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H.B. Fuller's Ethical Dilemma

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Alan Church

on 8 December 2015

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Transcript of H.B. Fuller's Ethical Dilemma

H.B. Fuller's Ethical Dilemma
Ethical Dilemma
Are H.B. Fuller and/or their subsidiaries morally responsible for the addiction of street children in Central America and therefore obligated to reformulate the glue even though these children have become addicted by misusing and abusing the adhesive glue that HB Fuller manufactured or distributed directly or indirectly?
First Principles
H.B. Fuller manufactures and distributes Resistol which is formulated with the solvent called Toluene.
The glue is a strong bonding agent and is used by multiple trades in Latin America.
Habitual inhalation of Toluene causes irreparable nerve damage and death.
The Glue has a sweet smell and is misused by street kids to get high.
H.B. Fuller uses subsidaries to manufacture and distribute the glue Resistol.

by: Robert Bruno, Alan Church, Isaac LeBrija
Value of Life
Prevent harm
Do Good
Truth Telling
H.B Fuller has makes a lot of money selling products including the Toulene based glues, and 27% of profits come from Latin America
If H.B Fuller accepts moral responsibility and changes the formulation of the glue then profit margins in Latin America may be impacted.
H.B fuller reformulated Resistol to contain cyclohexane instead of Toulene and raised the price 30%
The cost of adding MSO to the adhesive to deter inhalation could be offset by a price increase.
The reformation with Cyclohexane only made getting high more difficult but did not fix the problem
Utilitarian perspective, duties that are future looking seem to be in H.B Fuller's best interest when considering long term over short term and corporate social responsibility impacts sustainability
LEU user of Resistol for legitimate purposes are important stake holders
In an already struggling economy if H.B. decides to add MSO and increase the price to offset cost then the LEU stand to lose financially
With the struggling economy the Guatemalan and Honduran economies stand to lose more than H.B. would through lower margins
IF H.B decides not to reformulate, the status quo rules and thousands of "worthless" homeless children continue to be negatively impacted
Contrast with hundreds of thousands that the LEU represent who would be negatively impacted by the reformulation and tele0logically H.B must not reformulate.
If pressure from the LEU was substantial to that of the advocacy groups fighting for the street kids, then the government would have rejected the lobbying efforts of H.B Fuller and maintained their ban on the glue.
The LEU outnumbers the street kids hence H.B should not reformulate because the cost-benefit analysis and Utilitarianism require the status quo
Value of Life
Welfare: Prevent harm
H.B. is aware of the abuse yet does noting
Moral responsibility demands something be done

Truth Telling
H.B. neglected value street children
H.B. valuing LEU above kids - keeping prices low
True moral equality needs to be in play
Death is at stake for the street children; financial pinch for LEU
Value of life trumps financial benefit
Not only telling the truth but also being told the truth

Honduran government lied to after passing Decree 36-89 - required MSO be added
Propaganda: shelf life & effectiveness diminished
Debunked by journalist: no official study to prove either points.
Lie to American Public: Stopped selling - only retail
Kant: Universality and Reversibility questions condemn H.B.
What if every company exalted its clients above the lives of those affected by it's products?
What if every company neglected due care?
What if the children of H.B. employees were addicted to Toluene and a simple reformation would deter that?
What if all companies were allowed to lie to governments?
Deontology speaks to duty: Principle Violations & Kants rules violations requires reformulation
Testors (Competitor) recognized & accepted moral obligation to non-maleficence: they reformulated
Moral motivation informed by moral character is as important as fiscal responsibility
Stop selling and forfeit profits
Even though it has been determined that H.B. is morally responsible to act, teleologically, H.B. should not reformulate as the greater good seems to be served by maintaining the status quo, in the short term. The long term view suggest they should reformulate.
Deontologically, the important first principles are being violated and therefore H.B. is obligated to reformulate.
Ontologically, if H.B. desires to be a company of character, they should reformulate
H.B. Fuller's Ethical Dilemma
Resistol could easily be safeguarded buy adding mustard seed oil to the glue's formula.
The additive will make the glue unpleasant and irritating to inhale which will deter inhalation.
The Honduran government outlawed the use of any glue not containing mustard seed oil, but H.B. Fuller's subsidiary lobbied against this ban and the law was overturned.
H.B Fuller tried numerous remedies such as adding warning labels and hiring social workers to help at risk kids.
H.B. Fuller claimed that mustard seed oil affects the integrity and the shelf-life of industrial glue, like Resistol ,without any supporting scientific evidence.
Requires manufacturer exercise due care
Deontological Cont.
The long term teleological approach coupled with the obvious direction of the other two approaches direct us to recommend that H.B. Fuller reformulates Resistol.
Welfare: Do Good
Deontological Cont.
"manufacturers exercise sufficient care…when they take adequate steps to prevent whatever injurious effects they can foresee that the use of their product may have on consumers after having conducted inquiries into the way the product will be used and after having attempted to anticipate possible misuses of the product" (Velasquez, Pg. 317)
H.B. knew of misuse but did not add MSO
H.B. lobbied to defeat the Decree 36-89 using propaganda and lies
Deontological Cont.
Propaganda: MSO would impact LEU
Debunked: Testors (Competitor) added MSO with no negative impact

Lie: MSO carcinogenic
Debunked: Investigative journalist - MSO used as additive in other American Products and FDA approved

Claims worked and Government overturned Decree 36-89
Truth Telling
Deontological Cont.
Deontological Cont.
Truth Telling
Virtue perspective: unjust to devalue the lives of Central American youth but also imprudent to reformulate.
Prudence does not stand on its own.
Prudence influences and is influenced by other virtues
Courage must influence prudence to forego profits to further justice
Temperance shown as they wait to reap from sowing good future looking (beneficence & non-maleficence) seed
Summarily: Reformulation is the most prudent thing H.B. (prudence is not subject to time) and makes them a caring company
Is H.B. morally responsible (being to blame) for the abuse of Resistol by Central American children.
Must be determined before ethical reasoning applies

Moral responsibility Criteria:
“(1) the person caused or helped cause it, or failed to prevent it when he or she could have and should have
(2) the person did so knowing what he or she was doing
(3) the person did so of his or her own free will” (Velasquez, Pg. 57).

Moral Responsibility Criteria
“(1) the person caused or helped cause it, or failed to prevent it when he or she could have and should have
Criteria one: H.B. did not cause - but could have prevented by following competitor, Testors
Testors added MSO (Mustard Seed Oil) to prevent similar glue sniffing among American teenagers
Special relationship of H.B. to end users and child abusers requires them to act
The buck stops with H.B.: only ones with the authority to reformulate the adhesive thereby preventing its abuse.

Moral Responsibility Criteria Cont.
Moral Responsibility Criteria Cont.
(2) the person did so knowing what he or she was doing
(3) the person did so of his or her own free will”
Criteria two and three: H.B. not only did not prevent but lobbied the Honduran government to reverse Decree 36-89, requiring the MSO additive.
Initially, H.B. could have pleaded ignorance but after knowledge of Resistol abuse came, this qualified them on criteria two.
Bottom line, H.B. not only knew of Resistol abuse but of their own “corporate” free will deflected responsibility and did nothing. Therefore, concerning the criteria determining blame, H.B. Fuller et al. are guilty. The mitigating circumstances of minimal contribution, uncertainty, or difficulty do not apply to H.B.
Status quo may cost H.B. Fuller public relations points which may impact long term revenues in favor of short term margins
H.B. Fuller stands to lose fiscal strength by reformulating, but if they make the change, then the status quo is maintained and they keep what appears to be better margins
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