a direct impact on the
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occurrence of new business partnerships between firms,” said Rupert de Ruig, managing
director of Risk and Compliance, Dow Jones.7
Global social costs from corruption include the reluctance of investors to commit to
projects in developing economies, inhibited growth of businesses due to syphoning off of
revenues for bribes, and diversion of funds from food, medical, and educational aid programs.
In addition, it seems likely that corruption hampers the development of executive
talent in developing nations, given that frustrated local executives may seek to emigrate to
countries where corruption is less prevalent. Consider for example, the long term impact
of the necessity of paying a bribe to get running water in a household in rural India.8
type of corruption can effectively exclude the poor from access to vital public services.
Economist Daniel Kaufmann of the Harvard Institute of International Development cites
public sector corruption as the most severe obstacle to development in developing and
post-communist countries.9
Notable Examples of Corruption
The number and magnitude of recent corruption cases prosecuted by government authorities
is disconcerting. Moreover, these widely-publicized cases may represent only the
tip of the iceberg: Regulatory bodies focus principally on the bribery of public officials so
that other forms of business corruption are under-reported. To date, the ten largest cases
successfully tried pursuant to the FCPA are listed below (in order of magnitude of fines):
1. Siemens (Germany): $800 million in 2008
2. KBR/Halliburton (USA): $579 million in 2009
3. BAE (UK): $400 million in 2010
4. Total SA (France): $398 million in 2013
5. Snamprogetti Netherlands BV/ENI SpA (Holland/Italy): $365 million in 2010
6. Technip SA (France): $338 million in 2010
7. JGC Corporation ( Japan) $218.8 million in 2011
8. Daimler AG (Germany): $185 million in 2010
9. Alcatel-Lucent (France): $137 million in 2010
10. Magyar Telekom/Deutsche Telekom (Hungary/Germany): $95 million in 2011
There are other recent examples of large-scale corruption in international business.
Walmart in Mexico
According to a report issued by the Mexican Employers Association in 2011, companies
operating in Mexico spend more than 10 percent of their revenue on corrupt acts. One
of the most well-known cases was the Walmart scandal that was brought to light in September
2005 and resulted in the company’s stock value dropping by as much as $4.5 billion.
Evidence unearthed by internal and external investigations revealed a widespread use of
bribes, alleged to total over $24 million. The bribes were paid to facilitate the construction
of Walmart stores throughout Mexico. The country is a huge market for Walmart—one
in every five Walmart stores is in Mexico. As of October 2014, the investigation con-
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tinued, having implicated Walmart management at the most senior levels of complicity or
GlaxoSmithKline in China
In September 2013, China’s Xinhua news agency reported that a police investigation
into bribes paid by drug manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) indicated that the bribes
were organized and paid by GSK China and not by individuals operating on their own
prerogative as had been reported by the company initially. Police also alleged that the corporate
parent merely went through the motions of an internal audit process, indicating a
knowledge and acceptance of the bribery. This very recent case suggests that the Chinese
government’s widely publicized arrests and convictions for bribery have not yet served as a
sufficient deterrent to corrupt practices by foreign corporations.
Alcatel in Costa Rica
In January 2010 Alcatel agreed to pay Costa Rica US $10 million in reparations for
social damage caused by Alcatel’s payment of US$2.5 million in bribes to get a contract to
provide mobile phone services in that country. This case is notable for its application of the
concept of social damage and the resulting order of compensation to the citizens of Costa
Anticorruption Laws and Regulations
The first major international anticorruption law was the United States’ Foreign Corrupt
Practices Act (FCPA), adopted in 1977.11 The FCPA criminalized bribery of foreign public
officials by American business enterprises. Initially, the FCPA was not well received. Few
other countries followed suit and US companies complained that the FCPA shut them
out of the competition for billions of dollars’ worth of overseas business contracts. Slowly,
however, the push for concerted anticorruption measures gathered momentum, and intergovernmental
institutions such as the OECD, the African Union, and the United Nations
eventually adopted anticorruption conventions. Further support for a global anticorruption
agenda was provided by the lending institutions such as the World Bank, by NGOs such as
Transparency International, and by the rapidly evolving CSR movement. Notable among
these efforts was the Communist Party of China’s promulgation of a code of ethics to fight
the widespread corruption within the Communist Party of China.
The FCPA applies only to bribes paid (or offered) to foreign government officials to
obtain or retain business or to develop an unfair competitive advantage. The concepts of
bribe and foreign government official can be interpreted broadly. While companies and executives
charged with FCPA violations have often sought to characterize their payments
as business “gifts,” this has not shielded them from liability when there was evidence that
the payments were intended as a means of obtaining illicit objectives. However, where
payments have been characterized as “facilitation” or “lubrication” payments, meaning that
they merely created an incentive for an official to promptly execute legal actions, such as
mandatory customs inspections, the payments have been allowed. In numerous countries,
the state owns all or part of commercial enterprises so that a great number of business
executives could be classified as foreign government officials.
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In 1997, the OECD established legally binding standards for defining bribery in international
business transactions. Similar to the FCPA, the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention
focuses on the bribery of public officials. Like the FCPA, the OECD also potentially creates
the opportunity for companies to circumvent the regulations by hiring consultants
or agents (this topic will be the focus of this chapter’s case study discussion). Notably
excluded from the scope of the OECD Convention is a prohibition against bribing private
parties. Despite such loopholes, the OECD Convention was an important step in the
right direction. By 2012, forty-three countries had ratified the agreement and begun its
Corruption and Culture
Prior to the expansion of international trade in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries,
most commerce was local and followed traditional norms and ethical standards.
With the expansion of international trade, however, businesses began to operate across
cultural and linguistic boundaries. Misunderstandings and transgressions, both intended
and unintended, became commonplace. To some extent, perceptions of corruption may
derive from cultural differences, because behavior that is considered corrupt in one society
may represent a normal business practice in another.
One example can be found in the Chinese concept of guanxi, which refers to the
reciprocal obligations and benefits expected from a network of personal connections. A
person with a powerful level of guanxi is considered a preferred business partner because
such a person can utilize connections to obtain business or government approvals. Guanxi
can derive from extended family, school friends and alumni, work colleagues, members of
common clubs or organizations, and business associates. Chinese businesspeople seek to
cultivate an intricate and extensive web of lifelong guanxi relationships. The key expectation
in guanxi networks is reciprocity in the granting of favors; the failure to reciprocate is
considered a breach of trust. The greater the favor asked or granted, the greater the favor
owed. Guanxi thus generates a cycle of favors over time. Among the questionable practices
facilitated by guanxi are certain types of corrupt favoritism—such as nepotism (favoring
family members) and cronyism (favoring friends). In fact, relatively high levels of nepotism
or cronyism are accepted and tolerated in many non-Western cultures, not only in China.
As applied to business transactions, guanxi opens doors and creates opportunities for business
relationships and dealings. In itself, guanxi is not corrupt. However, strong guanxi
connections and obligations can serve as an incentive to corruption.
Many traditional business practices around the world are rooted in concepts analogous
to guanxi, as in the practice of using business gifts or personal connections to speed up
transactions both large and small. Russians use the term blat to refer to the ability to get
things done through personal networks or contacts with people of influence. The Japanese
have adapted the English word connections to coin a term of their own, konne. In Pakistan,
the use of personal sifarish (“recommendation”) refers to the ability to make contact with
the right official on the most favorable terms. The French expression for bribe is pot de vin
(“jug of wine”), which implies friendly relations. In Urdu and Hindi, petty bribes are known
as chai pani (“tea water”). In West Africa the term is dash. The English colloquial term grease
and the German schmiergeld (“grease money”) imply a lubrication or easing of resistance to
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the transaction. In Mozambique, one term for corruption is cabritismo or “goatism,” which
is derived from the saying “a goat eats where it is tethered.”
The universality of such terms suggests that various forms of business bribery and graft
are prevalent worldwide. However, specific business activities that are considered acceptable
in some societies may be considered taboo in others. Thus, the American practice of lobbying
legislators and governmental agencies would be considered an illegal form of buying
influence in many other countries. In some societies, gift giving to chiefs, elders, or religious
leaders is considered not only acceptable and appropriate, but even a mandatory traditional
expression of respect and obligation.
A survey conducted by KPMG in the United Kingdom found that while 80 percent
of respondents agreed that the UK Anti-Corruption Act was an admirable attempt to
address the problem of corruption, 58 percent believed that the Act was impractical and
ignored the reality that bribery is an accepted way of doing business in many countries.
Other similar studies have revealed widespread international criticism of US anticorruption
law as hypocritical in light of the American business practice of offering gifts to potential
customers or clients (e.g., trips to conferences, golf outings, tickets to entertainment and
sporting events, use of luxury facilities such as spas, condos, and country clubs, etc.).
Case Study: The Chinese Agent
The fictional case subject for this chapter is based on the difficult issue of determining
the ethics of employing a well-connected agent. In our case, an American for-profit educational
institution, which we will call Cleveland College, is opening a Shanghai campus to
offer United States–style college programs in China. There is a ready market in China for
“prestigious” US baccalaureate degrees. However, Cleveland College needs to satisfy a lot
of red tape to be accredited in China and obtain the necessary licenses for an educational
institution in the Shanghai area.
On an exploratory trip to Shanghai, the President of Cleveland College, Mark Rollins,
is approached by a prominent businessman, Wang Li, a former member of the Shanghai
city government who is familiar with the educational bureaucracy. Wang offers to assist as
a public relations agent, but his fee is so hefty ($200,000 per year) that Rollins fears that
Wang is going to use much of it to grease palms. Research with local authorities indicates
that Wang is well respected and has a high level of guanxi with local educational officials.
Wang promises to get Cleveland College all the necessary certifications in much faster
time than it usually takes, and also promises to prevent bothersome audits and bureaucratic
problems. Should Cleveland College sign him on? What FCPA danger would this entail?
Corruption in China
Over the past decade, the Chinese government has joined the global community in decrying
corruption and initiating regulations and laws, and publically stating a strong intent
to clamp down on corruption. Thus, in a widely publicized 2011 statement by China’s
Premier, Wen Jiabao, anticorruption actions were emphasized as a “primary task in 2011.”13
This was interpreted as an indication that increased enforcement of anticorruption laws will
be a top government priority and that these prohibitions must be taken seriously by foreign
corporations operating in China.
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A number of recent high-profile cases have illustrated the extent of the Chinese crackdown
on corruption. One notorious case was that of the former anticorruption official
Huang Songyou, who was sentenced to death for accepting 7.71 billion yuan in bribes.
In another case, Wang Huayuan and eight other senior officials of the provincial governments
in Guangdong and Zhejiang provinces were convicted of corrupt actions that took
place between 1998 and 2009. The former president of the Supreme Court and the former
vice president of the state-owned China Development Bank were charged with taking
bribes and then convicted to life in prison. In 2011, China sought the repatriation of Lai
Changxing from Canada after twelve years there. As former chairman of Yuanhua International
Corporation, Changxing was accused of absconding with $7.7 billion dollars. His
defense against the repatriation was that he would face torture and execution.
Some observers have questioned the resolve of the Chinese government and have
suggested that the small number of corruption prosecutions concluding with extreme
punishments may have less to do with ending corruption than with sending a message to
those who engage in corruption beyond an acceptable level. Others have suggested that
anticorruption prosecutions may be an alternative means of conducting political purges.
A more positive but still skeptical interpretation is to view the anticorruption cases as an
expression of support for global anticorruption, an encouragement to foreign investors who
fear corruption, and a way of appeasing the Chinese citizenry. According to Yan Sun, Associate
Professor of Political Science at the City University of New York, it was corruption,
rather than democracy as such, that lay at the root of the social dissatisfaction that led to
the Tiananmen protest movement of 1989.
Foreign Educational Institutions in China
Accompanying China’s meteoric economic development over the last three decades has
been a corresponding growth in sophisticated higher education. The number of institutions
of higher education in China has doubled in the last ten years. By 2020, China intends to
have produced 195 million college graduates. The Chinese government has determined
that it must not only increase the number of college graduates, but also make China an
education destination for non-Chinese students. Accomplishing these goals will necessitate
increased cooperation with Western institutions of higher education
In an interview with University World News in 2013, Michael Gaebel, head of the
higher education policy unit at the European University Association (EUA) reported that,
just a few years ago, “it was very difficult to convince European vice-chancellors that Asia
was not just a provider of fee-paying students. Now no one in Europe can ignore that
China has become important globally for research and will continue growing in importance.”14
In 2013, China’s vice minister for education announced that China would take
efforts to attract more foreign students. By 2020, China hoped to attract some 500,000
international students, making the country the largest Asian destination for international
students. Currently about 35,000 foreign students are studying in China.
With 37 million students studying in over 2,400 universities and colleges, China has
the largest system of higher education in the world. The rapid growth of demand for colleges
and universities in recent years has resulted in a number of problems, including rushed
and poor quality construction, high student–lecturer ratio, shortages of qualified faculty,
and questionable academic quality, not to mention allegations of corruption.
Corruption in higher education in China has been widely reported, including allegations
of widespread plagiarism, selling of degrees, favoritism in admissions, and bribery
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for grades. A study by Wuhan University Professor Shen Yan showed that ghostwriting
academic theses was a one billion–yuan business in 2009, and that 70 percent of the published
theses were plagiarized. John Bray, author of “Facing up to Corruption, a Practical
Guide,”15 reports that parents in China often have to pay for a spot in a university for their
Compounding these problems is the growing level of unemployment among recent
graduates. The Epoch Times reported a 7.7 percent employment rate among the seven million
graduates in 2014.16 The decline in the perceived value of Chinese higher education has
created an opportunity for foreign universities. There is a perception that a degree from a
Western university is more credible and that its graduates are more employable than graduates
of Chinese institutions. Carl Fey, Dean of Nottingham University Business School
China, discusses the growing number of foreign campuses opening in China. At his school,
they spend the first year teaching students English, so they learn to work, study, and speak
in English before diving into subject matter. “Your diploma looks exactly the same whether
you graduated from Nottingham, UK, or Nottingham, China,” Fey said. “That’s because the
education’s actually the same.”17
The number of foreign universities operating in China is changing rapidly as institutions
from Europe, the United States, and other Western countries enter the fray. This
course is not without operational hurtles, as was noted when Harvard University pulled out
of a high profile and widely published and joint venture with its Chinese counterpart, the
prestigious Beijing University. Harvard cited several reasons for ending the relationship,
including low enrollment, high operating expenses, and issues within the Chinese language
One of the problems faced by Western universities operating in China is that the potential
for government censorship places severe limitations on academic freedom. While
this is the most notable issue, there are many other challenges, mostly related to cultural
differences. The red tape involved in getting the appropriate licenses, accreditations, and
building permits from the various governmental agencies involved in local, regional, and
centralized government is a daunting task for a foreigner. Most foreign institutions find it
more expedient to partner with established Chinese universities than to attempt to open a
new university, but even then, there are all the usual issues related to operation of a partnership
or joint venture, all complicated by the cultural differences.
Topic for Debate: To Hire, or Not to Hire a
“Consultant” Who May Be Bribing Officials
on Behalf of the University
Should Cleveland College hire the local Chinese agent, or “public relations” consultant,
who requests a sizeable enough retainer that we may reasonably suspect he is making cash
donations to obtain the goodwill of local educational institutions?
Affirmative Position
Cleveland College should hire the local Chinese agent/consultant.
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Possible Arguments
• Secret cash payments may act as a morally-acceptable “lubricant” to facilitate commercial
• Corruption is an inevitable part of the process of opening up new and developing
• Companies that elect to comply with the letter of the law in the strictest sense may
be at a severe competitive disadvantage.
• Payment of “fees” to officials can serve as an incentive to development, cutting
through unnecessary bureaucracy.
• Corruption as defined in this context is a Western concept and may not be applicable
in all countries.
• In many societies, the “gift culture” is a form of appropriate behavior based on
long-standing traditions of exchanging favors.
Negative Position
Cleveland College should not hire the local Chinese agent/consultant.
Possible Arguments
• Paying an agent a fee, who then bribes a government official does not necessarily
relieve the college of the risk of violating anticorruption laws.
• Paying an agent to bribe a government official sets a precedent that can lead to
ongoing demands for bribes.
• If the organization pays a bribe, and they do not get what they paid for, they have
no recourse. This is a high-risk form of investment.
• If the college goes down the path of bribing officials for any purpose, using the
justification that it is a traditional and acceptable way of conducting business, it
implicitly condones a lack of ethics to its employees—the next step would be to sell
grades, diplomas or admissions.
10.1 “Corruption from a Cross-Cultural Perspective”
Hooker, John. “Corruption from a Cross-Cultural Perspective.” Pittsburgh, PA: Carnegie
Mellon University. October 2008.
The world is shrinking, but its cultures remain worlds apart, as do its ethical norms.
Bribery, kickbacks, cronyism, and nepotism seem to be more prevalent in some parts of the
world, and one wants to know why. Is it because some peoples are less ethical than others?
Or is it because they have different ethical systems and regard these behaviors as acceptable?
…The phenomenon of corruption provides a good illustration of these realities. Corruption
is best understood as behavior that corrupts: it undermines the cultural system in
which it occurs. Because cultures can operate in very different ways, very different kinds
of behavior can corrupt. Practices that Westerners consider questionable, such as cronyism
and nepotism, may be functional in other cultures. Practices that are routine and acceptable
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in the West, such as bringing a lawsuit for breach of contract, may be corrupting in a wide
range of cultures, Western and non-Western, but for very different reasons.
The West tends to be universalist in its outlook: every society works, or should work,
essentially the same way. Its business practices, for example, should be based on a market
system that is characterized by transparency and regulated by laws that apply to everyone.
A country that fails to conform to this model is seen as underdeveloped or dysfunctional.
It follows from this view that that corruption is basically the same in Sweden as in Sudan.
The reality, however, is that different cultures use radically different systems to get
things done. Whereas Western cultures are primarily rule-based, most of the world’s cultures
are relationship-based. Westerners tend to trust the system, while people …cemented
by personal honor, filial duty, friendship, or long-term mutual obligation. Loyalty to cronies
is suspect behavior in the West but represents high moral character in much of the world.
…What is corrupt in the West may be acceptable elsewhere. The classic example of
the purchasing agent illustrates this point. The Western purchasing agent is expected to
award contracts based on the quality of bids and transparently available financial information
about the bidders. An agent who favors personal friends is viewed as corrupt, because
cronyism subverts this transparency-based system. It creates a conflict of interest: A choice
that is good for the agent and his or her cronies may not be good for the company.
In much of the world, however, cronyism is a foundation for trust. A purchasing agent
does business with friends because friends can be trusted. He or she may not even ask to see
the company financials, since this could insult the other’s honor. It is assumed that cronies
will follow through on the deal, not because they fear a lawsuit, but because they do not
wish to sacrifice a valuable relationship in an economy where relationships are the key to
business. In such a system it is in the company’s interest for the agent to do business with
friends, and cronyism may therefore present no conflict of interest.
What is acceptable in the West may be corrupt elsewhere …Even so basic a practice
as negotiation, which is routine in the West, can disrupt harmony in Confucian cultures.
Westerners tend to organize their affairs around agreements, deals, or contracts, relying on
a concept of covenant that traces back to the ancient Middle East. These agreements are
hammered out in negotiation, as for example when labor and management sit across the
table from each other. This practice is functional and constructive, so long as it proceeds
according to rules of fair play and good faith.
Confucian cultures …are based primarily on loyalty and obligation to friends, family or
superiors rather than on a system of rules.
10.2 “Facing up to Corruption: A Practical Business
Bray, John. “Facing up to Corruption: A Practical Business Guide.” London: Control
Risks. 2007.
Direct and Indirect Bribery
Indirect bribery is one of the most sensitive policy issues facing international companies.
A typical example would be a case where a company employs a commercial agent to
help it win a government contract. The agent is paid by commission based on a percentage
of the contract fee; part of that commission is passed on to a government official. The
agent’s employers do not know—and do not wish to know—what happened…
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The OECD Anti-Bribery Convention explicitly covers payments made “directly or
through intermediaries” to secure a business advantage. US and other international legal
practice already includes several cases where companies have been prosecuted for paying
bribes via agents. Ignorance—wilful or otherwise—is not a defence.
…A broad understanding of corruption includes certain kinds of influence, although
the boundary between acceptable and unacceptable forms of influence is often hard to
define. A series of cases in the US and other countries have drawn attention to the ethical
issues surrounding political lobbying. In principle, political lobbying is legitimate. One of
the main roles of industry associations is to lobby government on their members’ behalf.
Individual companies, like ordinary citizens, are entitled to seek assistance from their political
and diplomatic representatives. Problems arise when such contacts appear secretive,
when there is a suspicion of favouritism or when a company’s influence appears to be both
disproportionate and against the wider public interest.
In many societies it is common to speed up both larger and smaller transactions
through personal connections… The use of personal contacts is both commonplace and
useful. However, as with political lobbying, it becomes problematic when the connections
lack transparency and when officials break rules on behalf of their business friends, or seek
illicit favours in return.
In cases of doubt, the so-called “newspaper test” provides a useful indicator: would
a proposed transaction cause you or your company embarrassment when reported in the
press? If it would, do not do it.
10.3 “The Cost of Corruption: A Discussion Paper
on Corruption, Development and the Poor”
Evans, Bryan R. “The Cost of Corruption: A Discussion Paper on Corruption, Development
and the Poor,” (Middlesex, UK: Tearfund, 1999), accessed December 3, 2014,
Far from being a “victimless crime,” corruption infringes the fundamental human right
to fair treatment. All persons are entitled to be treated equally, and when one person bribes
a public official he acquires a privileged status in relation to others. He becomes an ‘insider’
while others are made “outsiders” (and the more “outside” they are—the very poor, the
landless, women, ethnic minorities—the more they will be hurt). Clare Short, the UK
Secretary of State for International Development, notes a report in the Indian magazine
Outlook to the effect that the bribe for a new water connection was R1,000. This effectively
excluded the poor from access to running water, with all the health and time-loss implications
that this entails. Corruption is thus profoundly inegalitarian in its effects—it has a
“Robin Hood-in-reverse” character. Hugh Bayley MP, introducing a bill to create offences
of international bribery and corruption, went so far as to say that “bribery is a direct transfer
of money from the poor to the rich.”
…The ramifications spread yet further. Productive foreign investment may be lost.
Before the Asian crisis of 1997/98 there were some who argued that corruption was not
harmful, it merely greased the wheels of commerce. It was pointed out that some countries
which ranked high in surveys of the level of corruption, also excelled in economic growth.
The World Development Report notes that the question of predictability (the amount to
be paid, the certainty of outcome) throws some light on this apparent paradox. “For a given
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level of corruption, countries with more predictable corruption have higher investment
However, the Report went on to state that even in these countries corruption had an
adverse impact on economic performance, because the higher transaction costs and increased
uncertainty put off potential investors. Time magazine quotes research by Professor
Shang-Jin Wei of Harvard School of Government to the effect that the high level of corruption
in Mexico compared with Singapore was the equivalent of a 24 per cent increase in
the marginal rate of taxation.
A conservationist, Lansen Olsen, in a letter to the Transparency International Newsletter
notes that “political corruption is a major feature of the political habitat in which
wildlife conservation efforts sink or swim.” When corruption breaches regulations designed
to protect the environment, everyone suffers in the long term, as the loss of primary forest
leads to soil erosion, local climate change, etc., but it is the poor who have the smallest
resources with which to weather environmental degradation.
Corruption can also have ugly and unpredictable consequences for the (Western)
briber. As soon as he pays he begins to lose control. If he does not get what he paid for he
is in no position to complain. Having broken the law he is vulnerable to blackmail. If he
tries to break the corrupt relationship he may face a variety of threats, including the threat
of violence.
Synthesis Questions
1. Consider the following hypothetical example: An American college seeks to obtain
a good image among Chinese educational regulators and accreditors by inviting a
number of them, all expenses paid, to a week-long conference in Hawaii. Is this
morally acceptable? Does it constitute a form of bribery? Why or why not?
2. In the past two decades, a number of very large corporations have paid large fines
for corrupt behavior. Presumably, the executives who authorized the payments were
highly-educated, experienced, professional people. Why do you think they failed to
speak up against the corruption?
3. This chapter explores the concept of guanxi. Do you think guanxi is morally wrong,
or rather, is an acceptable form of traditional practice that must be allowed to
continue? What are the prospects for guanxi in the future?
1. “Clean Business is Good Business,” International Chamber of Commerce, Transparency
International, the United Nations Global Compact and the World Economic Forum Partnering
Against Corruption Initiative (PACI), accessed Nov. 26, 2014,
2. Sharon Eiher, “Corruption in International Business: The Challenge of Cultural and Legal
Diversity,” Wichita, KS: Friends University, accessed October 29, 2013,
pdf/SamplePages/Corruption_in_International_Business_Ch1.pdf .
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3. “International Business Attitudes to Corruption: Survey 2013.” Control Risks Groups
Limited, accessed Nov. 26, 2014.
4. Theresa Tedesco, “Anti-Corruption High on Corporate Agenda, Low in Practise: UK
Study,”nFinancial Post, July 15, 2013,
5. “Corruption Perceptions Index 2013.” Transparency International, accessed Nov. 26, 2014.
6. “Corruption ‘will cost Germany €250 billion.’” The Local, March 16, 2012. http://www.thelocal.
7. Dow Jones Risk and Compliance. “Dow Jones State of Anti-Corruption Compliance Survey,”
Dow Jones, March 31 2011,
8. Mukti Jain Campion, “Bribery in India: a Website for Whistleblowers,” BBC News, June 11,
2011, accessed on December 3, 2014,
9. Kaufmann, Daniel. “Corruption: The Facts.”Foreign Policy, Summer 1997. 114-131. http://info.
10. Richard Cassin, “France’s Total SA Cracks Our Top 10 List,” FCPA Blog, May 29, 2013,
11. “A Resource Guide to the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.” U.S. Dept. of Justice, accessed
Nov. 26, 2014.
12. Sommerville, Quentin. “China Communists Get New Anti-Corruption Ethics Code.” BBC
News, Feb. 24, 2010.
13. “Chinese Premier Renews Call for Fight Against Corruption.” Xinhua News. March 25, 2011.
14. Sharma, Yojana. “Beijing Wants More In-Depth HE Links with Europe.” University
World News. May 11, 2013.
15. Bray, John. “Facing Up to Corruption: A Practical Business Guide.” Control Risks Group Limited.
16. Chen, Lu. “Employment Rate for China’s College Graduates Lowest
Ever.” Epoch Times. August 5, 2014.
17. “Why Foreign Colleges Are Entering China.” July 2, 2013.
Corporations and Politics: After Citizens United|147
Chapter 11
Corporations and Politics:
After Citizens United
Source: courtesy of John Montgomery, (CC-BY 2012),
Figure 11.1 The Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Elections Committee
gave First Amendment rights to corporations in election periods, allowing business interests to
spend unlimited amounts on U.S. elections. Do corporations deserve the same rights as individuals
when it comes to political speech?
Corporate Influence on Politics
Corporations today exert a considerable (and occasionally overwhelming) influence on
global politics. In some countries, the influence of corporations on government is so great
as to give rise to the suspicion that the government is actually controlled by corporations.
Even in those countries that strictly limit corporate influence on political campaigns, the
corporate sector can still play an important role in the development of governmental policies
through sophisticated, high-level lobbying. In this chapter we ask, how much of this
corporate influence is acceptable? We will also explore the following related questions:
How can corporate influence be controlled? What is the appropriate level of corporate
participation in the drafting of laws and regulations? Should corporations be allowed to
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contribute freely to political campaigns? What is the role of foreign and multinational
corporations? Should they also be allowed to influence domestic politics?
Although we will focus on corporate influence, let us note at the outset that they are
not the only source of money in politics; wealthy individuals, unions, and other participants
in the electoral process also contribute significant funds and resources to campaigns. In
the United States, as in most other industrialized democracies, electoral campaigns have
become increasingly expensive despite attempts to limit allowable expenditures.
Given the importance of the issue, it is not surprising that a storm of controversy arose
over a US Supreme Court’s ruling in 2010 that government limits on corporate spending in
political campaigns violated the First Amendment right to freedom of speech. In the view
of an openly dismayed President Barack Obama, the Court’s decision in Citizens United v.
Federal Elections Commission “reversed a century of law to open the floodgates for special
interests—including foreign corporations—to spend without limit in our elections.”1
The validity of President Obama’s objection to Citizen United has been hotly contested,
and it will provide us with a focal point for our discussion: Is it true that corporations have
achieved excessive influence over national politics? Are corporations entitled to be treated
as “persons” when it comes to freedom of speech?
A Basic Distinction: Private vs. Public
Funding of Campaigns
While private election spending in the United States is increasing, the situation around
the world is quite diverse. In some countries, expenditures are increasing while elsewhere
they are decreasing. A basic distinction in national campaign finance regulations is that
some countries allow private support for political campaigns while other countries provide
public funds to candidates.
Private Finance
In the United Kingdom there are no limits on corporate or individual giving in the
general election, yet total spending on the 2010 general election was down 26 percent from
However, in the United Kingdom, the Prime Minister may call for elections at any
time within a maximum period, which shortens the total time available for campaigning
and explains the need for funds. National elections tend to be more expensive in the United
States because they come along at predictable four-year intervals.
In Brazil, it is estimated that $2 billion was spent by parties and candidates in the 2010
presidential election, with nearly 100 percent of total campaign donations coming from
Public Funding
In countries such as Norway, government funding accounts for up to 74 percent of
political campaigns, and political ads are banned from television and radio.
In Canada, candidates are given strict spending limits based on the number of voters
in their districts, in order to even the playing field in elections, and private donations (a
maximum of $1,200 to any party) are heavily subsidized by public funds paid out through
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tax credits. Although the price of elections has grown 50 percent in the past decade, Canadians
spent just $300 million on the 2008 general election.3
Campaign Finance in the U.S.
US Campaign Finance Law, PACs and Super PACs
“There are two things that are important in politics. The first is money, and I can’t remember
what the second one is.”
—Mark Hanna, campaign manager of President McKinley’s successful bid for the Presidency
in 1896.
Concern over the influence of money in politics began at an early stage in the life of the
United States, with Thomas Jefferson stating in 1816 that he feared it would be necessary to
“crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations, which dare already to challenge
our government to a trial of strength and bid defiance to the laws of our country.”4
Despite Jefferson’s hopes, the influence of corporations on politics grew substantially
in the latter half of the nineteenth century. The presidential elections of 1896 and 1904 left
much of the American populace disgusted and convinced that political office in the United
States was up for sale. In 1896, the victor in the presidential election, William McKinley,
outspent his competitor, the populist William Jennings Bryan, by a factor of 10 to 1. In
1904, the Democratic candidate, Alton Parker, lost the election and complained bitterly
afterward that he had been defeated by large insurance companies. Parker challenged the
nation to face the reality that corporations were taking over the political process: “The
greatest moral question which now confronts us is shall the trusts and corporations be
prevented from contributing money to control or aid in controlling elections?”5
President-elect Theodore Roosevelt took the accusation seriously and joined his own
voice in the call for control of corporate contributions. In a 1905 address to Congress,
Roosevelt called for legislation:
All contributions by corporations to any political committee or for any political
purpose should be forbidden by law; directors should not be permitted to use stockholders’
money for such purposes; and, moreover, a prohibition of this kind would be,
as far as it went, an effective method of stopping the evils aimed at in corrupt practices
acts. Not only should both the National and the several State Legislatures forbid any
officer of a corporation from using the money of the corporation in or about any election,
but they should also forbid such use of money in connection with any legislation
save by the employment of counsel in public manner for distinctly legal services.6
As a result, Congress passed the 1907 Tillman Act, the first US law prohibiting corporations
from contributing directly to federal elections. However, it turned out that the law was
easy to circumvent. Not only was there no enforcement mechanism or agency, the Tillman
Act did not prevent corporate contributions to party primaries, and in many Congressional
districts these were even more determinative than the general election. Moreover, the
Tillman Act did not prohibit corporate officers from giving money personally to campaigns
(the executives were then often reimbursed by bonuses from the corporations). It rapidly
became clear that the Tillman Act would only be the beginning of a long and tortuous
effort to curtail corporate influence.
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After World War II, labor unrest reached a historical high. From 1945–1946, millions
of railroad, auto, meatpacking, electric, steel, and coal workers went on strike, protesting
falling wages amid rising corporate profits. Corporate fears of powerful labor unions and
the perception among politicians that labor unions had communist leanings convinced
Congress to pass the Taft–Hartley Act (also known as the Labor Management Relations
Act) in 1947, which limited workers’ rights to strike, boycott, and picket. The law also
prohibited labor unions from spending money in federal elections and campaigns. As an
extension of the Tillman Act of 1907, Taft–Hartley constrained labor unions to raising
money for campaign contributions only through so-called political action committees
It was not until the 1970s that PACs were firmly regulated by the federal government.
With the passing of the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) in 1971 (and subsequent
Amendments in 1974, 1976, and 1979), the modern campaign finance system was born,
along with an independent body to enforce it—the Federal Election Commission (FEC).
The new law defined how PACs could operate, set contribution limits, and instituted public
financing for presidential elections.7
Until 2010, individuals were limited to $2,500 contributions to PACs, and corporations
were strictly banned from donating. However, as we shall see below, the Citizens
United case radically altered this landscape, removing all corporate restrictions and giving
rise to the so-called Super PAC—a political action committee that can accept unlimited
donations from individuals, corporations, and unions, and engage in unlimited spending.
The only restriction on Super PACs is that the donors cannot coordinate activities with any
candidate or campaign. As we can see below from the satirical commentary by television
personality Stephen Colbert on the effectiveness of such a bar on coordination, many felt
that Super PACs were in reality little more than funding mechanisms under the control of
politicians themselves. It seemed that the efforts to control corporate contributions, begun
with the Tillman Act, had finally reached a dead end.
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Source: Cliff, (CC-BY 2.0 2010)
Figure 11.2 In 2011, comedian Stephen Colbert formed a Super PAC called, “Americans for a
Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow.” While it was intended as a satire of existing Super PACs, it was
also a way to educate viewers about the Citizens United decision. In January 2012, Colbert
decided to run for “President of the United States of South Carolina.” As was legally required, he
passed off control of his Super PAC to someone totally unconnected to the committee—his Comedy
Central cohort Jon Stewart.
Milestones in Campaign Finance8
• 1907: Passage of the Tillman Act, which banned corporate political contributions
to national campaigns.
• 1925: The Federal Corrupt Practices Act increased disclosure requirements and
spending limits on general elections.
• 1971: Passage of the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA), the first comprehensive
campaign finance law.
• 1974: Amendments made to the Federal Election Campaign Act: limits on contributions,
increased disclosure, creation of the Federal Election Commission (FEC)
as a regulatory agency, government funding of presidential campaigns.
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• 1976: Buckley v. Valeo: The Supreme Court upheld limits on campaign contributions,
but held that spending money to influence elections is protected speech
under the First Amendment.
• 1978: First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti: The Supreme Court upheld the rights
of corporations to spend money in non-candidate elections (i.e., ballot initiatives
and referendums).
• 1990: Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce: The Supreme Court upheld the
right of the state of Michigan to prohibit corporations from using money from
their corporate treasuries to support or oppose candidates in elections, noting:
“corporate wealth can unfairly influence elections.”9
• 2002: Passage of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (McCain–Feingold),
which banned corporate funding of issue advocacy ads that mentioned
candidates close to an election.
• 2010: Citizens United v. FEC: The Supreme Court held that corporate funding of
independent political broadcasts in candidate elections cannot be limited under the
First Amendment, overruling Austin (1990).
The 2012 Presidential Election
The 2012 US presidential race was the most expensive in history. According to the
Federal Election Commission, approximately $6 billion was spent on the election by candidates,
parties, and outside groups. Of that, $933 million came directly from companies,
unions, and individuals funneling money into Super PACs specifically enabled by Citizens
United. The Center for Public Integrity found that nearly two-thirds (approximately $611
million) went to just ten political consulting firms, who spent 89 percent of the money on
negative advertising spots attacking candidates.10
Influence of the Wealthy: The One Percent of the One Percent
According to the Sunlight Foundation, there is a growing dependence on the One Percent
of the One Percent—an elite group of the wealthiest Americans, including corporate
executives, investors, lobbyists, and lawyers in metropolitan areas who give to multiple candidates,
parties, and independent issue groups. Data suggests that, while these ideological
donors make up less than 1 percent of the US population, they control about one-third of
America’s net worth and contribute up to 25 percent of the money provided to all federal
political campaigns.11
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Source: Courtesy of Sunlight Foundation (2013)
Figure 11.3 Statistics show that the wealthiest 0.01% of the U.S. population contributes a major
share of all American political campaign funding.
Case Study: Citizens United v. Federal
Elections Commission
In early 2010, the United States Supreme Court shocked much of the nation when it
ruled that corporations have the same rights of political free speech as individuals under the
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First Amendment to the US Constitution.
Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission was a constitutional law case challenging
the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA) of 2002, otherwise known as the
McCain–Feingold campaign finance law. The BCRA barred corporations and unions from
running broadcast, cable, or television ads for or against Presidential candidates for thirty
days before primary elections, and within 60 days of general elections. In addition, the law
required donor disclosure and disclaimers on all materials not authorized or endorsed by
the candidate.
The Supreme Court
The United States Supreme Court plays a central and occasionally polarizing role in
the American democratic system. Created by the Judiciary Act of 1789, the Supreme Court
is the only court specifically prescribed by the Constitution. As the “highest court in the
land,” it remains the functional and symbolic defender of American civil rights and liberties.
As the United States’ final court of appeal, the Supreme Court is the ultimate interpreter
of law in the United States. With the authority to strike down any federal and state
law it deems unconstitutional, the Court acts as a check on the power of the executive and
legislative branches of government. In theory, the Supreme Court guarantees that changing
majority views don’t subjugate vulnerable minorities or undermine fundamental American
values such as freedom of speech.
Because it often appears to defend these values in direct opposition to popular opinion,
the Supreme Court has been criticized as an antidemocratic institution that fails to take
into account progressive social evolution. Indeed, justices are often accused of ideological
activism, constitutional fundamentalism, and ignorance of the changing face of the American
public. It can also be argued, however, that the Supreme Court’s decisions historically
have reflected growing national sentiments about constitutional issues more consistently
than it has rejected them.
Virtually every political and social hot-button issue—abortion, gay marriage, affirmative
action, civil rights, immigration, and so on—appears before the Supreme Court at
some point. Justices are appointed for life so that, ideally, they will not be swayed by outside
political influences; unlike the president or Congress, they do not have to worry about
re-election campaigns or approval ratings. The Supreme Court’s decisions have often had
sweeping and profound consequences to society, and they almost always inflame passions
on both sides of the political spectrum.
The Plaintiff
Citizens United, a conservative nonprofit corporation, wanted to run an on-demand
cable documentary called Hillary: The Movie, which harshly criticized then-Senator Hillary
Clinton during the Democratic presidential primary in 2008. The documentary featured
interviews with conservative pundits and politicians who claimed that Clinton would be a
presidential disaster.
The Federal Elections Committee (FEC) blocked the documentary from being broadcast,
designating it as “electioneering communication” under the BCRA. Citizens United
brought its case to the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, citing
violation of the group’s First Amendment rights, but the lower court sided with the FEC.
The case was appealed and appeared before the Supreme Court in early 2009.
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In 2004, Michael Moore released a documentary, Fahrenheit 9/11, shortly before the
GOP primary elections. The movie was a scathing indictment of George W. Bush, his
administration’s War on Terror, and the far-reaching consequences of his first term as President.
Citizens United filed a complaint with the FEC, stating that ads for the film were
television broadcast communications designed to influence voters, and therefore violated
federal election law. The FEC dismissed the complaint, saying it was clear that Fahrenheit
9/11, along with its television trailers and website, were purely commercial pursuits. In
response, Citizens United decided to start producing its own “commercial” documentaries.
Before the Supreme Court, Citizens United argued that the BCRA (the McCain–
Feingold Act) only applied to commercial advertisements, not to video-on-demand,
90-minute documentaries such as Hillary: The Movie. The group’s lawyer, Ted Olson, did
not even mention the First Amendment, nor did he call for the repeal of any part of federal
election law.
Taking the opposite position was the deputy solicitor general, who argued that the
Clinton documentary was the equivalent of an extended campaign advertisement, recalling
the Supreme Court’s decisions in Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce (1990), which
held that state legislatures may prohibit corporations from using treasury funds on electoral
speech, and McConnell v. Federal Election Commission (2003), which validated the BCRA’s
spending limitations, stating that “express advocacy and its functional equivalent may be
treated alike, and that BCRA’s definition of ‘electioneering communication’ is not facially
First Opinion
After the case was argued, the Court decided that the BCRA did not apply to Hillary:
The Movie, and therefore Citizens United could air it unhindered. Chief Justice John Roberts
drafted an opinion, but it soon became clear that many of the justices didn’t think it
went far enough. The conservative majority felt that the case was a perfect opportunity to
broaden the discussion to address whether or not corporate speech should be regulated at
all under the Constitution.
Roberts withdrew his opinion, and the Court called for the case to be reargued in
September, almost a month before the official start of the fall term and two months before
the 2010 midterm election. The justices directed the parties to file supplemental briefs addressing
the question of whether the Court should overrule Austin v. Michigan and parts of
McConnell v. FEC, which would amount to eliminating decades of restrictions on corporate
electoral spending.
Second Opinion
The Citizens United case was reargued on September 9, 2009. By a five-to-four vote,
the conservative majority held that the First Amendment to the United States Constitution
prohibits the government from imposing any limits on political spending by corporations,
associations, and unions. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion, which
he summarized from the bench in this way: “Political speech is indispensable to decision
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making in a democracy and this is no less true because the speech comes from a corporation
rather than an individual.”13
Justice Kennedy was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia,
Samuel Alito, and Clarence Thomas. To the conservative judges, the ruling was a vindication
of the power of free speech; because of Citizens United, the First Amendment could
now be applied universally and without prejudice.
Justice John Paul Stevens wrote a highly critical 90-page dissent, arguing that Justice
Kennedy’s opinion constituted “a rejection of the common sense of the American people,
who have recognized a need to prevent corporations from undermining self-government
since the founding.”14 Stevens believed that the limits Congress had for years imposed on
corporate spending were necessary to curb political corruption by the wealthiest Americans,
who would inevitably out-spend, out-lobby, and “out-speech” the vast majority of
Americans. Stevens also argued that corporations are not “people” in the real sense—they
do not have consciences, feelings, beliefs, or desires—and therefore are not true members
of society, or “‘We the People,’ by whom and for whom [the] Constitution was established.”
Justice Stevens was joined in his dissent by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen
Breyer, and Sonia Sotomayor. These liberal justices recognized that the decision would
open the floodgates for spending in electoral campaigns, making it “exceedingly difficult to
maintain that independent expenditures by corporations ‘do not give rise to corruption or
the appearance of corruption.’”15
Corporate “Personhood”
Widespread public criticism of the Citizens United decision has not diminished with
time, particularly from liberal or progressive voters and pundits. Protesters, lawmakers, and
organizations such as Move to Amend have called for a constitutional amendment to overturn
the ruling. Across the country, a number of public demonstrations were held where
participants waved signs reading, “Corporations Are Not People.” Despite the widespread
outrage, the reality is that corporations have had many of the same rights as individuals for
a very long time.
Corporate personhood refers to the legal concept that allows organizations of people,
as individuals acting collectively, to be both protected by the Constitution and subject to
the same laws as citizens. The word corporation derives from the Latin, corpus, meaning
body, and is defined as “a body of people acting jointly, …recognized by law as acting as an
The Romans first devised corporate personhood as a way for cities and churches to
legally organize for the purposes of joint land ownership, taxation, and institutional perpetuity.
Creating a “legal” or “artificial” person made it unnecessary to develop separate laws
enabling large groups of people to do the same things as individuals: for instance, make
contracts, own property, pay taxes, borrow money, enter into law suits, and be protected
from persecution.
Since at least 1819, in Trustees of Dartmouth College v. Woodward, the Supreme Court
has recognized corporations as having the same rights as “natural persons” for the purpose
of contracts. Since then, the Supreme Court has given corporations increasingly more rights
traditionally reserved for natural people: Fourteenth Amendment rights of equal protection
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(Pembina Consolidated Silver Mining Co. v. Pennsylvania, 1888), Fifth Amendment protections
of due process (Noble v. Union River Logging, 1893), Fourth Amendment search and
seizure protection (Hale v. Henkel, 1906), double-jeopardy immunity (Fong Foo v. United
States, 1962), First Amendment protection (Grosjean v. American Press Company, 1936),
Seventh Amendment rights to trial by jury (Ross v. Bernhard, 1970), the right to spend
money in noncandidate elections (First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti, 1978), and the
right to spend in campaigns as a form of “speech” (Buckley v Valeo, 1976).17
Amending the Constitution to Overrule Citizens
Move to Amend, a coalition of political interest organizations, lead the campaign for a
Constitutional amendment that would overturn the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens
United. clearly states:
We, the People of the United States of America, reject the US Supreme Court’s
ruling in Citizens United and other related cases, and move to amend our Constitution
to firmly establish that money is not speech, and that human beings, not corporations,
are persons entitled to constitutional rights.18
Specialists in campaign finance law predict that the Supreme Court’s ruling will shape
the US electoral process for years to come. The matter is far from settled, however, as there
is a growing movement of nonpartisan municipal, county, and state bodies calling for a
constitutional amendment to overturn the decision. Citizens United’s legacy is far from over.
Topic for Debate: Overrule Citizens United
In this debate section, you will be asked to assume the role of a college student at a
SUNY campus in New York State. The Congressional representative who has been elected
from your university’s district has introduced a bill in Congress that would authorize a
constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. The university newspaper has
sponsored a public debate so that the it can determine what position to take—should the
newspaper endorse (or not) the proposed amendment? You have been invited to be a part of
one of the two debate teams that will address the issue at a public forum. You are expected
to base your arguments to some extent on the statements and publications of legal and
public policy experts.
The university newspaper should endorse a constitutional amendment to overturn
Citizens United.
Possible Arguments
• Corporations are not people, and should not have the same rights as individuals.
• The Supreme Court erred with its decision in Citizens United, due to judicial
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• Electoral issues should be decided by elected officials and not by the Supreme
• Corporate money inherently leads to political corruption and “secret” financing.
• Wealthy Americans by and large represent the corporate interests of America and
should not drown out the voices of those with less power and money.
The university newspaper should oppose a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens
Possible Arguments
• American democracy relies on freedom of speech, which should therefore be enjoyed
by everyone, regardless of their legal status.
• Corporate money in elections increases political competition and awareness of
• Americans can decide for themselves whether or not to elect a candidate; ads don’t
make a difference either way.
• Corporations advocate for their employees, customers, and communities, and regulation
will only constrain this ability.
• Corporations are fundamental to American economic progress and should be allowed
to influence the political process to maintain their positive contributions to
11.1 Supreme Court Opinion and Pleadings
The Supreme Court’s majority opinion, the various dissenting and concurring opinions,
and the parties’ briefs, may be accessed on the Internet at the following links:
The official arguments and decision can be found at “Citizens United v. Federal Election
Commission.” The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. Last updated
August 25, 2014.
The official briefs and amicus briefs can be found at “Citizens United v. Federal Election
Commission.” SCOTUSblog. June 17, 2010.
A video can be found at “The Story of Citizens United v. FEC (2011).” YouTube video,
8:50. Posted by “storyofstuffproject” on February 25, 2011.
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11.2 “Why Super PACs Are Good for Democracy:
Super PACs Get Government out of the Business of
Regulating Speech”
Smith, Bradley A. “Why Super PACs Are Good for Democracy: Super PACs Get
Government out of the Business of Regulating Speech.” U.S. News and World
Report. February 17, 2012.
11.3 “The New York Times’ Disingenuous Campaign
against Citizens United”
Kaminer, Wendy. “The New York Times’ Disingenuous Campaign against Citizens
United.” The Atlantic. February 24, 2012.
The paper is promoting the misconception that the ruling allowed for unlimited campaign
contributions from super-rich individuals. It didn’t.
Like Fox News, the New York Times has a First Amendment right to spread misinformation
about important public issues, and it is exercising that right in its campaign
against the Citizens United ruling. In news stories, as well as columns, it has repeatedly
mischaracterized Citizens United, explicitly or implicitly blaming it for allowing unlimited
“super PAC” contributions from megarich individuals. In fact, Citizens United enabled corporations
and unions to use general treasury funds for independent political expenditures;
it did not expand or address the longstanding, individual rights of the rich to support
independent groups. And, as recent reports have made clear, individual donors, not corporations,
are the primary funders of super PACs.
When I first focused on the inaccurate reference to Citizens United in a front-page
story about Sheldon Adelson, I assumed it was a more or less honest if negligent mistake.
(And I still don’t blame columnists for misconceptions about a complicated case that are
gleaned from news stories and apparently shared by their editors.) But mistakes about Citizens
United are beginning to look more like propaganda, because even after being alerted to
its misstatements, the Times has continued to repeat them. First Amendment lawyer Floyd
Abrams wrote to the editors pointing out mischaracterizations of Citizens United in two
news stories, but instead of publishing corrections, the Times published Abrams’ letter on
the editorial page, effectively framing a factual error as a difference of opinion…
As these examples suggest, …campaign-finance reforms dating back decades have produced
an overcomplicated, overreaching web of laws and regulations that are easily abused,
misunderstood, or intentionally obfuscated. The complexities of campaign finance law (and
tax-code provisions governing independent groups) also create incentives to oversimplify
the problems caused by the campaign-finance regime by naming Citizens United as the root
of all evils. This helps advance what appears to be a simple solution—repeal Citizens United
with a “free speech for people” constitutional amendment declaring that corporations aren’t
people. Putting aside the dangers of this approach, it wouldn’t solve the problem of super
PACs: The billionaires funding them may lack personal appeal but they are, after all, people,
whose expenditures were not at issue in Citizens United. When the press promotes false
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understandings of Citizens United and the problems of campaign finance, it “paves the way”
for false solutions.
It’s worth noting that the Times is not alone among proponents of reform in scapegoating
Citizens United (although it seems to have taken the lead.) The New York Times, the
Washington Post, and MSNBC regularly and routinely misstate the meaning and impact
of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision on campaign finance rules,” Steve Brill
recently observed, citing a post by Dan Abrams. Brill recommends confronting reporters
and commentators with their frequent misstatements. Former ACLU Executive Director
Ira Glasser has gamely tried engaging New York Times Public Editor Arthur Brisbane in an
effort to stop misleading readers…Are you confused yet? What does the Times believe or
want you to believe about Citizens United? Whatever.
11.4 “The Citizens United Catastrophe”
Dionne, E. J., Jr. “The Citizens United Catastrophe.” The Washington Post. February
5, 2012.
11.5 Experts Assess Impact of Citizens United: HLS
Professor Suggests Constitutional Amendment
Stating Corporations Are Not People
Greenfield, Jill. “Experts Assess Impact of Citizens United.” Harvard Gazette.
February 3, 2012.
Few recent Supreme Court cases have received as much attention—and drawn as
much ire—as Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. In a 5–4 decision, the court
ruled that the First Amendment prohibits government from placing limits on independent
spending for political purposes by corporations and unions. To proponents of campaign
finance reform, Citizens United had the detrimental effect of inundating an already-broken
campaign finance system with corporate influence. At an event sponsored by the Harvard
Law School (HLS) American Constitution Society on Tuesday, HLS Professor Lawrence
Lessig, author of Republic Lost, and Jeff Clements, author of Corporations Are Not People,
reviewed the impact that Citizens United has had on the political process.
Clements said that the court’s decision exacerbates two problems that the American
political and electoral system had already been facing—the large amount of campaign
spending and the growing influence of corporate power on the political process. Clements
said that both problems need to be fixed in order to restore democracy but that, rather than
addressing these problems, the Citizens United decision instead requires that the American
people fundamentally reframe their notion of corporations.
“We need to look at what Citizens United really asks us to do, which is to accept a lot.
The court asks us to pretend that corporations are not massive creations of state, federal,
and foreign laws. It asks us to pretend that they’re just like people, that they have voices, and
that we’re not allowed to make separate rules for them,” he said.
Although some legal observers regard the decision as simply a bad day on the court,
Clements said that Citizens United actually represents the culmination of a steady creation
of a corporate rights doctrine that is radical in terms of American jurisprudence. He pro-
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vided a history of the idea of corporate personhood and corporate speech, which began
only in the 1970s under Chief Justice William Rehnquist. Lessig added that the system
that has resulted is one in which elected officials must spend 30 to 50 percent of their time
fundraising, and thus make decisions based not on what is best for their constituents, but
on what their super PACs and other major donors want to see.
“We have a corrupt government, yet one that is perfectly legal,” said Lessig. “We’ve
allowed a government to evolve in which Congress isn’t dependent on people alone, but is
instead increasingly dependent on its funders. As you bend to the green, that corrupts the
As a result, he said, members of Congress develop a sixth sense as to what will raise
money, which has led them to bend government away from what the people want government
to do and toward what their funders want government to do. To fix the problem,
we need to produce a system where the funders and the people are one and the same. The
solution, Lessig said, is a multipronged approach that includes a constitutional amendment
explicitly stating that corporations are not people, as well as a movement to publicly fund
elections and provide Congress with the power to limit independent expenditures.
Synthesis Questions
1. Do corporations have too much influence on American politics? Support your
arguments with examples of excessive influence or lack of excessive influence.
2. Why do so many people find it repugnant to treat corporations as “persons”? Is this
disfavor justifiable?
1. “Remarks by the President in State of the Union Address,”, January
27, 2010, accessed December 3, 2014,
2. “Political Party Spending at Elections,” The Electoral Commission, accessed October
25, 2013,
3. Anna M. Paperny, “Election Costs Have Skyrocketed in Past Decade, The
Globe and Mail, August 23, 2012,
4. Jefferson, Thomas. The Jeffersonian Cyclopedia. Funk and Wagnalls Company: New York and
London. Jan. 1, 1900.
5. Nichols, John. “Feingold Fears ‘Lawless’ Court Ruling on Corporate Campaigning.”
The Nation. Jan. 12, 2010.
6. Roosevelt, Theodore. “Fifth Annual Message.” The American Presidency Project. Dec. 5, 1905.
7. “The FEC and the Federal Campaign Finance Law,” Federal Election Commission, last updated
January 2013,
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8. Victor W. Geraci, “Campaign Finance Reform Historical Timeline,” Connecticut Network,
accessed October 25, 2013,
9. Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce, 494 U.S. 652 (1990). U.S. Supreme Court. March
27, 1990.
10. Reity O’Brien, “Court Opened Door to $933 Million in New Election Spending,” The
Center for Public Integrity, January 20, 2013,
11. Lee Drutman, “The Political One Percent of the One Percent,” Sunlight Foundation,
December 13, 2011,
12. Elena Kagan, “Citizens United, Appellant v. Federal Election Commission: Supplemental Brief for
the Appellee,” The Supreme Court of the United States, no. 08-205, July 2009, http://www.justice.
13. “Citizens United, Appellant v. Federal Election Commission, The Oyez Project at IIT
Chicago-Kent College of Law, last updated August 25, 2014,
14. Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, 558 U.S. 310 (2010).
15. Mike Sacks, “Citizens United Foes John McCain, Sheldon Whitehouse Take Argument to
Supreme Court,” Huffington Post, May 18, 2012,
16. “Corporation.” Chambers Concise Dictionary. p. 267. Allied Chambers Publishers Ltd.: New
Delhi. 2004.
17. “Timeline of Personhood Rights and Powers,”, accessed October 25, 2013,
18. “Timeline of Personhood Rights and Powers.”
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Chapter 12
Animal Rights and CSR
Source: David Shankbone (CC-BY 2.0, 2002)
Figure 12.1 PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) has become known for its
creative and sometimes controversial publicity campaigns against mistreatment of animals (in
this case, chickens)
Donna Karan: “Bunny Butcher”
In 2010, the animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)
garnered media attention by protesting the Donna Karan fashion company’s use of rabbit
fur. Karan’s company (DKNY, a fashion subsidiary of Moët Hennessy) had previously been
the focus of criticism from PETA. Several years earlier, PETA had tried to meet with Donna
Karan to convince her to suspend the use of real fur in her company’s clothing. Many other
high-end fashion companies, such as Tommy Hilfiger, Stella McCartney, Ralph Lauren,
Calvin Klein, and others had joined PETA’s ranks as PETA-approved fashion retailers,
endorsing fur-free practices. DKNY, however, did not consistently participate in a PETAapproved
production agenda. PETA claimed that, on repeated occasions in 2008 and 2009,
DKNY had promised PETA that they would remove fur from their fashion lines, but
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then DKNY had failed to follow through. As a result, the high-end fashion brand became
the target of a PETA-driven, viral campaign that harshly criticized the company’s use of
farmed fur and labeled Donna Karan herself as a “Bunny Butcher.”
DKNY used rabbit fur and skins in various items of clothing and accessories, from
the fur lining in hoods and boots to the leather on bags and shoes. PETA claimed the fur
and leather farmed for these purposes was obtained from factory farms operating under
inhumane conditions. According to PETA, the animals on Chinese fur farms are penned
in cages without fresh air, sanitation, water, or light, conditions that take a mental and
physical toll on the animals. When the animals are skinned, they are often improperly
anaesthetized. Accounts have surfaced of Chinese factories that simply beat the animals
over the head before beginning the skinning process. Allegedly, many animals are still alive
during the skinning process and are then thrown onto piles of carcasses. Another claim was
that cat and dog fur are often used to supplement the rabbit fur when factories have reason
to believe that the skins will not be properly inspected.
Making strategic use of social media, PETA timed its protest on DKNY’s Facebook
page for an important marketing period, so-called Cyber Monday. PETA posted the message
“DKNY: Bunny Butchers” among DKNY’s Facebook comments.1
The innovative use
of social media for protest purposes drew substantial media coverage. Despite the protest,
according to PETA, DKNY did not alter their fur usage practices. Consequently, PETA
maintained an ongoing Internet-based protest by creating the website DKBunnyButcher.
com. The website, which features links to supportive videos from fashion celebrities such as
Project Runway’s Tim Gunn, describes in gruesome details the practices of the fur-farming
industry in China. Many fur producing operations in the United States and Europe have
become less competitive in global markets due to high production costs and the tightening
of legislation on fur trapping and skinning. China has subsequently stepped in as the
world’s top fur exporter in the world, but not without allegations of inconsistent quality and
inhumane production methods.
This chapter will ask the question, what is the role of CSR in regard to animal rights?
Should fashion companies only source products from humane farms, or should they even
stop using animal products at all? While many consumers may feel sympathy for a tortured
rabbit, the fact remains that the majority of Americans consume meat products such as beef
and pork. Leather from cows remains the preferred material for shoes, belts, and handbags.
Is it hypocritical to stand up for the rights of cute animals like bunnies, dogs, baby seals,
and dolphins, all while preparing to eat a bacon burger? In addition to fashion, many other
industries must contend with the issue of animal rights. Businesses that are dependent on
medical and scientific research, such as pharmaceutical and cosmetics companies, have been
forced to implement policies and reviews to determine whether the laboratory animals they
use for testing purposes are treated humanely.
Clearly, the issue of animal rights is a broad one that cannot be confined to a discussion
of Chinese fur factories. Many other countries, including the United States, have been accused
of lax regulation of factory farming of animal products. According to Factory Farm
Map, there are four factory-farmed chickens for every single American.2
US commercial
livestock and poultry operations produce three times more waste a year than that produced
by the entire human population.3
The environmental toll of such methods is worrisome,
but so are the potential health consequences of consuming factory farmed meat. Consumer
advocates have suggested that the meat produced on factory farms is often tainted with
antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Infection caused by such bacteria cannot be treated by current
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medicines and thus may pose a looming threat to both animals and humans.4
before exploring the ethical dilemmas that may be faced by a specific company in choosing
how to make use of animal products, let us examine the ethical framework of the animal
rights movement.
The Development of Animal Ethics and
The awakening of a consciousness of animal rights began as early as the seventeenth
century. Diane Beers, an animal rights activist and historian, cites examples of animal rights
principles held by the first Puritan immigrants to America.5
Puritan theology accorded
sanctity to the realm of animals, but the people felt that the fair treatment of animals was
the sole responsibility of their owners. Anyone who did not own a particular animal did
not have a right to mistreat it. Further, the Puritans believed that owners of animals had no
right to abuse their investment, as this was considered un-Christian and immoral. These
principles of animal rights were based on a moral hierarchy that held humans to be more
deserving of rights and privileges than animals. The privileges of humanity came, in the
Puritan view, from a spiritual, emotional, and intellectual superiority. The Puritans’ initial
attempt to curb animal abuse and/or provide animal rights is considered by Beers a great
step forward, though limited by its conception of humans as special creatures in the eyes
of God.
Animal rights historians often point to the mid-eighteenth century British philosopher
Jeremy Bentham as the founding ethicist of the modern animal rights movement.
Bentham, known for the utilitarian philosophy that would later become associated with his
protégé John Stuart Mill, believed that ethical decisions should be based on what allows
the most good or happiness (and least suffering) to the largest number of people. Bentham’s
utilitarianism assumed that all human individuals are equal from a moral point of view. In
fact, Bentham went further and posited that all living creatures were equal in terms of this
principle. This egalitarian principle was influential in the struggles for abolition of slavery
and universal suffrage, but also served as a cornerstone of modern conceptions of animal
In his Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation, Bentham stated: “The day
may come, when the rest of the animal creation may acquire those rights which never
could have been withholden from them but by the hand of tyranny…. The question is not,
Can they reason? nor, Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?”6
Bentham’s approach led many
citizens to consider for the first time the ethical imperative to limit the suffering of animals.
Bentham’s thinking prompted the creation of Britain’s Society for Prevention of Animal
Cruelty (SPCA, later the Royal SPCA, or RSPCA), and the adoption of the first laws
curbing animal mistreatment in England throughout the 1830s–1850s.
The United States eventually followed the lead taken by England in animal rights, as
it had with the earlier abolitionist movements and suffrage movements. The first major
American animal rights group, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
(ASPCA), was created in 1866 by Henry Bergh.7
This nascent movement was further
strengthened by Charles Darwin’s publication of Origin of the Species and the resultant
acceptance of the theory of evolution. Darwin’s hypothesis that humans had evolved from
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primitive life forms gave credence to the notion that humans were not essentially superior
to other members of the natural world. The impact of Darwinian theory on philosophy and
theology challenged the traditionally held view of a hierarchy among species, according to
which humans were superior to other animals. The Darwinian revolution paved the way for
a more open-ended approach to rights (for humans and animals alike).
Throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, activist groups in the United
Kingdom and United States promoted the fair treatment of domesticated animals. This
activism reflected a broader social trend toward recognition of the need for fair treatment
across social and biological categories, and in particular recognized the rights of laborers,
women, and children. Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle (1906), a novel describing the violent and
unclean practices of the Chicago meat industry, was notably influential in this regard. The
Jungle drew public attention to labor abuses in the meat industry, and also to the horrors of
the slaughterhouse floor.
Animal Liberation: The Contribution of
Peter Singer
The contemporary animal rights movement received an important impetus from the
publication in 1975 of a book entitled Animal Liberation by Australian philosopher Peter
Singer. Singer extended Bentham’s utilitarian ethics to include animals, arguing that just
because animals cannot think on the same level as humans does not mean they cannot
suffer. He pointed out that in the case of mentally handicapped people, as with small infants,
the lack of cognitive capacity does not imply that they do not deserve the same caring
treatment as other humans. The fact that animals react to pain and torture with writhing
or whining suggests that they experience suffering in much the same way that humans do.
The suffering communicated by animals does not have to be expressed linguistically to be
understood. Singer applied the term speciesism, which had been coined by Richard Ryder, to
the unjustifiable discrimination against animals by humans, reminiscent of racism, sexism,
and other forms of intolerance.
Singer argued that speciesism, like racism and sexism, is based on an indefensible
and biased preference for one’s own kind. Speciesism is expressed in the assumption that
animals can be exploited to provide benefits to humans without regard to the suffering or
well-being of animals. In Singer’s view, overcoming speciesism will require the progressive
elimination of cruelty in animal experimentation, the eradication of factory farming practices,
and the end of consumption of meat as a consumer good. While Singer acknowledges
that it is theoretically possible to raise animals humanely, he argues that such farming is
extremely uncommon and that it is better simply to move to a vegetarian diet. Singer’s
radical argument has been labeled the “rights/abolitionist” doctrine of animal ethics.8
Rights/abolitionists believe that humans have no moral right to slaughter, domesticate,
or use animals for pleasure or consumption in any way. This implies that animals should
be left in a state of nature and allowed to lead lives free of impact from human society. A
different and more moderate faction of animal ethicists are the so-called welfarists, who
seek to recognize and protect animal welfare within the current system of consumption.
Welfarists believe that animals may ethically be used for human benefit, so long as they are
treated humanely and fairly. The welfarist perspective implicitly assumes that human rights
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and interests are entitled to some sort of intrinsic superiority over the rights and interests
of animals.
The most important American activist group that has adopted a rights/abolitionist
perspective is People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), a nonprofit founded
in 1980 with the goal of preventing animals from being abused and tortured in any way,
whether via factory farming, the fashion industry, labs and scientific research, or the entertainment
PETA has become known for its highly publicized and sometimes
aggressive actions and campaigns. The organization has achieved recognition as the primary
face of the animal rights movement today and, as such, has taken on the responsibility of
publicly castigating those businesses that fail to exercise humane treatment of animals.
Factory Farming
As of 2007, approximately 56 billion animals were being slaughtered annually worldwide
for human consumption.10 Most of these were harvested in factory farm settings.
These numbers do not take into account the vast number of fish and other sea creatures
that are caught for industrial use or consumption as food.11 United States growers annually
slaughter some 9 billion chickens, 99 percent of which are raised in factory-farm conditions.
For the chickens, factory-farm conditions include preventative beak clipping (to quell
cannibalism in tight quarters), unsanitary and overcrowded cages, injections of antibiotics
and hormones to augment and accelerate weight gain, and little or no lighting.12 Due to the
high demand for chicken and eggs as consumer goods, the production of broiler chickens
and laying chickens is a high-volume endeavor. Worldwide, 31 billion chickens are slaughtered
annually,13 most of them under conditions similar to those found in the US farms.
As of 2011, 5.8 million pigs were bred for slaughter in the United States.14 The factory
farming of pigs requires a life of solitary confinement for each mother sow, who spends
most of her life in a gestation cage that prevents movement and waste removal, leading
to widespread respiratory diseases. Sows are moved to a farrowing cage after the birth of
their litters, where they cannot turn around or lie down while their young feed off of them.
The piglets are taken from the mother sow’s farrowing cage after about 3 weeks of initial
feeding, and are then moved to group pens. There, they are fed until they reach market
weight (a period of roughly 6 months), at which time they are brought to slaughter. Following
the production of 2 to 3 litters, the mother sow is also taken to slaughter, usually
about a year after she is brought to the factory farm.15
Cattle production for beef, the most expensive of the meat-producing industries, is
somewhat more humane, despite the large numbers involved (upwards of 34.2 million cows
slaughtered for meat in 2010 alone).16 Cattle raised for beef are allowed to roam somewhat
freely in open spaces. They are still penned in and fed hormones, and put on a rigorous diet
to gain weight. US dairy-producing cows, numbering 9.3 million in 2008, with roughly 2.3
million of these being sent to slaughter,17 share a fate similar to that of pigs and chickens.
They are kept in tightly penned cages, fed hormones, and milked by machine until they are
no longer viable. Additionally, both modes of cattle production can cause serious environmental
harm to the areas surrounding the farm. The enormous production of manure can
contaminate groundwater and render surrounding areas unlivable.
Wool, fur, leather, angora, silk, feathers, and other materials are all harvested from
various types of animals, and are prominent resources in the fashion industry.18 Although
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many people can understand the ethical issues inherent in the factory farming of meat for
consumption, most consumers do not feel similar concerns for the materials used to make
clothing, especially when, as in the case of wool, silk, or feathers, it does not seem necessary
to slaughter the animal to obtain the material. However, such materials are also developed
and sourced under factory farming conditions. As reported by PETA, wool farmers routinely
practice mulesing,
19 which involves shearing sheep so close to the skin that the shears
cut or remove chunks of hide and flesh in the process. Cows and all other kinds of animals
are utilized for their leather. A high percentage of the leather apparel items sold in the
United States are manufactured from leather that was harvested abroad. China, the world’s
leading leather exporter, has been criticized for poor supervision of factory farms, where
animals are not properly anaesthetized before they are skinned.
Animal Consumption in Research and
Approximately 100 million animals a year are killed as a result of cosmetic, medical, and
scientific experimentation in the United States alone.20 Though laboratory animals are generally
euthanized following the completion of the experiment or trial, it is not uncommon
for many to die in the testing process. These tests include skin and eye irritation tests,
repeated force feeding, “lethal dose” injection tests, vivisection, bone-breaking, paralyzing,
and infection with disease.21 Though ultimately these tests are meant to benefit mankind,
even proponents of animal testing for scientific benefits admit that experiments are only
beneficial in some cases. According to, “92 percent of experimental
drugs that are safe and effective in animals fail in human clinical trials because they are too
dangerous or don’t work.”22 The large margin of error in the trials and experimentations
suggests that many laboratory animals experience great suffering for relatively little benefit
to humans.
Proposed Solutions: Vegetarianism,
Ecofarming, and Cruelty-Free Production
Animal activist groups like PETA and the Humane Society of the United States have
been successful in promoting laws and codes of best practices to curb the incidence of factory
farming and laboratory experimentation abuse. However, it is generally accepted that
the most powerful long-term solution would be market based, in which consumers who are
dissatisfied with factory farming methods turn to alternative sources of food, cosmetics, and
clothing. For this reason, one of PETA’s principal goals is to raise awareness of the abuses
that occur in factory farming, so that consumers will be motivated to seek alternatives. Let
us consider some of the leading alternatives.
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Vegetarian/Vegan Diets
Given that the principal commercial product of factory farms consists of food for
human consumption, it is often argued that consumers who are concerned about animal
rights should adopt a vegetarian or vegan diet. A vegetarian diet is one that does not contain
any meat or fish products, while a vegan diet is free of all animal products, including milk,
eggs, and cheese. A 2012 Gallup Poll found that 5% of Americans identify as vegetarian
and 2% as vegan.23 This appeared to indicate a broad and continuing social trend, as only
1% of Americans had identified as vegetarian in 1971 and only 3% in 2009.24 When asked
why they are vegetarians, about half of survey respondents cite health reasons, and roughly
the same percentage also cites animal welfare concerns. India is generally considered to
be the country with the highest percentage of vegetarians, with various studies putting
the percentage of Indian vegetarians at 20 to 40 percent of the population; it also appears
that Indians who do eat meat do so infrequently compared to citizens of other countries.
In Europe, the highest percentage of vegetarians is found in Italy, at 10 percent, while in
France the percentage is only 1.5 percent. It appears that women tend to adopt vegetarianism
more often than men, with studies in the United States, the United Kingdom and
Israel reporting that 60 percent or more of vegetarians were female.
Vegetarian/Vegan Clothing
Given that a relatively small percentage of Americans identifies as vegetarian, and that
roughly half of these cite health concerns as their primary motivation, it should not be
surprising that vegetarian or vegan clothing remains a marginal, niche category. Despite
this, there is some evidence that the category is growing. For example, fashion designer
Stella McCartney has developed a thriving, global brand that produces clothing, shoes, and
handbags without any use of leather or fur. However, she does use wool and silk products.
MooShoes, a New York retailer, markets a full line of vegan clothing, including shoes,
shirts, bags, wallets and belts; these products are sourced from a number of independent
producers, including such recognized brand names as Brooks and Doc Martens.
Cruelty-Free Products
Cruelty-free products are those that are not tested on animals and do not include
animal ingredients. Methods of cruelty-free production rely on alternative testing methods,
such as computer-based simulations. Another method is to develop new products only
from ingredients referenced in a large European database of 20,000 compounds that have
already been tested as safe. Another method is to test products on reconstructed human
skin samples made from donated skin from cosmetic surgeries. Leading cruelty-free cosmetics
brands include Aveda, M.A.C., Bobbi Brown, and Urban Decay.
Humane Farming and Meat Consumption
Given that relatively few consumers are vegetarian or vegan, while many others who
are sensitive to animal rights nonetheless find it difficult to give up the consumption of
meat, the alternative of humane farming is significant. Humane farming refers to animal
husbandry that respects codes of conduct so that animals are raised and slaughtered in
a way to minimize suffering. For example, the popular Whole Foods supermarket chain
has adopted the Animal Welfare Rating Standards developed by the Global Animal
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Partnership in order to source meat products from humane producers. According to these
standards, animals must be given space to move around, have access to outdoor areas, must
be permitted natural behavior such as wallowing for pigs or pecking for chickens, and must
spend their entire lives on a single farm. Another humane farming group, Humane Farm
Animal Care, provides a certification to farmers and producers who comply with similar
standards, and who abide by the American Meat Institute Standards for slaughtering. Such
standards provide, for example, that animals must be stunned in a way that eliminates pain
prior to slaughtering.
Topic for Debate: Fashion and Animal
This chapter’s debate is based on a difficult decision to be made by EcoFash, Inc., a
rapidly growing fictional clothing company based in Brooklyn, New York.
EcoFash began in 1998 as a line of organic cotton T-shirts featuring slogans with
progressive statements, and has grown to include jeans, backpacks, sweatshirts, and baseball
caps. All of the materials used are organic natural fabrics or recycled polyester. The company
has thirty-two employees and is billing over $20 million annually in sales. Recently, an
infusion of capital from a new investor has permitted the company to begin planning an
expansion of its product line to include shoes, jackets, and handbags.
Brenda Cordaro, the founder and principal owner of the company, is a confirmed
vegetarian (and supporter of animal rights organizations like PETA) and would like to
consider making the new lines vegan—meaning, free of leather, fur, wool, or silk materials.
However, she has encountered vigorous opposition from her chief designer, Tessa Novak,
who is horrified at the thought of having to use fake leather and imitation-silk polyester,
which she finds quite ugly. Tessa’s objection to a vegan approach has received strong support
from the company’s financial director, who believes the company will not be able to
maximize profits if it only tries to attract customers who are willing to accept synthetic
products in place of leather and wool.
On the other hand, Brenda is supported by the company director of public relations
and marketing, who believes that a vegan approach will allow the company to distinguish
itself from other “hipster” brands.
Brenda therefore decides to request her staff to prepare the strongest arguments on
both sides for a presentation to her board of directors and the new investors.
You have been asked to develop the strongest reasons for supporting one of the following
two possible responses:
EcoFash, Inc., should adopt a vegan-only policy.
Possible Arguments
• The vegan option is in keeping with the company’s ethical founding principles.
• It would allow the company to support animal rights.
• It would allow the company to distinguish itself from competitors.
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EcoFash, Inc., should not adopt a vegan-only policy
Possible Arguments
• A vegan option would restrict design creativity.
• A vegan option would lead to unattractive or expensive products.
• A vegan option would reduce the size of the potential market for the brand in the
12.1. Facts on Fur Farming
“Responsible Trade.” WeAreFur, in association with the International Fur Federation.
Accessed October 12, 2013.
Animal Welfare Is at the Heart of Fur Farming
Animals are farmed for many reasons: for meat, dairy, leather, wool, sheepskin, cashmere,
silk, and fur. It is the responsibility of those who farm animals to ensure that the
animals in their care are treated humanely. This responsibility is taken very seriously by fur
Eighty-five percent of fur sold internationally is farmed. Fur animals have been selectively
bred for over 100 years and are not the same as their wild counterparts. Not only are
there laws, regulations, and industry codes of practice and farm certification programmes
that govern animal welfare on fur farms, but an animal’s health shows in its fur first—so
it is in everyone’s interest to look after animals well…. Animal welfare is at the heart of
fur farming and in every jurisdiction there are laws or regulations governing animal welfare.
Farmers themselves encourage governments to implement animal welfare regulations
which are based on scientific research and in the major fur farming countries farmers work
with veterinary scientists to create voluntary standards and certification programmes—for
example the Welfur programme in the EU….
Fur farming is an important part of local agricultural economies. Fur farms are particularly
suited for remote northern climates where arable land is at a premium and a great
many fur farms support families and communities in rural areas where the climate and
environment make it difficult to farm many species….
Animal Welfare
…Animals have always provided us with food and clothing—from the earliest arrival
of Homo sapiens we have hunted animals. The earliest settlements were made possible
through farming of livestock and crops, and various animal species have been farmed over
thousands of generations….
In modern times, numerous life-saving medical advances have been made possible only
through being able to test procedures and drugs on animals. Many people derive a huge
amount of comfort and affection from keeping pets….
A Note on Animal Rights:
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Animal rights supporters believe that animals have the same legal and moral rights
as human beings and that therefore humans cannot keep, use or manage animals, for any
purpose, including medical research, farming/farmed animals, meat, milk and eggs (including
organic), hunting and fishing, leather and fur (including snakeskin, crocodile, etc.),
wool, cashmere, pashmina, angora, silk, zoos/circuses/animal shelters/pets and horse-drawn
carriages/ploughs, etc….
The IFTF and its members believe that people have a democratic right to make their
own decisions about what to do for a legitimate living, what to eat, and what to wear; people
should not have to live in a world where a major lifestyle choice is removed altogether.
Farming Regulations
Fur farming is well regulated and operates within the highest standards of care.
In the European Union, Council Directive 98/58 sets down rules covering the welfare
of all farmed animals, including fur-farmed animals. Directive 93/119 deals with the
slaughter and killing of fur and other farmed animals. Additionally, the Council of Europe
adopted a Recommendation, revised in 1999, designed to ensure the health and welfare of
farmed fur animals….
In North America, fur farmers also follow strict Codes of Practice and conform to
provincial, state, or national animal welfare and other regulations. Regular veterinary
checks are carried out in accordance with industry guidelines, provincial, state, or national
Conditions on farms are thoroughly checked and advice on improvements given when
required. Many farm associations also have voluntary certification programmes in place.
Hunters and Trappers
Wild fur-bearing animals have been always been hunted or trapped by man. The ability
to hunt animals as well as forage for food is a defining characteristic of Homo sapiens.
Using fur from hunted animals as protection from the elements is an equally ancient characteristic.
Man’s earliest tools were created for hunting and skinning animals.
Today, wild fur-bearing animals are hunted or trapped for a variety of reasons including
population management, pest control, and the protection of natural habitats, in addition
for food and fur. The trade in wild fur is a good example of the “sustainable use” principle
of conservation—fundamental to the work of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF),
International Union for Conservation and Nature (IUCN), and the United Nations Environment
Programme. The International Fur Trade Federation (IFTF) and the Fur Institute
of Canada are voting members of the IUCN….
…The sale of this precious commodity provides an important source of income for
communities living in remote and economically marginal areas and for indigenous peoples
such as the Cree community of North America, Inuit of Canada and Greenland, or the
Sami of Northern Finland and Russia. Hunting and trapping for these communities is a
way of life and continuing to trade fur is part of their rich heritage.
…No endangered species are used in the wild fur trade; the fur trade was a very early
supporter of the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES)
and promotes the implementation of this vital trade agreement by governments.
…The fur trade comprises hunting communities and many small farms and family
businesses, craftsmen and women, manufacturers, dressing companies, co-operatively
owned or publicly floated auction houses, designers, and retailers. It is a small but global
industry. Worldwide retail turnover in 2008 was just over US $13 billion.
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The fur trade provides jobs and cash income in remote, hard to farm areas such as
the deserts of Namibia, the ice floes and fjords of the Arctic Circle, the great wilderness
of North America as well as being ideal for the small, family run farming economies of
Eastern Europe and the Baltic States….
12.2. Inside the Fur Industry: Factory Farms
“Inside the Fur Industry: Factory Farms.” PETA. Accessed October 23, 2013. http://
12.3. Handbag Line Freedom of Animals Serves Up
a Cruelty-Free Alternative to Céline
Hoff, Victoria. “Handbag Line Freedom of Animals Serves Up a Cruelty-Free Alternative
to Céline.” Elle. October 8, 2013.
Creating fashion that is kind to the environment is no easy feat. Labels like Stella McCartney
and Matt & Nat have already paved the way for vegan accessories, and Freedom
of Animals follows suit, adding to the cruelty-free conversation with a line of luxury bags.
The label was founded in 2012 by stylist Morgan Bogle and her photographer boyfriend
Scott MacDonough—and trust us, these well-crafted carriers could easily pass for highquality
leather. The couple’s journey to green fashion design began just a year and a half ago.
“We got to the point where we felt that all our volunteering with animals—taking dogs in
and working at wildlife sanctuaries—wasn’t enough,” Bogle told us. As they brainstormed
ways to be more vocal about their passion, they realized fashion was a great platform—and
it didn’t hurt that their day jobs gave them a leg up in understanding the industry.
Citing McCartney, Céline, and The Row as design inspiration, the duo decided to
tackle accessories, since animal skin is generally the go-to material for bags and shoes. But
they upped the ante even more when they agreed to also stand by a one hundred percent
sustainable MO. Not only is the faux-leather composed of recycled plastic and organic
cotton, the accessories are colored with vegetable-based dyes. Still, it’s clear that the couple
remains as devoted to style as they do to ethics—take an exclusive look at a backpack from
the label’s upcoming resort collection, below, and we think you’ll agree.
Bogle told us more about the brand’s mission, her favorite eco-chic boutiques, and what
it’s like for her and MacDonough to count Anne Hathaway, Kerry Washington, and Sarah
Jessica Parker as brand fans.
Have you always had a soft spot for animals?
I was raised vegetarian and have always been super conscious of being ethical in every
part of my life, so the passion for cruelty-free came from a very early age.
Faux leather can look tacky or unrealistic. How do you manage to achieve such amazing
We spent a long time sourcing our materials and are so grateful to have found the most
luxurious fabrications around! This was an area that we could not compromise, and we have
been highly critical of the texture and touch of each element. Not only are they luxurious,
but they pass US durability testing to give them a long shelf life.
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Synthesis Questions
1. Does reading this chapter make you less likely to buy leather and fur products, or
not? Why or why not?
2. Does reading this chapter make you more likely to go vegetarian in your food
consumption (if you are not already), or not? Why or why not?
3. Do you feel that consumption of meat and use of leather and fur are “natural” and
therefore acceptable? Why or why not?
4. Does an “ethical” company owe any duty to animals, or are ethical duties only owed
to humans?
1. Paul Bigus and Michael Sider, “Bunny Butcher: PETA Protests Donna Karan New York,” Ivey
Publishing: London, Canada. October 7, 2011. p. 1.
2. “United States Facts,” Factory Farm Map, accessed October 24, 2013,
3. Ibid.
4. For more information on the contemporary perils of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in farmed
meat, see Richard Knox, “How Using Antibiotics in Animal Feed Creates Superbugs,” The Salt
(blog), NPR, February 12, 2012,
5. Diane Beers, “A Movement Takes Shape,” pp 19-38, For the Prevention of Cruelty: The History
and Legacy of Animal Rights Activism in the United States. Ohio University Press: 2006.
6. Bentham, Jeremy, An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation. p. 21. Library of
Economics and Liberty. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1907. Accessed Nov. 26 2014. http://www.
7. “About Us,” ASPCA, accessed October 11, 2013,
8. Based on criteria discussed in Gary L. Francione and Robert Garner, “The Abolition of Animal
Exploitation,” chap 1 in Animal Rights Debate: Abolition or Regulation? , 1–6. Columbia University
Press, 2010.
9. “About PETA,” PETA, accessed October 9, 2013,
10. “Meat Production Continues to Rise,” Worldwatch Institute, accessed October 14, 2013,
11. “Food,” AnimalEquality, accessed October 12, 2013,
12. Leah Garces, “Why We Haven’t Seen Inside a Broiler Chicken Factory Farm in a Decade,”
Food Safety News, January 24, 2013,
13. Ibid.
14. “Pork Production on Factory Farms,” Farm Sanctuary, accessed October 12, 2013, http://www.
15. Ibid.
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16. “Factory Farming,” Farm Sanctuary, accessed October 22, 2013,
17. Ibid.
18. Ashlee Piper, “Fall Into Cruelty Free Fashion,” Vegucated, October 10, 2012, http://www.
19. “The Wool Industry,” PETA, accessed October 1, 2013,
20. “Animal Experiments, Overview,” PETA, accessed October 1, 2013,
21. “11 Facts About Animal Testing,”, accessed October 2, 2013, https://www.
22. Ibid.
23. Newport, Frank. “In U.S., 5% Consider Themselves Vegetarians.” Gallup, July 26, 2012. http://
24. “The War on Meat: How Low-Meat and No-Meat Diets are Impacting Consumer Markets”.
Euromonitor International. August 26, 2011.
Appendix A|176
Appendix A
Nuclear Energy Is Our
Best Alternative for Clean
Affordable Energy
by Emily Campchero
[These sample student papers are provided only as examples of successful student research: they are
not meant to prescribe any standard paper format and the content of each paper represents purely the
author’s view.]
“Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to
attempt”. —William Shakespeare
Nuclear Energy Is Our Best Alternative for
Clean Affordable Energy
Though it may surprise many environmentalists, nuclear power is environmentally
friendly, or “green.” Society needs clean, cost-effective energy for a number of reasons:
global warming, economic development, pollution reduction, etc. There is a popular perception
that this means moving toward solar, wind, and other forms of renewable energy.
However, a more in-depth analysis reveals that those alternatives are not yet practical. For
the foreseeable future, nuclear must remain one of the top producers of energy in the United
States. In this paper, I will address several of the misconceptions that prevent people from
appreciating the benefits of nuclear energy in the context of our current economy.
Nuclear Power Is Safe
One of the biggest obstacles with moving toward nuclear power is that people are
afraid of it. Accidents and disasters scare people. News reports that sensationalize events,
rather than explaining them, heighten anxieties.
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In 1986, there was a nuclear accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in the
Ukraine. This was the result of a flawed reactor design that was operated with inadequately
trained personnel. It was a direct result of the Cold War isolation and the resulting lack of
any safety culture. This caused a steam explosion and fire. There were thirty deaths over three
months. No one offsite suffered from radiation exposure—all fatalities occurred with plant
operators and firemen—but there was a large increase in childhood thyroid cancers, which
is said to be attributed to the intake of radioactive iodine fallout. The Chernobyl accident is
different from any other nuclear power plant accident because there were radiation-related
fatalities. There were no signs of radiation exposure in the general public. The design of this
nuclear reactor was extremely poor; the combination of the hot fuel with the cooling water
led to fuel fragmentation along with rapid steam production and an increase in pressure,
thereby destroying the reactor. This caused an explosion. This accident caused the largest
uncontrolled radioactive release ever recorded for any civilian operation.
Three Mile Island
On March 28, 1979, the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant experienced a cooling
malfunction that caused part of the core to melt in the number two reactor. This destroyed
the reactor. Although some radioactive gas was released, there was not enough to cause
local residents to experience any dose above background levels. There were no injuries or
adverse health effects from the Three Mile Island accident. Despite no fatalities or injuries,
no new nuclear power plants have been built in the United States since 1979 because of
the problem at Three Mile Island. The Three Mile Island accident was the most serious in
US commercial nuclear power plant history; this is because it brought on huge changes in
the emergency response planning, nuclear operator training, human factors engineering,
radiation protection, and many other areas of nuclear power plant operations. This accident
also made the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission to tighten and heighten its
regulatory oversight. Also, it changed the standards that nuclear power plants must meet,
set by the Institute for Nuclear Power Operations. Training, operations, and event reporting
rules become extremely strict and essential. Overall, this accident had a massive effect on
enhancing the safety of nuclear plants.
More recently, the Fukushima disaster in Japan on March 3, 2011, has affected peoples’
views on nuclear energy. There was an offshore earthquake. In addition to the tremors, a
fifty-foot tsunami was created. The tsunami hit the Fukushima nuclear power plant (in addition
to other parts of Japan), disabling the power supply and the cooling of three reactors.
All three cores melted within three days. The power plant was not designed to withstand
that severe a tsunami, which caused severe problems at the power plant. After two weeks,
the reactors were stable. The other prominent issue with this accident was preventing the
release of radioactive materials. There have been no deaths or cases of radiation sickness.
There were two fatalities on the day of the tsunami, on site, and while tragic, it was due to
the tsunami, not the power plant; this represents few casualties compared to other energy
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Long-Term Health Effects
The other main question about nuclear power is: What about the long-term health
effects from radiation? The following is part of the conclusion from a report of a survey by
researchers at the US National Cancer Institute.
If conventional estimates of the cancer risks attributable to radiation are accepted,
exposures from the monitored emissions from nuclear facilities in the United States,
typically less than 3 millirem per year, to the maximally exposed individual, were too
small to result in detectable harm. Such levels are, in fact, much smaller than the
population exposures from natural background radiation, which amount to about 100
millirem per year, excluding lung doses from radon ( Jablon, Hrubec, and Boice 1991).
When looking at the highest and worst possible levels of radiation people could
receive in Fukushima, 22 rem, 194 excess cancers would be created out of the 22,000
people. Clearly this is not a good thing, but you also need to remember that the 22 rem
was the highest dose recorded before evacuation; and the largest amount of radiation
came from iodine, which has a half-life of eight days (Muller 2012).
Nuclear Waste Disposal
Nuclear fuel, when it is depleted, must be replaced with new uranium. This occurs
during a refueling outage. The depleted fuel rods still produce decay heat. The decay heat
is removed by storing the fuel rods in cooling pools. When the residual decay heat is low
enough, the fuel rods can be removed from the cooling pools and packaged for long-term
storage. This long-term storage isolates the fuel rods from people and the environment,
until the fuel decays and no longer poses a radiation hazard.
Nuclear waste disposal is already included in the cost of nuclear energy.
America’s Fear of Nuclear Energy
For years, American citizens have been so afraid of nuclear power. When America
first discovered the possibilities, people were thrilled, until they began to link it with the
A- bomb, and only with the A-bomb. For over fifty years, people have let its destructiveness
eclipse its power for good. They have associated nuclear power with deaths of innocent
people and the power to wipe out entire cities. What they do not realize is that nuclear
energy can power an entire city and save the lives of innocent people. We have learned from
the past, made leaps and bounds in our technology, and have an improved and extraordinary
understanding of how nuclear power works. Now it is time for everyone in the United
States of America to understand, believe, and support that.
Most films depict nuclear energy as a dangerous and volatile energy source. One of
the most popular films this year, The Dark Knight Rises was no exception. The entire story
revolved around a nuclear source of energy that could power the entire city of Gotham.
The only problem was that, if this power were to get in the wrong hands, it would become
a giant nuclear bomb, thereby destroying the city of Gotham. Almost annually, a film
comes out about a fictional nuclear apocalypse. With all of this negative publicity, why
would anyone support nuclear energy? For years, pop culture has been exploiting the idea
of nuclear power and brainwashing people to be terrified of something they know nothing
about. One of the main films that started this crisis was The China Syndrome, which came
out in March 1979, only twelve days before the nuclear accident on Three Mile Island. The
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film’s distortion of nuclear power coupled with the Three Mile Island accident added to the
hysteria about potential nuclear accidents. We need to create a new image in this country’s
mind about how advantageous nuclear power can really be for us. If the media and films
portrayed nuclear power in a realistic way, people would be educated about this energy
source and begin to look at nuclear power as a solution to our energy crisis. We need to
stop letting fictional popular media influence our opinions on nuclear power. It is time for
America to know the truth.
Energy Sources
Electricity is an integral part of our daily lives. (It is taken for granted, until a hurricane
disrupts it for a lengthy period.) Normally, various power plants generate electricity, which
is transmitted and distributed to users, e.g., homes, schools, businesses, and factories. This
paper discusses the problem of selecting the preferred energy source for growth in electrical
So with a plethora of choices, how do we know which one is the best? Which will save
us the most money? Which will save the earth? These are all serious questions that need to
be answered when we are looking toward the future.
Source: U.S. EIA, year 2005 data.
Figure 1. The main sources of energy for generating electricity.
Hydroelectric Power
Hydro may be considered the first renewable energy source. That is why the prime
hydropower sites have already been developed. Hydroelectric power, using the potential
energy of rivers, now supplies 17.5 percent of the world’s electricity (99 percent in Norway,
57 percent in Canada, 55 percent in Switzerland, 40 percent in Sweden, and 7 percent in the
United States). It is not a major option for the future in developed countries, because most
potential major sites in these countries are either being exploited already or are unavailable
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for other reasons such as environmental considerations. Growth to 2030 is expected mostly
in China and Latin America (“Hydroelectric Power” 2005).
Solar Power and Wind Power
Wind and solar are relatively new renewable energy sources.
Solar power usually is considered to be direct generation of electricity from sunlight.
(Solar power is also used for heating, but that is not part of this discussion.)
Photovoltaic (PV) cells are the building blocks of all PV systems because they are the
devices that convert sunlight to electricity. Commonly known as solar cells, individual PV
cells are electricity-producing devices made of semiconductor materials. PV cells come in
many sizes and shapes, from smaller than a postage stamp to several inches across. They are
often connected together to form PV modules that may be up to several feet long and a few
feet wide. Modules, in turn, can be combined and connected to form PV arrays of different
sizes and power output. When light shines on a PV cell, it may be reflected, absorbed, or
pass right through. But only the absorbed light generates electricity.
Wind energy technologies use the energy in wind for generating electricity. Most wind
energy technologies can be used as stand-alone applications, connected to a utility power
grid, or even combined with a photovoltaic system. For utility-scale sources of wind energy,
a large number of turbines are usually built close together to form a wind farm that provides
grid power (“Renewable Energy Technology Basics” 2012).
Both solar and wind energy are considered sustainable, meaning that they provide electricity
without harming the environment. They are possible sources of providing electrical
energy growth.
Although there are many positive aspects of solar and wind energy, there are also many
disadvantages that need to be considered.
Subsidies and Cost
One disadvantage of solar power and wind power is their high cost. Even though there
is no charge for sunshine or wind, neither solar nor wind energy is cost competitive. Some
argue that these are new technologies that require investments, or subsidies, to foster their
development. What people do not realize is that even by subsidizing these energy sources,
they are still not cost competitive. The government is using taxpayer’s money to promote an
energy source that is a financial failure. The United States is not the only country having to
face the facts that these subsides do not make solar and wind energy cost competitive, as
countries like Germany and China are learning this as well.
China dominates the solar panel market. The cost of generating solar power has dramatically
decreased over the past few years, but it is still triple the price of coal- generated
power in China. Even dominating the solar panel market does not compensate for an
unprofitable power panel. The solar companies are losing money and going out of business.
No matter how you spin it, there is no way to make alternative energy that is triple the cost
a practical choice.
Germany, the country in the European Union with the most productive economy, has
been switching from nuclear power to solar and wind energy; it has been far from successful.
The German government, like others, has also been heavily subsidizing solar and
wind energy. The subsidies do not compensate for the sunshine average in Germany being
less than that in Chicago. Energy costs now represent the biggest liability for Germany as
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a place to do business, especially in light of the marked increase in the number of blackouts
and voltage fluctuations in the grid.
Green for Whom?
Solar and wind energy are considered to be extremely beneficial to people and the
environment. That may not be a universal viewpoint. The Mexican government continues
to install wind farms in the narrow waist of Mexico, known as the Isthmus of Tehuantepec,
where winds from the Pacific meet winds from the Gulf of Mexico. The people who live
there do not always agree that the wind farms are either an economic benefit or an environmental
benefit. The indigenous people are not receiving the jobs and revenues that they
were promised. Farmers and fishermen view the wind farms as harming their environment.
The fishermen noticed that the research for the wind farms resulted in a mass die-off of fish.
The vibrations from the wind turbines are affecting the livestock and fish, and the blades
are chopping up birds. What is “green” for Mexico as a whole is not necessarily “green” for
local communities.
The process of manufacturing PV cells from silicon relies on silane, a dangerous pyrophoric
gas. As manufacturers produce silicon solar cells, the use of silane continues. Of
course, silane is hardly the only environmental hazard involved in solar cell production.
Others include toxic by-products from polysilicon manufacture dumped indiscriminately
in China, and recovering cadmium—a known human carcinogen that is a primary ingredient
in some thin—film solar cells—from mining slimes. Still, only silane (SiH4) has been
linked directly to any deaths as a result of the solar industry.
Keep in mind that some of the components of PV cells are toxic materials. When the
cells are intact, the materials are encapsulated. However, if there is a fire, the toxic materials
may pose a significant hazard to anyone in the area.
PV cells are installed on rooftops. This is elevated work, which has its safety concerns.
A primary safety concern with wind turbines is their height as well. Installation and maintenance
require elevated work. Note that many turbines are at elevations of 300 feet (100
meters). Obviously high winds and rotating machinery are not a safe combination. Figure
2 shows the fatalities associated with wind energy.
Summary of Deaths in Wind Energy
Number of deaths in construction (installation or
Number of deaths in O&M 18
Number of deaths of the public 8
Number of deaths in manufacturing 2
Number of deaths in training 6
Suicides 1
Total 76
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Copyright 2012 by Paul Gripe. All rights reserved. This data is provided as a public
Figure 2
Solar energy accounts for 0.01percent of our nation’s energy. Wind energy accounts
for 0.44 percent (see Figure 1). These energy sources are not likely to be significant in the
near future. Solar and wind energy are not cost effective. As mentioned, they are not as
environmentally friendly as considered by their proponents. There are also safety hazards
that cannot be ignored. They provide a tiny fraction of needed energy, and only when the
wind is blowing or the sun is shining brightly. They are possible energy sources for the
long-term, but are only applicable for a few locations, at present.
Coal energy accounts for 50 percent, natural gas 19 percent, and nuclear power 19
percent, of our nation’s power (see to Figure 1). This focuses our energy source selection
among coal, nuclear, and natural gas, as they are the largest sources.
Coal, Gas, and Nuclear
Generation Background
The main method of generating electricity is from heat. A source of heat is used to raise
the temperature of water to turn it into steam, which transfers its energy to a turbine. The
rotation of the turbine, which is physically connected to a generator, generates electricity.
Figures 3 and 4 illustrate the common features and the differences among fossil fuel,
and nuclear, power. (The steam boiler and the heat exchanger both transform the heat into
steam.) The main differences are the combustion chamber, exhaust gases, and pollution
control necessary for fossil fuels, compared with the reactor core, containment building, and
nuclear waste necessary for nuclear fuel.
Figure 3
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Figure 4
The nuclear energy discussed here is released by nuclear fission, which is the splitting of
the nucleus of an atom. A power-producing nuclear reactor is “critical” the fission reaction
is self-sustaining. That is, the chain reaction will continue and produce heat. As the uranium
fuel is consumed, control rods need to be adjusted to keep the reactor critical. (The control
rods are adjusted, in the other direction, to shut down the reactor.) The equation E = mc2
describes the amount of energy released from nuclear fission. (Energy = mass multiplied by
the speed of light squared)
With fossil fuel, once the combustion is turned off, there is little residual heat to deal
with. With nuclear power, even when the reactor is shut down (turned off ), there is residual
decay heat to remove. New reactor designs incorporate improved methods of decay heat
removal, which minimizes the concern.
Fossil fuel generation involves exhaust gases and pollution control. Nuclear generation
has neither exhaust gases nor pollution control, but does have nuclear waste disposal.
The Cost
Ideally, a power plant should be operating as close to 100 percent as possible at all
times. The higher the percentage, the better the power plant. If a power plant is running at a
low percentage, it is not being productive. When looking at Figure 5, it is clear that nuclear
fuel has the highest average capacity percentage at 89 percent. The capacity factor for coal
is 61 percent, and gas steam turbines only run at an average of 13 percent.
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Figure 5
Figure 6 illustrates the energy content of coal, natural gas, and Uranium 235 (nuclear
fuel). The much higher thermal energy content of Uranium 235, compared with coal and
natural gas, is apparent. This energy content translates into needing tiny quantities of Uranium
235 compared to coal and natural gas. A single uranium fuel pellet contains as much
energy as 17,000 cubic feet of natural gas, 1,780 pounds of coal, or 149 gallons of oil.
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Energy Sources:
Key Fossil Fuel Nuclear Fuel Thermal
Generation Process Fuel
Thermal Energy
(Calorific Content)
Brown coal (lignite) 2.8
Coking (black) coal 8.3
Natural gas (North Sea) 10.8
Oil] 12.5
Diesel 12.9
Petrol (gasoline) 13.0
Liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), a mixture of
propane and butane 13.8
Uranium 235 22,800,000.0
Figure 6. Calorific Energy Content of Fuels and Chemicals: The energy content of various
materials usually, but not always, refers to the calorific or thermal energy that can be extracted
from the material, usually by burning it and using the heat in some way to generate electricity.
First, let’s compare the production cost by fuel type. As of 2011, nuclear energy is 2.19
cents per kWh, coal is 3.23 cents per kWh, and natural gas is 4.51 cents per kWh. The
2.19 cents per kWh includes the costs of operating and maintaining the plant, purchasing
nuclear fuel, and paying for the management of used fuel. (Oil is 21.56 cents per kWh.)
Figure 7 shows the production cost from 1995–2011. One major thing to notice is that the
actual fuel cost for nuclear power is very low compared to the other fuels.
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Figure 7
Figure 8 shows the total production costs from Figure 7 in a graphical format. The
relative costs and cost trends are apparent.
Figure 8. U.S. Electricity Total Production Costs 1995–2011, in 2011 Cents per kWh
For years, nuclear energy has had a lower overall production cost than coal and natural
gas. In most cases, the majority of spending is on the fuel itself, and the operations and
maintenance costs are relatively low. In Figure 9, you can see that coal and gas power are
both spending most of their money on fuel. Nuclear is the opposite. The fuel is cheap and
the majority of the money goes to operations and maintenance, meaning more people have
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Figure 9
Compared to coal, natural gas, and renewable energy sources, nuclear-generated
electricity has tremendous price stability because only 31 percent of production costs are
fuel costs. Fuel accounts for 80 to 90 percent of the cost of electricity produced by fossil
fuel–fired generation, making electricity from fossil fuels highly susceptible to fluctuations
in coal and gas prices.
Figure 10 is from a Finnish study from 2000, which quantified fuel price sensitivity to
electricity costs. This illustrates that the trend for rising fuel costs, as it impacts the rise in
electricity costs, favors nuclear fuel over gas and coal. The cost comparisons favor nuclear
power for the preferred energy source for growth in electrical generation.
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Figure 10
Economic Effects
In addition to direct cost comparisons, there are other economic impacts. The average
American nuclear power plant generates $470 million annually in sales of goods and services
in the local community, as well as $40 million in total labor income. A Nuclear Energy
Institute analysis shows that every dollar spent by the average nuclear plant results in the
creation of $1.04 in the local community, $1.18 in the state economy, and $1.87 in the US
economy. A nuclear power plant also generates approximately $16 million in state and local
tax revenue, and about $67 million in federal tax payments annually.
In addition to direct cost comparisons, there are workforce income impacts. Figure
11 compares the number of jobs, average salaries, and workforce income among different
energy sources.
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Figure 11
Figure 11 shows that nuclear power plants create more than twice as many jobs, at
higher salaries, than coal power plants. The comparison between a nuclear power plant and
a natural gas plant is even more striking.
Safety is not always considered in an objective manner. People can consider nuclear
power unsafe from a lack of knowledge, rather than from actual comparisons. For example,
approximately 30,000 people die in traffic accidents, each year, but people do not consider
automobile travel unsafe. Each year, there are no fatalities from generating electricity from
nuclear power, but many consider nuclear power unsafe.
Figure 12 shows the industrial safety trend for the US nuclear industry. Note, this
shows accident rates, not fatalities.
Figure 12
Figure 13 shows the fatalities associated with the oil and gas extraction industry.
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Figure 13
Figure 14 shows the fatalities associated with coal mining and the oil and gas extraction
Figure 14
These charts clearly show that there are many dangers when working in the coal and
natural gas industries.
There have been two nuclear disasters in the last three decades. There are preposterous
amounts of coalmine explosions, oil spills, and pipeline explosions every year. Just to name
a few, there was the Sabina’s Mexico coalmine explosion on May 3, 2011. Fourteen miners
were killed and one was injured. Just five years before that, sixty-five miners were killed in
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a mine explosion in Mexico. On October 29, 2011, twenty-nine miners were killed from
a gas explosion at the Xialiuchong Coal Mine in China. On March 20, 2011, forty-three
miners were killed by three methane gas explosions in Pakistan. On September 12, 2011,
at least seventy-five people were killed when a fuel pipeline exploded in Nairobi. These are
just a few examples of disasters last year in the coal, oil, and natural gas energy industries.
When looking at the numbers of fatal injuries in these industries, it is almost unfathomable.
The Environment
Another important aspect in the fuel comparison is the impact on the environment.
Some forms of energy generation are less harmful than others. Figure 15 shows the emissions
of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and carbon dioxide avoided by the nuclear industry
from 1995–2008. Other emissions from coal power plants include fly ash, mercury, arsenic,
and particulates. These emissions are considered the cause of acid rain. Nuclear power
avoids those emissions.
Figure 15
Coal mining is quite extensive compared with uranium mining. This is due to the
relatively low energy content of coal compared with uranium, which translates to needing
much higher volumes of coal. The deforestation of the environment for mining coal is a
significant environmental impact.
The Solution
Nuclear energy is our energy source selection among coal, nuclear, and natural gas. It is
significantly cheaper, it protects our people and it saves the earth.
Why are many people skeptical about nuclear power? Some do not realize the cost
comparisons. Most consumers desire lower utility bills. That desire would encourage them
to favor nuclear power. Many people do not know the actual record of accidents and fatali-
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ties among coal, natural gas, and nuclear power. The environmental issue is also clouded by
subjective considerations. Few environmentalists promote nuclear power as a benign source
of generating electricity. They (rightly) complain about atmospheric emissions from other
power sources, but then somehow neglect to mention nuclear power as a possible solution.
We know better. We deserve better. If we are the stewards of this earth, it is our responsibility
to do better. Nuclear power needs to have the light of truth shine on it if we
are to move forward. It is time to bring this truth and allow intelligent judgments and
comparisons to be made. If not for ourselves, than for our children’s future.
President Obama on Nuclear Energy
Over the past four years, President Obama has been a very outspoken advocate for
nuclear energy. Beginning in 2008 with his inaugural speech, President Obama has been
making massive strides for the nuclear energy industry in the United States. After formally
accepting his re-election, people need to know where he stands on energy, as it is one of our
countries biggest issues. “President Obama has a real strategy to take control of our energy
future and finally reduce our dependence on foreign oil—an-all-of-the- above approach to
developing all of our energy resources. President Obama and his Administration are supporting
the construction of the first new nuclear power plant in decades, which will provide
clean electricity for nearly 1.4 million Americans.
Over the past three years, the Obama Administration has invested in grants at more
than 70 universities for research and development of nuclear technologies to improve reactor
design and safety (“All of the Above” 2012).
After the Fukushima accident, President Obama continued to support nuclear energy.
During an interview with KOAT in Albuquerque, New Mexico, when asked about the
Fukushima accident, President Obama stated, “We’ve got to budget for it. I’ve already
instructed our nuclear regulatory agency to make sure that we take lessons learned from
what’s happening in Japan and that we are constantly upgrading how we approach our
nuclear safety in this country.”
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The Obama-appointed Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has approved four
new nuclear reactors this year. President Obama has increased the amount of federal money
for nuclear power plant construction by $36 billion, which brings the total funds to $54.5
billion. President Obama has proposed implementing a Clean Energy Standard, which
defines clean energy as including nuclear power (Rennicks 2012).
If you are a supporter of President Obama and saving the earth, it would only make
sense that you would support nuclear power. America needs to show that they support the
man they re-elected as the President of the United States of America; they need to show
that they trust in his decisions and that they’ve got his back.
“All of the Above: President Obama’s Approach to Energy Independence.” Organizing
for Action. Accessed December 7, 2012.
Baker, Nathanael. “Coal.” Energy Boom. Last updated September 19,
2012. Accessed October 1, 2012.
Biello, David. “Explosive Silicon Gas Casts Shadow on Solar Power Industry.” Scientific
American. February 2010. Accessed November 1, 2012.
Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Fact Sheet: Oil and Gas Industry.” United States Department
of Labor. April 2010.
“Chernobyl Accident 1986.” World Nuclear Association. Accessed November 6, 2012.
Last updated April 2014.
“Energy and You.” United States Environmental Protection Agency. Last updated on
February 19, 2014,
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Gipe, Paul. “A Summary of Fatal Accidents in Wind Energy.” Wind Works. 20 2012.
Accessed November 1, 2012.
“Hydroelectric Power.” Electropaedia.
Jablon, Seymour, Zdenek Hrubec, and John D. Boice. “Cancer in populations living near
nuclear facilities: a survey of mortality nationwide and incidence in two states.”
IAEA Bulletin 33, no. 2 (1991): 20-27.
Jackson, David. “Obama: U.S. Needs to Learn Lessons from Japan’s Nuclear
Problem.” USA Today. 16 2011. Accessed December 7, 2012.
Johnston, John. “Death Rate From Nuclear Power Vs. Coal?” The 9 Billion. Last updated
2011. Accessed October 10, 2012.
Mine Safety and Health Administration. “Total Number of Injuries and Total Incidence
Rates (IR) at Coal Mines in the United States, by Primary Activities, 1978-2007.”
United States Department of Labor.
Muller, Richard. “The Panic Over Fukushima.” Wall Street Journal. August 18, 2012, C1.
Nuclear Energy Institute. “Nuclear Energy’s Economic Benefits—Current and Future.”
White Paper. Washington D.C.: Nuclear Energy Institute, 2012.
Nuclear Energy Institute. “The Cost of New Generating Capacity in Perspective.” White
Paper. Washington D.C.: Nuclear Energy Institute, 2012.
Rennicks, Jennifer. “Where Pres. Obama Stands on Energy.” Footprints: On the
Path to Clean Energy (blog). September 7, 2012. Accessed
December 7, 2012.
“Renewable Energy Technology Basics.” United States Department of Energy. http://
U.S. Energy Information Administration.
“The Economics of Nuclear Power.” World Nuclear Association. Accessed November 6,
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Appendix B
Friend, Foe, or Frock: Animal
Rights in Fashion
by Briana N. Laemel
[These sample student papers are provided only as examples of successful student research: they are
not meant to prescribe any standard paper format and the content of each paper represents purely the
author’s view.]
Animal Rights in Context
On the rare occasion that individuals choose to think about animal rights, they often do
so in terms of the food industry. What should come to mind are the cruelty, corruption, and
lack of credibility of slaughter houses, factory farms, and small-time butchers alike. But all
too often the public turns a blind eye to the wrongdoing of meat and poultry producers. In
the mind of a society where animals equal food, it is hunger and greed—not logical, rational
thought or compassion—that drives motives, jades opinions, and encourages ignorance, all
of which contribute to the idea that animals are food (or foe), but certainly not our friend.
Not our friend, but what about our frock?1
In today’s society, where appearance is first
and foremost, it should not be any wonder that such little concern is given to animal rights
in terms of the fashion industry. Fur, leather, wool, and silk are used in excess, and all pose an
immediate threat to the animals, who—in essence—are unwillingly forced to supply textile
manufacturers, mass-producers, designers, and the like with their bodies and secretions. The
abuse inflicted on and the deprivation felt by these innocent animals is horrific, especially
when (much like the food industry) there are many ethical, socially responsible alternatives.
Yet, despite these endless options that are now presented to those in the fashion industry,
many continue in their excessive, animal-clad ways.
Regulations could easily correct such issues of animal rights in fashion; however, very
few, if any, have yet to be enforced. Those that have been enacted are often misleading,
and yield very little power against industry practices that have been in place for centuries.
This paper will discuss such practices, the mediocre measures taken to subdue them, and
ultimately the reality of animal rights in fashion.
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Animal Rights as an Issue of Corporate
Social Responsibility
In terms of corporate social responsibility, the issue of animal rights, namely in fashion,
is often overlooked. Seemingly more important issues, such as labor rights in the workplace,
regularly take precedent, as such are noted to be of a more pressing matter. However, despite
this common misconception, issues of animal rights are just as much a part of corporate
social responsibility as anything else.
Consider the common phrase “actions speak louder than words.” Often, the phrase is
used in a positive manner to give recognition to those acting upon their ideas. Yet when it
comes to those abusing animals for the sake of fashion, this phrase holds true in the most
pejorative sense. Proponents of fur, leather, wool, and silk often speak little of their role in
evading issues of animal rights. Hardly any note where the skins and subsequent textiles
came from; even less note by which means that textile was derived. Consider that each
year, “millions of animals are killed for the clothing industry,” and that regardless of if “the
clothes come from Chinese fur farms, Indian slaughterhouses, or the Australian outback,
an immeasurable amount of suffering goes into every fur-trimmed jacket, leather belt, and
wool sweater”.2
Facts like these are universally unknown, despite being universally influenced,
and thus the ignorance of the consumer is not to blame, but rather those working
tirelessly to conceal their actions.
Ultimately, animal rights in fashion becomes an issue of corporate social responsibility
because of a notable disconnect, epitomized by the notion that what those encouraging the
use of animals for fashion purposes tell us about their doing so hardly compares to what
actually occurs in this vicious cycle on a daily basis. By improving upon corporate social
responsibility as it pertains to animal rights, the truths, the tales, and the transitions of such
a pertinent issue will certainly become clear, as will the need for radical reform.
The Facts (and Fictions) about Fur
Fur Farming Defined
By definition, fur farming is “the practice of breeding or raising certain types of animals
for their fur.”3
These animals, who have never known a life in the wild, are bred on-site,
where they “spend their entire lives confined to cramped, filthy wire cages.”4
At present, there
are no regulations for fur farms, and thus owners hold ultimate power over the confined
animals, and are certainly unfazed by the apparent discomfort and deteriorating health of
those animals. Animals raised on fur farms—namely mink, fox, and rabbit—are caged in
open sheds that provide little protection from the elements.5
As a result, the animals often
fall victim to pests and disease, brought on by an inability to continuously adapt to seasonal
climate change. Because fur farms are often so overcrowded with animals, pests and disease
spread quickly, and contagious cases such as viral enteritis and pneumonia are regular occurrences,
in addition to the fleas, ticks, and lice seeking refuge on the pelts.6
Often, the
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pests and diseases go untreated. Animals are then left to die, infested both internally and
Yet the “natural” death of animals on fur farms is hardly something owners pity. Those
killed by disease, or the stress induced by that disease, eliminate one task to be performed
by said fur farmer—and thus money can be saved. But for those who survive, a similar
fate awaits. Animals spared for their fur are often subject to a death that is both cruel and
unusual. Because furriers, much like many other manufacturers, seek to reduce cost and increase
profit, they invoke the cheapest (which is often the cruelest) killing methods known
to man. Suffocation, anal and vaginal electrocution, gassing, and poisoning are just a few
of the legally practiced methods. Despite their apparent harshness, these specific methods
remain legal. In many cases, it has been argued that the above-mentioned methods kill
the pelt bearing animals quickly, instantaneously even, and thus reduce potential suffering.
However, a recent PETA investigation of a Chinese fur farm found that many animals
were still alive and struggling after electrocution or gassing; some were noted to have hearts
beating for five to ten minutes after they had been skinned. Skinned alive in many instances,
these animals are left to die amidst the unbearable pain of their pelts having been
removed entirely.7
Unfortunately for these innocent animals, furriers are unmoved by the
cruelty attached to their work. But why is this so? How could that be so? For furriers, only
one thing matters: the condition of the pelt upon removal. A fur farmer’s method of choice,
though predominately a factor of cost, thus is also impacted by the potential damage that
method may inflict not on the animal, but on the animal’s pelt. Skinning animals alive is
often practiced to encourage the pelt’s overall contour and fur retention.
After all is said and done, it is quite clear that the inner workings of fur farms are
anything but ethical—and certainly not socially responsible. However, individuals continue
to encourage the manufacturing, production, and eventual use of fur for garments of both
high and low fashion, which leaves the question: Is ignorance really bliss, or is the truth
about fur farming something so many individuals miss?
Fur Farming Exposure and Concealment
Through the work of organizations like PETA, the cruelties of fur farming are gaining
recognition in the public eye. Yet while organizations work to expose the realities about
animal rights in fashion, many counter organizations seek to conceal them. Such an organization
has arisen under the Fur is Green campaign. The Fur is Green campaign claims
that “fur is a natural, renewable and sustainable resource,” meaning that because furriers
“only use part of what nature produces each year without depleting wildlife populations or
[damaging] the natural habitats that sustain them,” ecological balance is maintained.8
these recent claims that fur is environmentally friendly are quite unfounded, and it is clear
that the fur industry is not fooling anyone. According to Joshua Katcher, renowned ethical
fashion expert, “factory farming is factory farming. When you place a concentrated number
of wild animals in an area that hasn’t evolved to deal with that concentration of waste—environmental
disaster is inevitable.”9
Other such organizations claim that, while fur farming
may be misguided, fur used from wild caught animals—known as free-range fur—is more
ethical because the animals have lived their lives free and natural in the wild.10 However,
upon capture, these animals suffer a fate similar to that of their fur farmed counterparts.
Thus, while countless organizations seek to prove not only the viability, but also the
ethical nature of fur use in fashion—going so far as to claim fur as being “green”—not
one has succeeded at doing so. What these counterorganizations have succeeded at doing,
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however, it highlighting the disconnect between the actions of furriers and the words of
those furriers.
The Lessons (and Lies) About Leather
Leather and Animals
Much like fur, which can be taken from countless animals, leather can be made from
cows, pigs, goats, sheep, alligators, ostriches, kangaroos, and—in some instances, where
animal rights are particularly neglected—even dogs and cats.11 These animals are slaughtered,
but only after they have lived in a life of horror on a gruesome factory farm.
Much like factory farms that house cows and the like for food production, factory
farms for fashion purposes are extremely crowded. The animals who reside in these farms
are deprived of necessities and often fall victim to abuses so cruel it becomes hard to believe
that any human being could be capable of such acts. Castration, branding, tail-docking, and
dehorning are done regularly, without painkillers. Many of these animals, upon slaughter,
have their throats slit so quickly that the killer does not succeed at rendering the animal
unconscious. As a result, many of the animals killed for their leather are skinned and
dismembered while still conscious.12 Tens of millions of cows are killed in this manner
each year, despite regulations trying to lessen the cruelty of slaughter, although “the federal
Humane Slaughter Act stipulates that cows should be stunned by a mechanical blow to
the head and rendered unconscious before they are strung up.”13 However, as has been the
case throughout, because time is of the essence, the high speed of the assembly lines often
results in improper stunning.14 Improper stunning, as with improper throat slitting, is an
entirely unethical practice that leaves millions of cows in terror and to suffer unbearably as
they are skinned.
In terms of fashion, while much of the leather used is derived as a byproduct of cows
used for beef and milk, waste management and issues of sustainability should not surpass
the welfare of the animals at stake. As PETA notes, “buying leather directly contributes
to factory farms and slaughterhouses because skin is the most economically important
byproduct of the meat industry.”15
Leather, Animals, and the Environment
Economical it may be, but environmental is it not. Despite the fact that using leather as
a byproduct of factory farming reduces waste, the slaughter of animals and the subsequent
manufacturing of their leather is hellish, specifically in terms of the fashion industry’s effect
on the environment.
As in any case of mass production, natural resources are required at unfathomable
amounts. Raising animals for food and leather “requires huge amounts of feed, pastureland,
water, and fossil fuels,” all of which could be used for practices more ethical and
environmentally sound, namely feed, which could be used to solve hunger in many thirdworld
countries.16 In addition to these natural resources, leather manufacturing specifically
requires unbelievable amounts of energy and chemicals. These chemicals often end up in
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US waterways, in addition to the animals’ excrement, and thus possess a toxic threat to
both human beings and other living animals.17 The Environmental Protection Agency has
gone as far to consider the chemicals used in leather manufacturing hazardous, and yet still
practices persist. Many countries known for their leather industries are out of governmental
reach, and because issues of animal rights are, to a great extent, less important abroad, the
abuse continues.
Although animal rights organizations have also worked to expose the cruelties of
leather manufacturing, the skin is still used for fashion purposes. Producers, manufacturers,
designers, and retailers alike turn their backs on the animals that should be seen as their
compatriots. Rather, these animals are seen as merely a means to an end—an end that only
benefits those “who profit from the misery and suffering of others” with seemingly less
valuable lives than themselves.18
The Questions (and Misconceptions) About
Wool and Silk
To the standard shopper or fashion enthusiast, wool appears to be a perfectly ethical
natural fiber, one free from the issue of animal rights. Often, this is assumed because the
sheep providing the fiber are not slaughtered for their skin, as are those providing leather
hides and fur pelts. However, while these animals may not face the same gruesome end as
their friends of fashion, it is not acceptable to assume that those wool-bearing beings live
wonderfully ethical lives.
Much like leather and fur, wool is an incredibly sought-after textile. Because of this,
there is an incredibly strong market for the fleece and skin of sheep. As a result, these
animals “are treated as nothing more than wool-producing machines,”19 and shearers are
not shamed for generating those machines. Shearers, although they do not kill their victims
as do furriers or leather manufactures, are not shy from being equally as evil. Profit is, of
course, their top priority, one that far surpasses the concern for their wool-bearing animals’
welfare. Shearing sheds are one of the worst places in the world for cruelty to animals,
despite the common misconception that shearing is in fact healthful for these animals. Because
shearers are often paid by volume, and not by hour, fast work is encouraged; regard for
the well-being of these sheep being sheared is not even so much discouraged as it is ignored
entirely.20 Sheep that survive the shearing process—many die from cuts and wounds caused
by fast work—are left with no remaining fleece. These animals often become ill without
enough wool to protect them from temperature extremes because they have no insulation
against both cold and heat.21
But cruelty during the process of wool production goes beyond easily avoidable shearing
accidents and weather-induced illness. The cruelest, and one of the most common, practices
of sheep shearing is known as mulesing, a process by which “huge chunks of skin and flesh
are cut from the animals’ backside, often without any painkillers.”22. This practice is done
most often to sheep raised as merinos, who are bred specifically to have wrinkly skin, an
attribute that encourages more wool per animal.23 Breeding merinos in this way creates
what would actually be considered an unnatural overload of wool, were there any standards
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to protect sheep from shearing. This excess of wool “causes many sheep to collapse and even
die of heat exhaustion during hot months, and the wrinkles collect urine and moisture.
Attracted to the moisture, flies lay eggs in the folds of skin, and the hatched maggots can
eat the sheep alive.”24 Fearful that these pests may lessen the wool’s quality upon shearing
and spinning, mulesing was developed as a way to free not the sheep, but the wool, of
maggots. Mulesing “is a crude attempt to create smoother skin that won’t collect moisture;”
however, “the exposed, bloody wounds often become infected,”25 often by the maggots this
practice was supposed to ward off. Many sheep who have undergone this particular mutilation
suffer; many more die. Mutilation in the form of mulesing is thus not only cruel, but
ineffective, and many other practices could easily discourage pest infestations in a humane
manner. Through diet regulation, spray washing, or simply breeding types of sheep without
excess wool, sheep can be spared.26 Noting this, many companies have taken progressive
steps to reduce their wool consumption, pledging to move away from mulesed wool.
Thus, as is clear, “no amount of fluff can hide the fact that anyone who buys wool
supports a cruel and bloody industry.”27 While wool has long been seen as natural fiber
of ethical standards, this misconception is illustrative of the fashion industry’s ability to
encourage a disconnect between the actions of shearers and the words of those shearers.
In terms of animal rights, silk is perhaps of the least concern to the average consumer.
However, as the issue of animal rights in fashion covers the entire realm of animal fibers, it
is important to address those problems associated with silk harvesting.
Conventional silk is made by boiling the intact cocoons of silk worms. In massproduction,
silk is often made from domesticated silkworms, raised on farms much like
the animals used for fur, leather, and wool.28 The silkworms—in caterpillar stage—are fed
mulberry leaves until they are ready to spin cocoons. Silk is secreted as a liquid from two
glands in the caterpillar’s head, and it is the silk that forms the worm’s cocoon.29 When the
silkworm has passed through this stage of development, the cocoon is placed in boiling
water, thereby beginning a process which eases the extraction of silk thread, and thereby
killing the silkworm.30
As if being boiled to death is not cruel enough, silk worms often lead lives that are
unconventional. They are exploited for their secretions, and thus kept in a strictly controlled
environment to ensure that their silk is of the highest quality. For those fortunate enough
to break free of their cocoon before boiling, a similarly unfortunate life awaits. Because silk
caterpillars are bred to maximize silk production, the moths that emerge from their cocoons
do so with countless defects. Many cannot fly because their bodies are too big compared to
their wings; many cannot eat because their mouths are underdeveloped. Proponents of silk
use claim that worms bred for harvesting live perfectly suitable lives, as insects cannot feel
pain. However, experts disagree over to what extent an insect can feel pain, and highlight
that because an insect’s nervous system is different from a mammal’s, it is difficult to gauge
an insect’s feelings (namely because worms cannot show their distress in ways that humans
easily recognize).31 Nonetheless, the mere presence of a nervous system should be enough
to solidify claims of silk worm suffering, as signals from stimuli still elicit a response to
those stimuli.32 Thus, despite public belief, silk caterpillars suffer immeasurably as they are
either unethically boiled alive or born as moths with seemingly intentional defects.
Yet the suffering of a silk caterpillar is not the only immeasurable aspect of silk production.
What also appears to me immeasurable is just how extensive the use of silk moths is.
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“The amount of useable silk from each cocoon is small,” and as a result, it takes hundreds
of silkworms “to produce just one silk scarf or tie.”33 Consider that approximately fifteen
silkworms are killed to make one gram of silk thread. Consider, then, that it takes approximately
10,000 silk worms to make one sari, a fashion item commonly made from the
finest of silk threads. If allowed to develop naturally, outside of a farm, and free of genetic
breeding, silk worms would turn into defect-free moths, and silk could still be harvested.
By collecting the cocoons those moths chewed out of, manufacturers would be able to
unravel the silk strands and produce silk textiles in similar quantities. However, the strands
of tussah silk (the official name for unfarmed silk) are much shorter, less lustrous, and thus
less valuable. And as has been the pattern throughout the animal rights in fashion debate,
quality of said animal fiber is of more importance than the animal’s quality of life.
Ethical Fashion: The Development of
Animal-Friendly Design
Over the years, issues of animal rights in fashion have become increasingly more
prevalent. Long gone are the days of vegan hippies, who shunned fashion for being a cruel
institution. Here to stay are the fashion-conscious vegans, in the age of ethical fashion.
Ethical fashion “is an umbrella term to describe ethical fashion design, production,
retail, and purchasing. It covers a range of issues such as working conditions, exploitation,
fair trade, sustainable production, the environment, and animal welfare.”34. In essence,
it encompasses all aspects of corporate social responsibility as it pertains to the fashion
industry. Of the CSR issues pertaining to ethical fashion, animal rights—as has been the
clear case—has been given the least amount of focus. Because the topic is so controversial, it
seems to be given less attention in terms of social acceptance, but it gets plenty of attention
in terms of innovation and development.
Ethical fashion has illustrated that there is no need to be cruel in order to stay warm
and look cool. Cruelty-free fabrics and faux furs are available in stores everywhere, and
PETA continues to work with designers and clothing retailers to encourage the strict use
and sale of animal-friendly fabrics.
Alternatives to fur include a wide range of faux options. Vests, jackets, hats, shawls,
and muffs are now being designed with the welfare of animals in mind. These cruelty-free
options are highly fashionable, and in many instances are entirely realistic. And with public
figures (namely celebrities and pop-culture icons) denouncing the use of real fur, choosing
to “go naked” is becoming more and more enticing.
Alternatives to leather are becoming increasingly more innovative, including vegan
microfiber, which claims to match leather in strength and durability, as well as alternative,
sustainable, and renewable plant-based and man-made, non-animal materials such as
ultrasuede, organic cotton, canvas, nylon, velvet, linen, cork, and eco-lining. Of course, these
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alternatives will never match the exact look, feel, and wear of leather; however, in terms of
performance, they match all qualities of leather in the most ethical of fashions.
Alternatives to wool include acrylic, cotton, cotton flannel, polyester fleece, and synthetic
shearling. Newer innovations, such as Tencel, are breathable, durable, and biodegradable,
and serve as is one of the newest cruelty-free wool substitutes.35 Another newer innovation,
Polartec Wind Pro, is made primarily from recycled plastic soda bottles and boasts a wind
resistance four times that of wool.36
Alternatives to silk include some of the most interesting developments. The use of
banana leaves and tree stalks to create a silky fiber has revolutionized the production of
many silk-dependent items, such as the sari.37
Vintage and Second Hand
Buying clothing, shoes, and other accessories from vintage boutiques or second-hand
stores serves as an easy and affordable way to shop ethically. Although these items may be
made with animal derivatives, the practice is sustainable as it encourages recycling and discourages
waste. Buying vintage or second hand also limits the amount of support unethical
producers, manufacturers, and designers are given, and doing so ultimately takes a stance
for animal rights from a less militant view.
Thus, as PETA has noted on many occasions, “fashion should be fun, not fatal,” and
choosing to buy fashion-forward products made of near-identical alternatives can encourage
the adoption of this slogan-turned-lifestyle motto.38
Developing Corporate Social Responsibility
Standards for Animal Rights
What Has Been Done
It is quite clear that the realities of animal rights in fashion are shielded by the glamour
of the industry. Fur, leather, wool, and silk are not seen for what they truthfully are—the
skins of living, breathing beings—but rather for what they can be—status-conveying, luxury
fibers and textiles. In terms of corporate social responsibility, little attention has been given
to such issues, encapsulated by the general issue of animal rights. While many acknowledge
that the protection of animal welfare is important, many too consider the rights of human
beings to be of first priority. Activist groups, such as PETA and the Humane Society of
the United States, have worked for the protection of animal rights for years, and in doing
so have generated a greater concern for the cause. However, in terms of legalized practice,
there are few laws and acts that have impacted the fashion industry enough to inspire
radical change.
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What Should Be Done
The decision to develop socially responsible standards in terms of animal rights is ultimately
a choice to be made by each individual corporation. While it may be unrealistic
to imagine a fashion industry entirely free of fur, leather, wool, and silk, it is realistic to
encourage the development of an industry with higher standards for the ethical treatment
of the animals that provide for it. But aside from developing higher standards, it is also necessary
to develop a means of ensuring that these standards are upheld. In many instances,
companies claiming to be cruelty-free have deceived consumers through mislabeling; many
have gone a step further, reverting to their fur, leather, wool, or silk use despite vowing to
do otherwise.
This past February, Urban Outfitters fell victim to such a case. Since 2009, Urban
Outfitters has claimed to be fur-free. After coming under attack that same year, the retailer
agreed to cease the stocking of fur merchandise, and has since made notable cruelty-free
fashion lists such as “Fur-Free Retailers, Designers, and Brands,” as compiled by the
Humane Society.39 However, when a shopper grew suspicious of his purchase—“I have
been analyzing fur and fashion for many years, and there is a significant visual difference
between faux and real fur, and there is no way that the fur in this photo is faux. The way the
fur falls open to reveal the skin beneath is obvious in the photos. The organic distribution
of coloring is not machine-made. The hairs are not uniform. The oil-sheen of the hair is
organic, not synthetic”—he ran a series of tests that confirmed his questioning.40 Upon
receiving countless letters of complaint, Urban Outfitters removed the item from their
inventory and released a public apology, noting that “unfortunately, the information we’d
initially gathered led us to believe that the collar trim was indeed faux fur. After further
investigation, we were able to confirm your assertion that the trim in question was in fact
real fur.”41 Regulating animal rights specifically in terms of fashion could help to reduce the
number of instances such as the Urban Outfitters case. And recently, it is these cases that
have inspired new ideas about reform.
What Is Being Done
Most recently, the US Senate voted unanimously, “approving an important bipartisan
bill to protect consumers and animals.”42 The law, known as the Truth in Fur Labeling Act,
passed the House of Representatives in July 2010 and was signed by President Obama later
that same year. The act “will bring much-needed accuracy and disclosure to fur products,”
as long as those committed to animal rights in terms of corporate social responsibility
ensure that it is upheld.43 Yet even with new laws coming into effect, standards already in
place need to be improved. Guidelines for the protection of animal rights are limited, and
governmental motions like the Animal Welfare Act only require that minimum standards
of care and treatment be provided.44 But consider how the public would feel about these
minimum standards if they applied to laborers in the workforce. Despite public opinion,
there is little difference between the well-being of a human being and the well-being of an
animal; after all, both have emotions, feel pain, and can be manipulated by another. Thus, in
terms of corporate social responsibility, it is time to level the playing field, for to solve the
issue of animal rights it is necessary to accept the philosophical view that considers animals
to have rights similar to or the same as human beings.45
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In Conclusion
Although the fashion industry has come to equate animals with foes (even frocks) and
not friends, the two do not necessarily need to remain mutually exclusive. In a different
sense, animals can be both friend and faux—and with this, animal rights and the fashion
industry can coexist in an ethical, compassionate, exclusive, and luxurious way.
1. Originally, a frock was a loose, long garment with wide, full sleeves, such as the habit of a monk
or priest, commonly belted. Today, the term is a common phrase for a dress or gown (often worn
by a girl or woman).
2. “Animals Used for Clothing,” PETA, accessed November 16, 2011,
3. “Fur Farming,” Wikipedia, accessed November 14, 2011,
4. “The Fur Industry,” PETA, accessed November 14, 2011,
5. “Fur Farms,” Friends of Animals, accessed November 14, 2011,
6. Ibid.
7. “A Shocking Look Inside Chinese Fur Farms,” PETA, accessed November 14, 2011, http://
8. “Fur Is Eco-logical,” Fur Is Green, accessed November 14, 2011,
9. “Blog: Pinnacle: Reinvent the Icon,” Reinvent the Icon, accessed November 14, 2011, http://
10. “Fur Farming” (see endnote 3).
11. “The Leather Industry,” PETA, accessed November 16, 2011,
12. Ibid.
13. Ibid.
14. Ibid.
15. Ibid.
16. Ibid.
17. Ibid.
18. Ibid.
19. “The Wool Industry,” PETA, accessed November 16, 2011,
20. Ibid.
21. Ibid.
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22. “Mulesing by the Wool Industry,” PETA, accessed November 16, 2011,
23. Ibid.
24. Ibid.
25. Ibid.
26. Ibid.
27. “The Wool Industry” (see endnote 19).
28. Doris Lin, “Why Vegans Don’t Wear Silk,”, accessed November 16, 2011, http://
29. Ibid.
30. Ibid.
31. “Silk, Cashmere, Shearling, and Other Animal Products Used for Clothing,” PETA, accessed
November 16, 2011,
32. Lin, “Why Vegans Don’t Wear Silk”
33. Ibid.
34. “What Is Ethical Fashion?” Victoria and Albert Museum, accessed November 14, 2011, http://
35. “Alternatives to Wool,” PETA, accessed November 16, 2011,
36. Ibid.
37. “Glossary,” Eco Fashion World, accessed November 26, 2011,
38. “The Leather Industry” (see endnote 11).
39. Annie Hartnett, “Urban Outfitters Falsely Advertises Real Fur as Fake,” News, accessed November 16, 2011,
40. Ibid.
41. Della Watson, “Urban Outfitters Apologizes for Selling Real Fur Labeled Faux,” the Green
Life, Sierra magazine, accessed November 16, 2011,
42. Amy Skylark Elizabeth, “Obama Signs Truth in Fur Labeling Act,” PETA, December 29, 2010,
accessed November 16, 2011,
43. Ibid.
44. “Animal Welfare Act,” United States Department of Agriculture, accessed November 16, 2011,
45. “Animal Welfare vs. Animal Rights,” Animal Welfare Council, accessed November 16, 2011,
Appendix C|206
Appendix C
Monsanto Company and Its
Effect on Farmers
by Akiko Kitamura
[These sample student papers are provided only as examples of successful student research: they are
not meant to prescribe any standard paper format and the content of each paper represents purely the
author’s view.]
There have been numerous public controversies regarding the impact of genetic engineering
on the safety of genetically modified (GM) food and the ethics. Monsanto, a
leading producer of genetically engineered seeds, has been at the center of the criticisms on
agribusiness and GM crops. This paper focuses on one of these controversies: Monsanto’s
GMO practices and its effect on farmers. In particular, the high suicide rate among GM
crop farmers in India due to its production has attracted a great deal of attention in the
press. Is there in fact a negative effect of Monsanto on farmers? When genetic engineering
is mentioned, many people have immediate negative reactions. However, we must address
the point of view that holds that genetic engineering actually improves the nutrition, facilitates
efficient production and helps the Third World countries to develop. Today, genetic
engineering is advantageous in various fields such as medicine, manufacturing, and agriculture.
While it is surrounded by controversy, many scientific studies have found various
results and the evidence of beneficial effect of Monsanto on farmers worldwide.
The first time media reported on the issue of farmer suicides in India was in 1995.1
Several years later, anti-GM activists started making claims about the harmful effect of
GM seeds on farmers. Vandana Shiva, an Indian physicist turned environmental activist,
blamed transgenic seeds for the suicides more than 200,000 Indian farmers over the past
However, it was in 2002, seven years after the Indian farmer suicide report, that
Monsanto began selling GM cotton seeds in India.3
In addition, the dispute between
Monsanto and farmers in the United States has sometimes raised lawsuits, with 145 court
cases filed since 1997. The issue is that Monsanto imposes a patent agreement on farmers,
requiring them to purchase new seed varieties for every season, but some farmers do not
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honor this agreement.4
However, Monsanto has to be paid for its inventions and its continuous
research and development. The research is done for its customers, who are farmers.
Genetic Engineering
Technically, genetic engineering modifies the genetic structure of cells and moves genes
across species boundaries to produce new organisms. These techniques involve the highly
sophisticated manipulation of genetic material and other biologically important chemicals.
Because genes determine an organism’s traits, moving genes from one organism to another
transfers those traits. Genetic engineering can create new combinations of genes, in other
words, new combinations of traits. This technology is impossible in nature and, therefore,
such an artificial technology is fundamentally different from traditional plant and animal
breeding. While natural reproductive mechanisms limit the number of new combinations,
genetic engineering does not have restrictions, and it is possible to produce purple cows if
purple genes are available in nature, such as from a sea urchin or an iris. Therefore, genetic
engineering enables scientists to create gene combinations that would never be found in

Another point to note is that the controversy over the link between the possible risk
of cancer and GM food remains to be addressed, and researchers at France’s University of
Caen uncovered that rats fed on Monsanto’s NK603 maize and/or exposed to its gylphosate
were more likely to grow tumors and multiple bodily deformities. However, the European
Food Safety Authority (EFSA) found that the researchers’ study has “insufficient scientific
quality to be considered as valid for risk assessment.”6
Despite many critics and researchers
attempting to reveal the harm of genetic engineering, including the blame on Monsanto’s
harm to farmers, not all studies are accountable. Such reports embed people with fears and
negative thoughts on genetic engineering, but the truth may be different.
Agriculture and GM Crops
Genetically engineered crops first came on the market in 1996 as modified to tolerate
the herbicide glyphosate (HT crops) or to produce their own insecticide (Bt crops).7
the agriculture industry, genetically modified seeds are widely used for crops such as cotton,
maize, soybeans, and rice. According to the International Service for the Acquisition of
Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA), there are more than 14 million farmers in 25 countries
cultivating GM crops.8
And the production is significantly increasing as two billion acres of
transgenic crops were planted in the same year. Monsanto introduced a new biotech crop,
gyphosate-resistant sugar beets, and variety of GM crops continues to be adopted in China
and India. Even in Europe, which is strongly against GMOs, 7 of 27 countries cultivated
the only transgenic crop approved there. Also, the area planted with transgenic crops rose
by 10 percent during the year, and the estimated value is about $750 million.9
Small farmers
can substantially benefit since the gain from GM seeds is usually much more than the cost
of the seeds. Also, Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) cotton has become a major GM seed in India
because it disrupts the life cycle of the bollworm and thereby highly increases the productivity.10
Today, India is one of the largest manufacturers of the apparel and textile industry,
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and Bt cotton has largely contributed on the country’s significant economic development
in the last decade.
Theoretically, it would require less pesticide than conventional crops to use such GM
seeds. But a recent study found that, although GE crops worked this way in the first
few years, farmers eventually increased the use of pesticide due to the emergence of new
weeds.11Small farmers can substantially benefit since the gain from GM seeds is usually
much more than the cost of the seeds. Also, Bt Cotton has become a major GM seed in
India because disrupting bollworm insects highly increases the productivity. (The Pros and
Cons of Genetically Modified Seeds)
Furthermore, research done by the Swiss National Research Programme investigated
the environmental, economic, and social impacts of GM crops. According to Federal Ministry
of Education and Research, the aim of this program was to investigate the potential
of genetically engineering plants for Swiss agriculture; only a few people buy GM products
and only a few farmers grow today. In this European country with a large anti-GM group,
the industry’s economic benefits are very small and the coexistence costs too high. However,
the researchers expect an increase of acceptance of GM crops when new GM crops with
such herbicide and disease resistance traits become commercially available. Notably, the
report asserts, “risk assessments should be based on the specific characteristics of the plant
variety, rather than on the breeding method used to produce it. The environmental, social
and economic impacts of a GM plant can only be determined through a direct comparison
with conventionally bred plants.”12
Genetically modified foods are a very effective solution to one of the most concerning
issues—world hunger—and they enable farmers in Third World countries to grow more
crops more quickly and for less cost. In addition, there is a correlation with global warming
since climate change is a threat to food supply and limits growing crops.13 But subtle positive
effects are that the use of pesticides can keep the plants healthy and prevent damage
to the environment, and less fertilizer can be used, and thereby keeping farming cost low.
(Nature Biotechnology)
Figure 1.
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Monsanto is a leading company of genetically engineered seeds. This public company’s
headquarters are in St. Louis, Missouri, and it was founded in 1901, more than 100 years ago.
The company holds 404 operating facilities in 66 countries, and there are 20,767 employees
worldwide. In 2011, its net income was $1.6 trillion and its net sales were $11.8 trillion,
which are a 13 percent and 47 percent increase from 2010, respectively. Their mission is to
produce more, conserve more, and improve lives, and they are committed to sustainable
agriculture. The company states that it is their purpose to work alongside farmers to grow
as much food as they have in the past by selling seeds with traits developed through biotechnology,
and crop protection chemicals. It was ranked in the top 10 of the World’s Most
Innovative Companies by Forbes magazine, as well as honored with various other awards.
The company addresses its corporate social responsibility activities by fighting hunger,
supporting human rights and education, and so on. In terms of commitment to sustainable
agriculture, it states, “Looking forward, we are exploring opportunities to support
continuous improvement in crop yields through our efforts in breeding, agronomics, and
biotechnology. We are also exploring better health and nutrition through our vegetable
business.”14 The report also notes that, as the population continues to increase, so does
the demand for valuable resources; therefore, Monsanto works on providing better seeds,
protecting natural resources, fighting hunger, improving nutrition, and providing economic
benefits to everyone involved. 15 Based on the data compiled by ISAAA and PG Economics,
Monsanto is one of the contributors to having 2.1 million resource-poor farmers adopting
biotech crops for the first time in the 2008–2010 seasons, and these farmers achieved US$3
billion in additional net income thanks to this technology adoption. In addition, there were
three to seven times the level of economic benefits across rural communities. 16
GM Seeds and Farmer Suicide in India
Many Indian farmers commit suicide by drinking fatal amount of pesticides. After the
media report of tragic phenomenon of Indian farmers’ suicides in 1995, the story began
when anti-GM activists like Vandana Shiva blamed GM crop for this phenomenon. The
media has put the blame mostly on corporate agriculture and Monsanto, and outrageous
GM seed prices made small farmers suffer from debts.17 Shiva says, “On paper, genetic
engineering is made to look very good, but on the ground it’s a tragedy. . . . Otherwise, we
wouldn’t have farmer suicides concentrated in the Bt cotton belt.” The fact is that 200,000
Indian farmers have committed suicide over the past decade. However, since the arrival of
Bt seeds in 2002, the price of cotton seeds raised from 7 to 1,700 rupees a bag. So Monsanto,
the world’s largest seed company, disagrees as the suicide trend began well before its cotton
seeds were introduced to the market. Shiva also argues that because of the self-regulatory
system of labeling in India, Monsanto sells GM seeds on fraudulent claims of 1,500 kilograms
a year when farmers harvest 300 to 400 kilograms a year on average. Additionally,
although Bt cotton was promoted as resistant to the bollworm, it actually created new pests,
and farmers were using 13 times more pesticides than they were using prior to introduction
of Bt cotton. “Bio-piracy . . . where you take stuff from the Third World, claim it to
be an invention of a US company, and then sell it back for a profit, and forbid the original
contributors from having free access,” and Multinational Corporations are taking control of
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the Indian market.18 Moreover, a 2011 report published by the Center for Human Rights
and Global Justice (CHRGJ) claimed the sale of expensive genetically modified seeds to
rural Indian farmers was a key factor contributing to the growing suicide crisis.19
Monsanto and other producers of GM crops insist that their crops require fewer
chemicals, as plants are engineered to prevent crop pests. Nevertheless, the study done by
Washington State University Professor Charles Benbrook found that the usage of herbicides
in GM crops—cotton, soybeans, and maize—has increased over the last decade in the
United States. His study found that the herbicide-tolerant crops did not have problems but
recently, so-called superweeds have become resistant to glyphosate weed killer, Roundup,
produced by Monsanto. Therefore, farmers started to use increasing amount of Roundup
and some more additional herbicides to fend off the tough weeds. Benbrook adds that
many farmers reliant on GM crops are raising the volume of herbicide needed each year by
about twenty-five percent. Estimations are that production of herbicides was increased by
239 million kilograms between 1996 and 2011 for the use of GM crops. This study undermined
the claims of GM crop producers that fewer chemicals are needed in production.20
Nevertheless, according to Raju Das, a developmental studies professor at York University,
“the issue of farmer suicides is not just entirely a farmer issue, or rural issue, or a village
issue—it is a much more broader political-economic problem”21 In 2008, the study focusing
on this issue was reported by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
The report also writes, “Most reports tend to reflect the polarized views on Bt cotton itself,
without providing a comprehensive understanding of the actual situation that led to the
observed resurgence of farmer suicides in India and therefore the potential role (or absence
thereof ) of Bt cotton in this picture.”22
In the data found, it is evident that the high number of suicides occurred much before
the introduction of Bt cotton23 and the suicides appear to have slowed down since the
introduction of Bt cotton in 2002.24 Moreover, farmer suicides have been reported in developed
countries such as Australia, the United States, and Great Britain and involve diverse
crops, most of which are not Bt cotton. The report says:
It is not only inaccurate but simply wrong to blame the use of Bt cotton as the
primary cause of farmer suicides in India…The reality is much more complex, when
one considers the conditions surrounding the use of Bt cotton, the resulting effects, and
the socioeconomic constraints that have likely pushed farmers in particular regions to
commit suicide during some years. There is no single explanation or even consistent explanations
across reported cases. However, one leading factor seems to connect several
causes particularly related to agriculture: the heavy indebtedness of farm households,
particularly in the suicide-prone states. 25
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Figure 2. Farmer suicides and Bt cotton area in Andhra Pradesh, 1997-2006
(Gruere, Mehta-Bhatt, Sengupta, 19)
Figure 3. Average economic effects of Bt cotton compared to non-Bt cotton in India,
Patent Law and Farmer Lawsuits
Monsanto enforces patents on the seeds they researched and developed, and gives
requirements and guidelines to farmers for use of their products. But some farmers are
not happy about this agreement. 26 The farmer’s position is understandable for the reasons
that seeds naturally grow and increase in amount, but the seeds are the products of the
company and business has to be paid for its product to survive. Nonetheless, patent law
gives companies a right to exclude others from using the invention that sometimes requires
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a high cost for the research and development, and the rights encourage further invention
and promote development. According to Monsanto, about 145 lawsuits were filed between
1997 and 2000 in the United States, an average of approximately 11 per year for 13 years
among more than 250,000 American farmers using Monsanto seeds. The company invests
more than $2.6 million per day in research and development and claims that it would not
be possible without the protection of the patent. Furthermore, Monsanto says it would
be unfair to the farmers that honor their agreements, and most of the cases are filed from
the reports from one farmer seeing another farmer’s infringement, saving patented seeds.
27 In a recent Supreme Court case, a 75-year-old farmer, Mr. Bowman, got into trouble
when he planted a second crop of soybeans in the same year. What he wanted was a cheap
source of seed, and in 1999, he bought some ordinary soybeans from a small grain elevator
where local farmers drop off their harvest. He was aware of the probability that these
beans had Monsanto’s Roundup Ready gene in them, but he also thought that Monsanto
was not controlling these soybeans anymore, and got a different varieties of seeds, which
hardly pose a threat to Monsanto’s seed business.28 Another defense is the concept that
once a patented object is sold, the patent holder loses control over how it is used, and he
was merely using the seed from the elevator and was not making seeds, as the nature of a
seed is that it creates more copies. The previous courts awarded the company more than
$84,000 in 2007, and the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit said that Bowman had
created newly infringing articles.29 In May 2013, the case came to an end with the decision
ordering Bowman to pay Monsanto $84,000 for infringing on the company’s patent. The
justices ruled that “patent exhaustion does not permit a farmer to reproduce patented seeds
through planting and harvesting without the patent holder’s permission.”30 Accordingly,
the public has been critical of this giant company for making a poor 75-year-old farmer
pay $84,000. As a human being, people may feel sympathy for this man. However, any
person who abuses patent laws will be charged a penalty, and this consequence is genuinely
a rational decision. Regrettably, Bowman made a mistake.
It would be difficult to conclude that the farmer suicide phenomenon in India is due
to GM seeds, not only because of all the data shown in the study done by the International
Food Policy Research Institute, but also because of the overall conditions in India, such
as the culture, economy, and political system. Although the country has achieved a higher
standard of living from its economic development, many people still remain poor and live in
difficult conditions with a lack of infrastructure. Also, some suicidal farmers drink pesticide
to kill themselves, but this has nothing to do with Monsanto and GM seeds. They have
access to pesticide only because they are farmers, not because they are specifically GM crop
farmers. Moreover, Monsanto sets seed prices that correspond with the market. Thus, critics
should not blame Monsanto for the issue of the small percentage of farmers who have
difficulty paying the company for the seeds. The reason for the suicides could be personal
problems or economic problems, but perhaps Monsanto could adjust their prices if an
increasing number of people suffer.
In regard to lawsuits against farmers, Monsanto could give better and clearer guidance
about its patent rights, for example through the media, to increase the farmers’ understanding.
About eleven lawsuits against farmers per year is not a large number. This is
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only 0.058 percent of the total number of Monsanto’s customer farmers. Compared to
Walmart, which has 500,000 lawsuits per year for issues such as wage law violations, inadequate
health care, exploitation of workers, and the retailer’s antiunion stance, Monsanto’s
suits seem small in number.31 I think companies have to care for the customers, which in
Monsanto’s case are the farmers, and be good to the customers so that they can continue
running the business most of the time. It is unlikely that the company keeps enforcing its
agribusiness which has negative effects, if there are any. For this reason, however, it will be
essential for Monsanto to invent a new seed that is effective against superweeds so that
farmers can reduce the amount of pesticides, since the use of pesticide on these weeds is not
as effective as it is on conventional weeds.
Monsanto and genetic engineering have been the targets of numerous criticisms, but
they have more benefits than some opponents may recognize. It would cause significant
damage to people around the world, including farmers and people who are fed by GM
crops, if biotechnology and Monsanto were denied, and the company stopped its incredible
and hopeful research and inventions for the future. GM crops have better nutrition and help
farmers to a great extent because they are economical and efficient to produce. Moreover, it
is a solution to the food supply shortage caused by climate change and population increase.
The facts about Monsanto involvement in farmer suicides and patent lawsuits against
farmers seem overexaggerated, and a lot of incorrect information has spread to the public.
However, any possible risks or issues should definitely be monitored by Monsanto because
it is their responsibility to care for customers. However, these criticisms and controversies
have probably been helpful to alert the company to constantly improve the technology and
products. Investments and funds are necessary for further research, and logically Monsanto
deserves to receive payment from farmers for the products, research, and development,
which ultimately benefit the farmers.
1. Chris Bennett, “Indian Farmer Suicides a Case of Misplaced GM Blame,” Delta
Farm Press. February 11, 2013. Agriculture Collection,
2. “The Pros and Cons of Genetically Modified Seeds,” Wall Street Journal, March 15, 2010, http://
3. Chris Bennett, “Indian Farmer Suicides a Case of Misplaced GM Blame,” Delta
Farm Press. February 11, 2013, Agriculture Collection,
4. Monsanto, E. Freeman, “Why does Monsanto Patent Seeds?”, September, 30, 2008, Accessed
April 17, 2013,
5. “What Is Genetic Engineering?” Union of Concerned Scientists, last updated July 18, 2003, http://
Good Corporation, Bad Corporation Appendix C
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6. Philip Case, “Monsanto Cancer Study Not Scientifically Valid,” Farmers Weekly, October 12,
2012. Agriculture Collection.
7. Charles M. Benbrook, “Genetically Engineered Crops and Pesticide Use in the United State:
The First Nine Years,” Union of Concerned Scientists, October 2004,
8. “Pros and Cons of GM Seeds.”
9. Andrew Marshall. “13.3 Million Farmers Cultivate GM Crops.” Nature Biotechnology 27, no. 3
(03, 2009): 221. doi:
10. “Pros and Cons of GM Seeds.”
11. Benbrook, “Genetically Engineered Crops.”
12. “No health or environmental risks from plant biotechnology,” Swiss National Research Program,
13. Mack LeMouse, “Genetically Altered Food: The Pros and Cons,” Health Guidance, accessed
March 13, 2013,
14. 2011 Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability Report, 3.
15. Ibid, 2
16. Ibid, 63
17. Bennett, “Indian Farmer Suicides.”
18. “Pros and Cons of GM Seeds.”
19. Rubab Abid, “The Myth of India’s ‘GM Genocide’: Genetically Modified Cotton Blamed
for Wave of Farmer Suicides,” National Post, January 26, 2013, http://news.nationalpost.
20. Philip Case, “US Farmers Using More Pesticides with GM Crops.” Farmers Weekly, October
26, 2012, Agriculture Collection.
21. Quoted in Abid, “The Myth of India’s ‘GM Genocide.’”
22. Guillaume P. Gruère, Purvi Mehta-Bhatt, and Debdatta Sengupta, “Bt Cotton and Farmer
Suicides in India.” Working Paper no. 00808, International Food Policy Research Institute,
October 2008,, 1.
23. Ibid., 29
24. Ibid., 38
25. Ibid.
26. Monsanto, E. Freeman, “Farmers Reporting Farmers- Part 2”, October 10, 2008, http://www.
27. Ibid.
28. Mark Memmott, “Supreme Court Rules for Monsanto in Case against Farmer,”
NPR, May 13, 2013,
Good Corporation, Bad Corporation Appendix C
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29. Andrew Pollack, “Farmer’s Supreme Court Challenge Puts Monsanto Patents at Risk,” The
New York Times, February 16, 2013,
30. Mark Memmot, “Supreme Court Rules for Monsanto.”
31. “The Good, the Bad, and Wal-Mart,” Workplace Fairness, accessed April 17, 2013, http://www.
Appendix D|216
Appendix D
To What Extent Are SmallScale
Coffee Producers in
Latin America the Primary
Beneficiaries of Fair Trade?
by Larissa Zemke
[These sample student papers are provided only as examples of successful student research: they are
not meant to prescribe any standard paper format and the content of each paper represents purely the
author’s view.]
This paper focuses on the socioeconomic impacts of fair trade on small-scale coffee producers
in Latin America. The fair trade mechanism has shown some benefits to small-scale
farmers on a micro-level and has been gaining firm grounds as a socially responsible initiative.
This paper explores the extent to which small producers and cooperatives are primary
beneficiaries of fair trade. Nevertheless, a critical approach to the fair trade mechanism
and its implementation is also necessary, in order to evaluate and improve its effectiveness.
The paper sets off by discussing the origin of the concept, goals, and positive impacts of
fair trade. Subsequently, a discussion on the concept’s weaknesses is obtained through an
assessment of the socioeconomic impacts of sustainable livelihoods, poverty alleviation,
capacity building, and empowerment on a local level in Latin America. The impacts analyzed
focus on the following respective areas: human, social, financial, and physical capital
of the small-holder coffee producers through assessing various case studies addressing the
impacts of fair trade coffee in Latin America. I conclude with an analysis of the one-way
link that fair trade constructs between the consumers in developed countries and producers
in developing nations, through societal marketing, which promotes ethical consumerism.
Fair Trade1
presents an alternative to traditional forms of international aid,2
the livelihoods of small-scale producers and communities, as well as the economic growth
Good Corporation, Bad Corporation Appendix D
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of developing nations, are supported through trade, as they receive a “fair” price from developing
nations for the goods they produce. The founders of the fair trade concept, Nico
Roozen and Frans van der Hoff, were inspired by the statement of a Mexican coffee farmer:
“We are not beggars, we only need a fair price for our coffee…We want to put an end to
the centuries of exploitation that we have experienced…and [gain] the (market) power
to change [our] destiny.”3
This exploitation may be explained by the dependency theory,
which states that the terms of trade between center, developed nations, and the periphery,
developing nations, is unbalanced and unfair.4
Immanuel Wallerstein’s center-periphery
, may be applied to analyze this relationship, as the underdeveloped Latin American
coffee smallholders, the periphery, are exporting the raw material of coffee to the developed,
industrialized world, the core, and, the market acts as the means by which the core exploits
the periphery.
Fair trade aims to mitigate this unfair power relationship through its sustainable
In 1981, the Dutch foreign-aid activists founded the world’s first fair trade cooperative,
the Union of Indigenous Communities in the Isthmus Region (UCIRI), in the Oaxaca
region of Mexico, with the objective of fighting the root causes of persistent poverty among
local coffee farmers. They adopted policies aimed at readjusting low coffee prices and reducing
farmers’ heavy debts7
in order to render them more competitive on the world market.
The founders went on to establish the Max Havelaar label, which successfully elevated and
stabilized coffee prices in Oaxaca, Mexico, by eliminating the middleman8
and shortening
the coffee production value chain. The small-scale farmers were able to receive a higher
price: $0.95 per kg of coffee instead of the previous rate of $0.25.9
Certification programs
were founded in order to ensure that ideals and standards of fair Trade are implemented,
which became joined under the umbrella group known as the Fair Trade Labeling Organizations
International (FLO).10
The stakeholders in the fair trade coffee network include producer groups in developing
nations, umbrella organizations, buyers in developed nations, roasters, retailers, and
consumers.11 The intended primary beneficiaries of the fair trade concept are small-scale
producers in developing nations. The main issue that these producers face is the downward
trend of coffee prices in the global market since there is an excess supply over demand for
coffee. During the 1900s, the world’s coffee production has increased at an average annual
rate of 3.6 percent, whereas demand has merely increased by 1.3 percent per year.12 As a
result, coffee smallholders have been unable to cover their production costs and improve
their livelihoods.
FLO states that fair trade standards are designed to support the sustainable development
of small-scale producers and agricultural workers in the poorest countries in the
world.13 Fair trade’s key objectives include ensuring that producers receive prices that cover
their average costs of sustainable production; providing a fair trade premium14; investing in
social, economic, and environmental development projects; enabling prefinancing for producers;
facilitating long-term trading relationships; enhancing producer power over trading
process; and setting clear minimum and progressive criteria to ensure that conditions of the
production and trade of all fair trade certified products are socially, economically fair and
environmentally responsible.15
The following section discusses the extent to which fair trade standards are effectively
implemented in improving the lives of small-scale coffee producers in Latin America—the
core—which supplies 78 percent of the world’s Fair Trade-certified coffee to consumers in
developed nations—the periphery.16
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Smallholders and Fair Trade
In order to fully evaluate the socioeconomic impacts of fair trade coffee on small-scale
producers, this section uses an “asset analysis” based on four assets, or types of capital17:
social, human, financial, and physical capital.18
Human Capital
The analysis on human capital focuses on capacity building, which enhances the
small-scale coffee producers’ understanding, skills, and access to information, knowledge,
and technical training to enable them to perform effectively to sustain and improve their
The coffee cooperative union of Jinotega, Nicaragua, called Soppexcca, provides technical
support to small-scale coffee farmers to achieve capacity building through workshops
and direct personal assistance, which provides an opportunity for them to both adequately
access the fair trade market and obtain a higher price for their coffee, and ensures that
their coffee meets required quality standards.20 Furthermore, the case study has shown that
capacity building of the Jinotega smallholders resulted in an increase of their competitiveness
on the fair trade market.
The development of sustainable and improved livelihoods also includes improvement in
human capital, related to gender equity and the role of rural women in fair trade activities.21
Improvements have been shown through the formation of Soppexcca’s Café de las Mujeres
(“Women’s Coffee”), which has been encouraging an increase in women’s participation in
fair trade coffee production and generating household income.
However, a case study, comparing TransFair USA (TF)22 cooperative participants and
non-participating farmers in three Latin American countries on the socioeconomic indicators
of well-being, education and health outcomes,23 shows varied results. The study’s
path analysis does conclude that TF participation tends to have a positive influence on
current participation in primary education.24 It is difficult to assess the extent to which
fair trade initiatives positively impact the human capital of Latin American smallholders
since numerous factors’ effects must be considered, such individual households’ priorities
and cultural traditions. Nevertheless, capacity building is crucial to encouraging sustainable
development, as it is necessary for smallholders, members of cooperatives, to be able to
operate and make unified decisions regarding how to invest their fair trade premium most
efficiently. Capacity building fosters a fairer balance in power between the fair trade coffee
roasters and retailers in developing nations—the periphery—and the smallholders in Latin
America—the core.
Social Capital
The evaluation of changes in the social capital of small-scale coffee farmers in Latin
America examines the process of empowerment, the social recreation, levels of migration,
and participation and decision making within the cooperative as well as within the
community.25 Soppexcca’s organizational objectives succeeded in opening up spaces for
the empowerment of their members, encouraging Jinotega smallholders to take part in
events and inducing them to feel that they are part of a system that belongs to them,
and establishing closer relations with the general manager of the organization as well as
between buyers and cooperative members.26 The Soppexcca cooperative union has shown
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an increase in the engagement of the smallholders in the cooperative’s governance and
decision-making, as it “consists of a general assembly and a board of directors made up of
[small-scale] producer members.”27 Jinotega’s small-scale coffee producers “became part
of a fair trade system, not only in events organized by their cooperative, but also at the
community level.”28 Their interactions with development included involvement in “health
and peace committees, sports activities, parents’ committees at school; and with national or
international development NGOs operating in their regions.”29 Fair trade’s empowerment
objective stresses the importance of allowing smallholders to experience unity and have
their voice count in order to encourage production efficiency and sustainable livelihoods.
However, the efficiency of self-governance of smallholders is debatable. The president of
Soppexcca has alluded to the problem of inefficiency of many cooperatives due to, “high
levels of illiteracy…low educational levels, and the lack of knowledge about how to manage
legal, commercial, organizational, and fair trade requirements,”30 amongst the members and
the board representatives. Furthermore, as a result of a lack of education, there is “a lack of
knowledge about the international coffee market [and fair trade] and the low capacity to
interpret its trend,” 31which inevitably leads to weak international negotiation power in the
supply chain and reduces efficiency of small-scale coffee producers.
A case study on the Guatemalan Loma Linda Community investigates the local dynamics
of the social vision of fair trade32 and addresses the significance of solidarity in
contributing to sustainable livelihoods of smallholder coffee producers. The cooperative
was founded in 1977 by a Spanish Catholic priest, Father Celestino, emphasizing “the
significance of individual rights to livelihood and the importance of employment and
access to land,”33 which challenged the power legacy of local landlords since colonial times.
Furthermore, it banned middlemen and prevented the sale of land and individual commercialization
of products, which permitted producers to legitimize themselves as the
organized embodiment of solidarity relations.34 In the 1980s, the Loma Linda Community
joined the Federation of Coffee Cooperatives of Guatemala (FEDECOCAGUA), which
promoted fair trade practices and economies of scale. However, discontent amongst smallholders
soon arose due to lack of circulation of information and transparency, and queries
on how the fair trade premium funds were distributed to local cooperatives, as they did
not seem to directly reach to local producers, resulting in discontent and political resentment
against FEDECOCAGUA.35 The study reveals the problems that fair trade faces in
ensuring that the fair trade premium trickles down to reach the smallholders and improve
their livelihoods, and how the,“paths to fair trade generate different texts36 in a context in
which people’s life worlds become fractured to embody a diversity of solidarity and fair
trade categories.”37
Moreover, a case study conducted in rural region of Oaxaca, Mexico, in 2004, questions
the sustainability of the fair trade–organic coffee mechanism in regard to the migration
opportunities.38 The study explains that the increased trend in migration of labor in the
Cabeza del Rio community in search of greater opportunities abroad has caused “wages
[to double] in five years…[while] the fixed price of fair trade coffee had not risen in over
ten years.”39 This raises the question of how efficient the FLO and Fair Trade certifiers are
in investigating and ensuring that the fair trade coffee price and premium amount paid to
smallholders adequately meets the minimum living standards of smallholders and provides
poverty alleviation.
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Financial Capital
An examination of the financial capital40 reveals the contribution fFair trade has had on
raising the living standards of small-scale coffee producers in Latin America.41 In theory,
fair trade provides a stable coffee price and a premium to small-scale producers to effectuate
poverty alleviation. Additionally, it encourages local smallholders to compete in production
of quality coffee. However, it is important to investigate these claims more critically and
question the extent to which the fair trade premium (USD$0.010)42 benefits and alleviates
small-scale producers from poverty.
A study focusing on smallholders in Jinotega, Nicaragua, reveals that one disadvantage
of trading with fair trade organizations is that they use the “open account payment”
method, which does not offer immediate payment for each sack of coffee delivered.43 This
has shown to create the risk that some producers will breach contracts, especially when the
international price of coffee is similar to the fair trade price agreed upon when the contract
was signed, in order to receive their payment immediately.44 This behavior also causes trade
relationships between the smallholders and their cooperatives and the international buyers
to suffer, and weakens the international negotiation power of the coffee smallholders.
Furthermore, the extent to which the fair trade price paid to smallholders is fair is
debatable. Even though the smallholders in Jinotega, Nicaragua, are able to attain a higher
price—“4.5 times [higher] than before they joined the fair trade system”45—for their coffee
through Fair Trade certification, are they the primary beneficiary of the elevated fair trade
Table 146
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Figure 147
The following study investigates the fair trade coffee trade between Nicaraguan smallholders
and Finnish consumers, by questioning how efficient fair trade is in redistributing
wealth from consuming countries to producing ones.48 This alludes to the coffee paradox
theory that argues that the global coffee business is creating wealth in the consuming
countries—the core—while smallholder farmers and laborers in developing nations—the
periphery—are exploited and remain in poverty.49 It is questionable whether fair trade
mainly empowers roasters and retailers50 rather than small-scale coffee producers. The study
assesses what percentage of the final retail price paid by consumers in the developing nation,
in this case Finland, actually goes to the small-scale coffee producers in Nicaragua. The
Finnish customs statistics estimate that “the average price paid for all green coffee imported
to Finland in 2006 [was €1.95 per kilogram and]…estimates a transportation and insurance
cost of €0.07 per kilogram of green coffee.”51 Additionally, the study estimates that
approximately 1 percent of the retail price paid by Finnish consumers goes to international
coffee trade stakeholders: export companies or trading houses. Table 1 and Figure 1 provide
evidence that a higher portion, 60 percent, of the final retail price for fair trade coffee goes
to consumer country than the producer country, which receives merely 35 percent. On the
other hand, the purchase of conventional coffee resulted in 50 percent of the retail price
going to the consumer country and 48 percent going to the producer country. The study
explains that retailers’ reason for taking very low margins from their conventional coffee
sales is to attract customers.52 The Finnish retailers or roasters charged significantly higher
margins for fair trade coffee than for conventional coffee, and thus a greater portion of
the premiums paid by fair trade consumers, the ethical donations, remains in Finland, the
consuming nation, rather than being transferred to the Nicaraguan coffee smallholders, as
fair trade initiatives advocate.53 As a result, it may be concluded that fair trade is inefficient
in redistributing the wealth from the developed consuming nations—the periphery—to
the developing nations—the core—as a greater portion of the fair trade retail price remains
in the consuming nation. It is arguable to what extent this claim is valid, as the study
does not mention whether the difference in purchasing power in Nicaragua and Finland is
Furthermore, it is interesting to note that smallholder members of coffee cooperatives
only sell a part of their coffee supply to fair trade markets, since the volatile coffee price
may be periodically higher in mainstream markets than in cooperatives.54 This was the
case during the harvest season of 2005–2006 in Nicaragua during which the Exportadora
Atlantic, SA, paid an average of USD$0.83 per pound of coffee while the Fair Trade certi-
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fied cooperative merely paid an average of USD$0.06 more per pound of coffee. Yet, there
were times when the export company offered a higher price.55 It must also be taken into
account that Fair Trade certified cooperatives also deduct a portion from the price sold to
cover operational certification costs, which were 5.5 cents per pound of exported coffee in
2005–200656 and thus don’t receive full the minimum fair trade price for all their produced
Moreover, the French critic Christian Jacquiau’s controversial book, Les coulisses du commerce
equitable, criticizes the effectiveness of fair trade and the Max Havelaar Foundation,
questioning “how much of that money ends up in the pockets of farmers in developing
countries.”57 Jacquiau states, “There are 54 inspectors around the world, working on a parttime
freelance basis to check and control a million producers. These checks do not take
place on the ground but in offices, hotel rooms, or even by fax.”58 He refutes Max Havelaar’s
claim that, “€50 million (SFr79 million) has been distributed among small farmers…
[while] the organization claims to work with a million producers.”59 He states, “Here the
dream falls apart. [Producers] therefore each receive just €50 a year—or €4 a month.”60
Jacquiau’s claims have raised debates as to whether fair trade’s higher prices and standards
are effective in alleviating the poverty of the small-scale coffee producers and encouraging
sustainable livelihoods.
Physical Capital
Finally, the improvement of Latin American small-scale coffee producers’ livelihood
is further assessed by addressing their physical capital. Fair trade and other ethical certifications
aim to facilitate exchange and protect health and safety61 of workers; however,
“developing countries might suffer from structural bottlenecks,”62 to comply with these
standards. These bottlenecks often involve lack of adequate infrastructure, processing technologies,
and national regulatory bodies.63
The case study of Jinotega’s smallholders and community demonstrates weaknesses in
efficiently in investing the premium funds to enhance the local infrastructure. Premium
funds have shown to be used “for disjointed, ad hoc projects [that] may not have optimized
the potential benefit of such funds.”64 Soppexcca’s social project cocoordinator explains
that this is because funds collected from the air trade social premium are insufficient to
consider larger community development work such as improving road infrastructure and
water and electricity services.65 In addition to an insufficient amount of funding, there is
also a limited or even a lack of government support.66 The lack of adequate physical services
such as communication and electricity in most rural communities in Jinotega, Nicaragua,
makes it difficult for smallholders high in the mountains and Soppexcca to communicate,
through the radio or paper leaflets sent by bus.67 The existence of inefficient modes of
communication hinders transparency and open communication between the cooperative
administrations and the small-scale coffee producers in order to ensure efficiency of fair
trade premium–financed projects.
From these case studies, it can be deduced that the fair trade premium is good concept;
however, more thorough investigation by FLO is required to ensure that the amount of fair
trade premium paid to smallholders is sufficient to finance projects to develop the physical
capital and infrastructure of the communities.
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Smallholders and Consumers
Having analyzed the link between Latin American smallholder coffee producers and
fair trade retailers and roasters in light of the dependency theory, this section examines the
link that fair trade constructs between the Latin American small-scale coffee producers and
the consumers in developing nations. The weaknesses of the implementation of fair trade
initiatives revealed in research results have raised the question whether fair trade is merely
a societal marketing68 strategy that promotes ethical/green consumption.69 Fair trade seems
to create a mode of connectivity to strengthen producer–consumer relationships70 by offering
consumers an opportunity to donate to charity at a distance.71
It is debatable whether Alternative Trading Organizations such as FLO are successful in
altering power relationships between producers and consumers or whether they are merely
another profit-making business that promotes consumerism.72 The case study conducted
on the fair trade coffee trade between Finland and Nicaragua provides supporting evidence
to the coffee paradox theory’s claim that the global coffee business is creating wealth in
the consuming countries—the core—while smallholder farmers and laborers in developing
nations—the periphery—are exploited and remain in poverty.73 The study demonstrates
that a greater percentage of the final retail coffee prices actually goes to the consuming
nation instead of the producer nation. The artificial bond created between consumers and
the small-scale coffee producers through societal marketing’s visuals gains the sympathy
of consumers and makes them believe they are being socially responsible citizens by purchasing
ethical products to support the less fortunate smallholder producers.
The coffee commodity is demystified, “as the hidden layers of information are peeled
away to reveal the social and environmental conditions of the commodity’s production,”74
with visual presentations of smallholders and their farms. Yet one must question to what
extent the information provided is accurate. The examination of fair trade product packaging
has revealed that fair trade seems to apply deceptive packaging to attract consumers,
as there are subtle differences in fair trade labeling among the different certifiers, Institute
for Marketecology (IMO) and FLO, that define whether the product is Fair Trade Lite75
certified or Whole Product76 certified. The IMO claims to distinguish the Whole Product
from a Fair Trade Lite product by placing the IMO Fair Trade label for a whole product
on the front of the certified product’s packaging while the Fair Trade Lite label must be
placed on the back. Nevertheless, the FLO labels the Fair Trade Lite and Whole Products
in exactly the same manner, which provides ambiguity of the extent a product is fair trade.
The fair trade product packaging of the Organic Very Dark Chocolate (71% Cacao) bar by
Equal Exchange77 demonstrated inconsistencies in labeling, since the back side states: “By
weight 100% Fair Trade content” and “Fair Trade and Social certified by IMO.” This does
not adhere to IMO’s certification guideline that a Whole Product label must be placed
on the front of the product packaging. This raises the doubt about how efficient the Fair
Trade certifiers are in ensuring that products are labeled correctly and how they collaborate
with fair trade advocates such as Equal Exchange. Additionally, a subtle difference exists
between fair trade membership, which certifies a company’s commitment to fair trade principles,
and Fair Trade certification, which is “certification…of the supply chains of specific
products.”78 The distinction is one that consumers tend to overlook.
Fair trade consumption may be regarded as a means of encouraging altruistic79 behavior,
as the consumer is manipulated to believe that through a simple purchase of a fair trade
product he or she is donating for a greater cause, or “shopping for a better world.”80 Fair
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trade products have become “ethical luxury” goods”81 that allow consumers to reflect their
political, socially responsible values in society. Consequentially, ethical/green consumption
seems to act as justification for our overconsumption.
Furthermore, it is interesting to note that fair trade’s link between smallholder producers
in Latin America and consumers in the developed nations merely provides a one-way flow
of information. Small-scale farmers often lack the knowledge about the consumers and the
coffee market. A survey interviewing cooperative members on their understanding of fair
trade demonstrated that merely three of fifty-three surveyed members regarded fair trade
as a means of building relationships with foreign consumers or coffee roasters, and that
they primarily viewed fair trade as a market transaction paying slightly higher prices than
conventional coffee markets.82 Ultimately, the strongest, most beneficial link provided by
fair trade seems to be the bond created between the small-scale producers and the roasters,
as cooperative membership has shown to encourage capacity building and provide information
about international coffee market trends. Capacity building plays a crucial role in
enabling small-scale producers to invest their fair trade premiums efficiently to improve
their livelihoods and international negotiating power.
This paper has revealed the benefits and weaknesses of the fair trade concept as a tool of
international development. The in-depth analysis of the link that fair trade constructs between
roasters and retailers in consuming nations and small-scale coffee producers in Latin
America is compared to the link formed between the consumers in developed nations and
the smallholders, through fair trade societal marketing. The research conducted has shown
that, although the fair trade mechanism is a valid method of promoting sustainable development
in developing countries, its implementation in developing nations and marketing
should be more thoroughly refined. This would enhance its efficiency in promoting sustainable
development and enhancing consumer credibility and support. We can conclude that
the most beneficial link, provided by the fair trade mechanism, is the direct relationship link
it creates between the small-scale producers and the roasters. Cooperative membership has
shown improvements in the capacity of the smallholder’s human capital, which is vital to
achieving sustainable development and improving the international negotiation power of
the smallholders on the coffee market.
1. There is an important difference between the terms free trade and fair trade. Free trade is defined
as the general openness to exchange goods and information between and among nations with
few-to-no barriers-to-trade, whereas fair trade refers to exchanges, the terms of which meet the
demands of justice. ( Jeffrey Eisenberg, “Free Trade vs. Fair Trade,” Global Envision, October 26,
2. Ibid., 453.
3. Ibid.
4. Ibid.
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5. Wallerstein’s model applies “a zero-sum game analysis of international trade… This model
characterized the world system as a set of mechanisms which redistributes resources from the
periphery to the core.” (Mine Aysen Doyran, “Latin America,” 2010: 8).
6. Ibid.
7. Jan Van der Kaaj, “Building a Sustainable Profitable Business: Fair Trade Coffee (A),” International
Institute for Management Development, 2003, 2.
8. The “middleman” refers to local traders who monopolized the market. (Taken from Van der Kaaj,
“Building a Sustainable Profitable Business (A),” 3.
9. Ibid.
10. Eric J. Arnould, Alejandro Plastina, and Dwayne Ball, “Does Fair Trade Deliver on Its Core
Value Proposition? Effects on Income, Educational Attainment, and Health in Three Countries,”
Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, 28, no. 2 (2009): 187.
11. Sarah Lyon, “Evaluating Fair Trade Consumption: Politics, Defetishization and Producer
Participation,” International Journal of Consumer Studies, 30, no. 5 (2006): 453.
12. Jan Van der Kaaj, “Building a Sustainable Profitable Business: Fair Trade Coffee (C),” International
Institute for Management Development, 2003, 6
13. “Aims of Fairtrade Standards, 2010,” Fair Trade Labeling Organizations International, December
5, 2010,
14. “A Fairtrade Premium of US$ 20 cents per pound is added to the purchase price and is used by
producer organizations for social and economic investments at the community and organizational
level” (“Benefits of fair trade for producers,”
15. Ibid.
16. Of the 78 percent of Latin American fair trade coffee, Mexico, Peru, Guatemala, Colombia,
and Nicaragua are the largest exporters. ( Joni Valkila, Perti Haparanta, and Nina Niemi, “Empowering
Coffee Traders? The Coffee Value Chain from Nicaraguan Fair Trade Farmers to Finnish
Consumers,” Journal of Business Ethics, 97 (2010): 257).
17. “In classical economics, capital is one of three factors of production, the others being land and
labour. Goods with the following features are capital: It can be used in the production of other
goods (this is what makes it a factor of production). It is human-made, in contrast to “land,” which
refers to naturally occurring resources such as geographical locations and minerals. It is not used
up immediately in the process of production, unlike raw materials or intermediate goods.” (http://, accessed 2010
18. Karla Utting, “Assessing the Impact of Fair Trade Coffee: Towards an Integrative Framework.”
Journal of Business Ethics, 86 (2009): 129.
19. Ibid., 136.
20. Ibid.
21. Ibid.
22. TF is “a third-party certifier [who] audits the supply chains of specific products from point of
origin to point-of-sale against fair trade criteria…” ( “Reference Guide to Fair Trade Certifiers
and Membership Organizations,” For a Better World: Issues & Challenges in Fair Trade, Issue 1, Fall
23. Eric J. Arnould, Alejandro Plastina, and Dwayne Ball, “Does Fair Trade Deliver on Its
Core Value Proposition? Effects on Income, Educational Attainment, and Health in Three
Countries,”Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, 28, no. 2 (2009): 186.
24. Ibid.,198.
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25. Utting, “Assessing the Impact,” 136.
26. Ibid., 137.
27. Ibid., 140.
28. Ibid., 137.
29. Ibid., 137.
30. Ibid., 140.
31. Ibid.
32. Alberto Arce, “Living in Times of Solidarity Fair Trade and the Fractured Life Worlds of
Guatemalan Coffee Farmers, ” Journal of International Development, 21(2009): 1033.
33. Ibid., 1033–34.
34. Ibid., 1034.
35. Ibid.
36. “The term text ‘refers not to script alone, but any articulation of intelligibility, that is to say, of
being’ (Michael Schatzki, Site of the Social: A Philosophical Account of the Constitution of Social Life
and Change, Penn State Press, 2010, p.61.) Text is used here to encompass narratives, discourses,
and speech-acts as languages of performance, weaving distinctions from differences in peoples’
diverse interpretations that constitute the fabric of solidarity and fair trade. This refers to the
etymological root of the three meaning of the term ‘text’: generate, hit, and prepare, orienting the
performance of networks and socially expressing different kinds of solidarity and the tasks involved
in the coordination of fair trade and its involvement within social life.” (Arce, “Living in Times of
Solidarity,” 1037, note 9.)
37. Ibid., 1036-7.
38. Jessica Lewis and David Runsten, “Is Fair Trade-Organic Coffee Sustainable in the Face of
Migration? Evidence from an Oaxacan Community,” Globalizations, 5, no. 2 (2008): 275.
39. Ibid., 287.
40. Examining “financial capital” refers to the “financial resources used to support livelihood and
[examine] how fair trade producers’ financial assets have changed over time.” (Utting, “Assessing
the Impact,” 138).
41. Ibid., 138.
42. “Coffee: Benefits of Fair Trade for Producers,” Fair Trade Labeling Organization, 2010, http://
43. In this method, “buyers pay upon delivery of supply of coffee, which may take up to…four
months”. Utting, “Assessing the Impact,” 139.
44. Utting, “Assessing the Impact,” 139.
45. Ibid.
46. Ibid., 266.
47. Joni Valkila, Perti Haparanta, and Nina Niemi, “Empowering Coffee Traders? The Coffee
Value Chain from Nicaraguan Fair Trade Farmers to Finnish Consumers,” Journal of Business
Ethics, 97 (2010): 266.
48. Ibid., 257.
49. Ibid., 259.
50. Ibid., 257.
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51. Ibid., 265.
52. Ibid., 266.
53. Ibid.
54. Ibid., 263.
55 Ibid.
56. Ibid., 264.
57. Ian Hamel, “Fair Trade Firm Accused of Foul Play,” Swiss Info, August 3, 2006, http://www.
58. Ibid.
59. Ibid.
60. Ibid.
61. Joseph E. Stiglitz and Andrew Charlton, Fair Trade for All (New York: Oxford University Press
Inc., 2005), 211.
62. Ibid., 211.
63. Ibid., 212.
64. Utting, “Assessing the Impact,” 138.
65. Ibid.
66. Ibid.
67. Ibid.
68. “Societal marketing emphasizes several aspects of responsible marketing, beyond simply
focusing on the process of maximizing consumer purchasing. Societal marketing extends ahead
of the company’s needs and seeks to meet the customer’s needs and societal needs. This allows for
more sustainable success rather than short-term accomplishment.” ( J. R. Ericson, “About Societal
Marketing,” eHow, Accessed
69. Ethical consumerism or green consumption is defined as the consumption trend that reflects
an increased concern and feeling of responsibility for society, which has led to remarkable growth
in the global market for environment-friendly products. (Nina Mazar and Chen-Bo Zhong,
“Do Green Products Make Us Better People?” Psychological Science, 21, no. 4 (August 27, 2009):
494–498. )
70. Lyon, “Evaluating Fair Trade Consumption,” 457.
71. Ibid.
72. Arnould, Plastina, and Ball, “Does Fair Trade Deliver?” 199.
73. Ibid., 259.
74. Lyon, “Evaluating Fair Trade Consumption,” 457.
75. A Fair Trade Lite product is afair trade product that contains 20% minimum fair trade content,
“made with single/some Fair frade ingredients.” ( Nasser Abufahra, “How Do you Know It’s Really
Fair Trade?” For a Better World: Issues & Challenges in Fair Trade, 1(Fall 2009): 6.)
76. There is a “50% [fair trade] content minimum for ‘whole product’ [Fair Trade] certification…”(Abufahra,
“How Do you Know?” 6).
77. “Equal Exchange is a for-profit Fairtrade worker-owned, cooperative headquartered in West
Bridgewater, Massachusetts. Equal Exchange distributes organic, gourmet coffee, tea, sugar, cocoa,
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and chocolate bars produced by farmer cooperatives in Latin America, Africa, and Asia. Founded
in 1986, it is the oldest and largest Fair Trade coffee company in the United States.” “Equal
Exchange: About Our Co-Op” Equal Exchange, Inc.Accessed 2010. http://www.equalexchange.
78. “Reference Guide to Fair Trade Certifiers,” 4.
79. Altruism is a helping behavior that is motivated by a selfless concern for the welfare of another
person. (
80. Ibid.
81. Valkila, Haparanta, and Niemi. “Empowering Coffee Traders?” 259.
82. Lyon, “Evaluating Fair Trade Consumption,” 458.