Major Environmental Discussions


1. For several years former US presidential candidate Al Gore (“An Inconvenient Truth” and more recently “An Inconvenient Sequel” ) tried to raise awareness about global warming and the roles of business, government, and industry. Whether he and others will have an impact in the US or abroad is yet to be fully seen; however, the new findings on the melting of the Antarctic ice shelf resulting if rising ocean levels, fires out West, and increases in hurricane activity may help focus attention. As other issues fade and, hopefully, the Covid-19 pandemic passes, the environment may remain as a prime-time news issue. And, certainly, the business sector faces pressures from both internal and external stakeholders when the banner of environmental protection is hoisted. The question of corporate moral responsibility for the environment can fade from the spotlight until a public figure promotes the message or an environmental crisis erupts and CNN or 60 Minutes or some other news agency appears at the corporate headquarters demanding answers with cameras running.

Consider the material beginning with page 297 in our textbook. Beyond the legislated mandates (EPA, among others), how far should corporate responsibility for the environment extend? For example, should trees, lakes, oceans, and animals have rights? Why, or why not? Could there be such a thing as a “one-level-removed-stakeholder” that would include “non-human” stakeholders?

2. Chapter 6 (values based moral leadership) and this class offer us an opportunity to reflect on the basic tenets behind this country, beyond our system of commerce, finance, education, international relations, and healthcare; and to ponder where our businesses and nation may be headed during this pandemic.

During crisis and political campaigns, the national television media called attention to “Fact Checkers” and “Truth Squads” (and a variety o other titles) with the level of scrutiny intense. Whether this morphed into “fake news” would be an interesting research topic. Keeping in a business mode, you’ve read (or at least read about) Sarbanes-Oxley—the idea being that a piece of federal legislation can address corporate accounting moral obligations and solve ethical ills. You’ve also read Lennick & Kiel’s book, Moral Intelligence, which hopefully most found useful reading. So, what next?

Some pundits believe that political and corporate corruption is the result of greed and any attempt to legislate “corporate morality” will be defeated. Others add that corruption is systemic, starting with the top but communicated throughout the organization from the board room to the factory floor to the sales force to suppliers and other stakeholders. The idea being that corruption starts with small things done “on the slide” and spreads to larger issues—corporate banality, if you will, in that lower level employees perceive those above them as being somewhat corrupt and begin to emulate that perceived behavior (values), with such behavior becoming “acceptable” over time.

Collectively, our class represents a broad array of work experiences, professional interests, and employment environments. You can substitute “factory floor” and “sales force” for whatever fits your environment. My question is: Based on your readings, and coupled with your experience, what causes those ethical problems popularly classified as ‘corporate corruption’ and how would you address such in your own environment (which may remain nameless) if and when you have the power to do so?

3.For DT7, let’s look at a topic that impacts all of us and touches Chapter 7 (Weiss). Let’s consider generational values. I thought about taking a look at the ethical and stakeholder issues of globalization, balance of trade, and trade tariffs—these seem to pop up in the media when the pundits aren’t preoccupied otherwise with politics and pandemics. A fairly recent article talked about a factory worker shortage in China with the expectation that, with a mandate for wages to increase in China (supply and demand and to bolster consumer spending), jobs would move to Pakistan, Vietnam, Cambodia, etc., where labor would be cheaper. This move would help the US and EU countries maintain the flow of inexpensive goods. I wonder what Sam Walton would say?!? But, ‘generational values’ offers some fun and is something that I’m stuck on here lately.

No surprise, I’m a Boomer. Boomers cover a wide span of years, yet led the US population growth curve and grew up with the ‘Great Depression Era’ values of their parents; believing that dedication, hard work, and long hours were the trilogy for success. Granted, this belief may be tested as Boomers contemplate retirement during these fluid economic times. Boomers had (and have) power through sheer numbers and the aging of Boomers will continue to present unique challenges. Other generations have different values and wield different clout. Which of the generations (GI, Silent, Boomer, X, Y, or Millennials) are represented by the majority of the workforce in your business or profession; what intra- and inter-generational issues have you or your company (no company names please) had to address; and, in your opinion, have these issues been addressed successfully? For a good summary of generation values, review the our textbook beginning at 427.