Business Ethics Case Study
As years go by more firms are beginning to recognize the benefits of improving ethical conduct. They are seeing an enormous correlation between business ethics and financial performance (Ferrell). There are numerous of examples that demonstrate that building an ethical reputation among employees, customers, and the general public pays off. For example, employee commitment and trust, investor loyalty and trust, and customer satisfaction and trust, which in the end creates profit (Ferrell).
The reputation of a company can either benefit these three areas if they integrate ethics into the company as a whole, or prejudice if they decide to make bad ethical decisions. Today there are many cases when the company or employer is the one who is behaving in an incorrect ethical manner and not the employee. That’s what happened to an employee named Chantale Leroux in the case of Whistleblowing and the Environment: the Case of Avco Environmental. Chantale worked as a clerk for a small toxic-waste disposal company.
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The company was called Avco Environmental Services and had a contract to disposes of medical waste from a local hospital (MacDonald). Chantale one day comes across some documents that suggest that Avco has been disposing of some of the medical waste in a local municipal landfill (MacDonald). Chantale knew that what they were doing was illegal so she decided to gather the documents that suggest Avco has been doing this and takes them to her superior (MacDonald).
What she has found is neither her concern nor his, and that as clerks, they are in charge of record keeping, not making decisions about where the medical waste gets dumped (MacDonald). Chantale confused and awed of what her superior has said to her takes a day to think things through. The next day she then decides to go to the company’s Operations Manager and lets her know what she had discovered. The Operations Manager annoyingly tells Chantale that it is not her concern and the reason why they are doing this is to decrease costs in the company to compete with their giant competitors (MacDonald). It’s a small amount that they are dumping in a local municipal landfill for them to even be worrying about it,” quoted the operations manager (MacDonald). It is now clear to Chantale what her supervisors have decided to do about the situation and what they told her to do about it. For as long as she has been working for Avco, she never had doubt that of the company’s management since they always seemed honest, trustworthy people (MacDonald). Now she wasn’t so sure of Avco’s apparent honest company she once thought it was.
Chantale was certain that even though only a small portion of the medical waste that Avco handled is being disposed this way, any amount at all seems a worrisome threat to public health, but she was troubled by this apparent disregard for public safety (MacDonald). After considering her situation, she is positive that if she decides to be a whistleblower about this issue she could and most likely jeopardize her job (MacDonald). Avco Environmental Services provided a state level medical waste service to the hospital.
For example, state regulations generally cover potentially infectious medical waste, sometimes referred to as regulated medical waste. Chantale knew this even though she was a clerk. That is why she was shocked when she found out that Avco was disposing some is this medical waste in a local municipal landfill. If Chantale chose not to whistle blow she would be making an unethical decision. The way she handled things from the very moment she found out about the medical waste was done properly.
Going to your superior about any type of problem one is having or detects during work should be consulted with someone who is superior. Not only did Chantale consult one supervisor but two in total. She has no option but to take this matter into her own hands, either if it’s to stay quite or act like nothing ever happened, or have the law get involved. Even though her job is on the line if she whistleblows, one day or another someone else is bound to find out or the company might just get caught and then they might go out of business and Chantale will still be left without a job regardless.
As an employee especially when one has been working for a company a long time, it’s normal to feel loyal to one’s employer. But there are limits. As much as the employer wants their employee to be loyal and act in an ethical manner, an employee would expect the same ethical conduct from his or her employer. For example, if the employer found out one if its employee has been acting in an unethical manner and are a risk to the company because of his or her conduct, the employee will more than likely lose their job. But why isn’t it the other way around.
If the employer is not abiding their rules or sometimes even the law, can the employer fire the employer? This is where ethical decision making takes place. All employees look up to their superior. Either if it’s a question, if they need help or more importantly to make an ethical decision. If the employee sees that they can’t even rely on their superior for ethical guidance because their employer is not acting the way they are supposed to be acting then the employee is at potential risk to act the same way its employer is acting.
Chantale is at risks to act in an unethical manner by not reporting what the company she is working for is doing. Her own leader is putting herself in a position she didn’t even want to be in the first place. Initially, Chantale felt that she was loyal to Avco because as she recalls, for as long as she had been working for the company, she never had doubt of the company’s management since they always seemed honest, trustworthy people (MacDonald).
Employee commitment comes from employees who believe their future is tied to that of the organization and from employee willingness to make professional sacrifices for the organization if and only if the organizational is conducting themselves under ethical standards (Ferrell). The more the company is dedicated to taking care of its employees, the more likely it is that the employees will take care of the organization (Ferrell). Both of Chantale’s supervisors told her that what they were doing with the medical waste was not her concern because she was just a clerk.
The first immediate supervisors said, “Look, I don’t think that sort of thing is your concern, or mine. We’re in charge of record-keeping, not making decisions about where this stuff gets dumped. I suggest you drop it” (MacDonald). Obviously, Chantale’s clerk supervisor addressed that their department of the company didn’t have greater authority to make this type of ethical decision to decide where the medical waste gets dumped. The company’s Operations Manager then told Chantale, “This isn’t your concern.
Look, these are the sorts of cost-cutting moves that let a little company like ours compete with our giant competitors. Besides, everyone knows that the regulations in this area are overly cautious. There’s no real danger to anyone from the tiny amount of medical waste that ‘slips’ into the municipal dump. I consider this matter closed” (MacDonald). The Operations Manager had the same views as Chantale’s clerk supervisor only it made it seem much more of a definite answer since the operations manager has a greater authority in the business.
As any employer should look up to their managers or people who have greater authority within any company, having a supervisor and operations manager, in Chantale’s case, make unethical decisions for the company sets a bad example for all employees. It would have not made a difference if Chantale had scientific expertise. As we already know, Chantale didn’t need scientific knowledge to figure out that the company had been dumping medical waste in a local municipal landfill. No one needs scientific knowledge to figure that out.
As mentioned, during the course of her work Chantale came across documents that suggest that Avco had actually been disposing of some of its medical waste in an illegal way. In the case, it clearly describes Chantale’s emotion towards what she had discovered. It mentioned the she was “shocked. ” This emotion can only clarify the fact that she knew and understood what Avco was doing with no prior scientific knowledge. Failure to acknowledge such obscured ethical issues is a great danger in any organization, particularly if the business is treated as a game in which ordinary rules of fairness do not apply (Ferrell).
Sometimes people who take this view, like Avco, are willing to do things that are not only unethical but also illegal so they can maximize their own positions or boost the profits of their organization (Ferrell). Viewing a business ethics program as a part of a strategic planning and management activities is critical to the success of any firm. Some companies still do not understand that ethics is a critical aspect of business strategy in actions (Ferrell). Avco should developing an effective business program where it will require the organization to cope with the realities of implementing such a program (Ferrell).
Implementation requires executing specific actions that will ensure the achievement of business ethics objectives (Ferrell). Avco must have ways of managing, evaluating and controlling business ethics program. Avco should also recognize the benefits of improving ethical conduct. If they do so they will have employee commitment and trust, investor loyalty and trust, and customer satisfaction and trust, something every company should have in order to be successful.