Social perspectives on corporate responsibility: Monsanto and its community development

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Social perspectives on corporate responsibility:

Monsanto and its community development


People all demand for the corporations to be involved in the society, self-monitored themselves in implementing their policies and reviewed their guidelines in different aspects in order to maintain a sustainable development. The business should play an active role in “using resources to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (Linton et al., 2007, p. 1076). “With great power comes great responsibility.” This famous Spider-Man phrase can also apply to nowadays business model.

Corporate social responsibility is a morality and ideology model or practice for business to examine their commercial activities in order to obtain sustainability to the stakeholders. It follows that, the companies need to consider the total benefits and costs as a whole, but not only maximizing their private gains. Howard Bowen is the first one to discuss the commercial ethics and duties on an academic level. In 1953, he published a significant article “Social responsibilities of the businessman” (Bowen, 1953).

This book has systemically discussed about the social responsibilities, corporate citizenship, and sustainability which are carried out by businesspeople. Moreover, Howard has established a framework about the moral standards and the philosophical concepts to the companies behave toward our society and stakeholders. It follows ethical behaviour toward stakeholders and recognizes the spirit of the legal and regulatory environment (Bowen, 1953).

By the same token, Archie B. Carroll has also studied on social performance model which is a three-dimensional conceptual model to evaluate and describe their acts to the community (Carroll, 1978). Firstly, it defined the corporate social duties. Then, it identified the social issues relating to their activities. At last, he analyzed the philosophy for the organization and the reposes from the social level. Under this model, the social responsibilities have been divided into four categories: economic, legal, ethical and discretionary.

For economics aspect, Archie suggested it is the first and important duty for business to mark-up its profits at a market and social acceptable level. For legal perspective, the global expects the commercials to meet the legal and government governance. For morality, the companies have to follow the implied ethical terms to make their managerial decisions and their internal control system which can monitor their activities in a good faith. In addition, for the discretionary responsibility is an absolutely voluntary act taken by the business to contribute to the society conscientiously.

Actions must be taken after discovering problems. Archie illustrated the four actions taken by the firms, which are reaction, defend, accommodate and lead.

The first action is reaction which are refusing to accept any social responsibility and shifting the burden to the public. The second response is defend. Granted, the companies take action to protect the companies’ goodwill. But they take action as few as possible. Accommodate is the third response that can be made by the entities. Under this category, the entities will communicate with parties who are involved before any action has been made. Lead is the perfect idea for the companies to handle the issue before it has widely reported and take a sufficient action that is much more than expected.

Background of Monsanto

Based on the above business model, it can be easily evaluate and critique an entity in their community development and their implications on society and stakeholders.

Before studying any actions taken by Monsanto Company, it is necessary to understand the background information about the Monsanto Company. Monsanto is a chemical company that produce agriculturalchemicals, namely saccharine and 2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid before 1960s. In 1976, the most profitable and marketable product, Roundup, has been announced. Thisherbicide is a pesticide has been used for the world in eliminating any wasted planted to protect the plants up til now. Monsanto has also launched a Roundup Ready Soybean to the market. Monsanto claims that Roundup Ready Soybean can grow healthily under Monsanto’s pesticide. Since there is a change of business nature, Monsanto’s first geneticallymodified product Bovine Growth Hormone is commercialized to the public in 1994. In present, the company is a multi-national industry leader which is engaged in geneticallymodified technological development and pesticide producing.

Monsanto and its community development

A military project ran by U.S. Army called Operation Ranch Hand, which is a project to clear up six million acres of forests in Vietnam during the Vietnam War (Warwick, 1998). This defoliant is called Agent Orange and it is produced by Monsanto (Beder, 1997). 11 million gallons of Agent Orange was used during the war and gave nightmares to many Vietnamese and their descendants. 2,3,7,8-Tetrachlorodibenzo-para-dioxin (TCDD) which is the most toxic element to people has released during the usage of Agent Orange (Roberts, 1991). Unbelievably, the dioxin contamination inside the military weapon is 1000 times higher than the normal use and also over the World Health Organization’s limitation (Roberts, 1991). It is not surprise there is a research showing the use of biological weapon leads to serious illness. In particular, those illnesses are related with liver, skin or even cancers (Rachel's Environment & Health Weekly, 1991). Hence, there are more than 500,000 deformities caused by TCDD in Vietnam since 1960’s (Roberts, 1991). However, Monsanto did not pay any compensation to the victims. Monsanto took a denying attitude when facing the issue according to the Archie business responsibility model. In 2012, a law case have brought by two American who are citizens of the city of manufacturing the Agent Orange. The victims asked for medical remedy to recover the costs of taking dioxin. Still, the case is still in legal processing and no held is made by the court (Sissell, 2012).

There is a similar case about manufacturing the polychlorinated biphenyl in Anniston, Alabama. In 1966, Monsanto has discovered the polluted water with polychlorinated biphenyl would kill fishes at a short period of time. While no one has announced this issue, the news has been hidden by Monsanto and its related party for 40 years (Grunwald, 2001). An investigation by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry discovered the high polychlorinated biphenyl level inside body of Anniston citizens and the damages to the air and soil in the town (ATSDR, 2000). Another study successfully found out the true linkage between the biphenyl and its effect to human (Silverstone et al., 2012). The report covered the citizen’s blood and hypertension, blood pressure, and diabetes. Even these reports have indicated the liabilities should be borne by Monsanto, the entity only settle the claim nearly after 40 years. They have agreed to pay the plaintiff 700 millions U.S.D. in August 2003 (The New York Times, 2003). Applying the business duty model introduced by Archie, Monsanto only fulfil the legal responsibility to compensate the people who are in suffered.

A research published in 2002 showed that the Roundup provokes cell division dysfunction. To put it simply, Roundup is a determinative factor in affecting the movement and growth of cells. Thus, the possibility of cancer will be higher than not using Roundup (Marc, 2002). Problems also found in Monsanto’s geneticallymodified product, Bovine Growth Hormone, also known as rBST. This hormone can increase the productivity of producing milk, and the controversies relating this hormone never stop arguing (Cerro, 1996). There is two unknowns which are not answered by Monsanto, and the Food and Drug Administration before commercializing this GM product. The first problem is the containment inside the rBST, cloning amino acid, is not proved to be healthy for human beings (Biotechnology and the American agricultural industry, 1991). The second uncertainty is the growth rate of the Insulin-like growth factor 1, which will be affected by the use of Monsanto’s Bovine Growth Hormone (Cerro, 1996). The Insulin-like growth factor 1 is a gene to control the growth of people and assess human healthiness. Still, Monsanto did not response to this issue nor study any research.

Apart from their products, Monsanto also involve in certain social activities. One Million Challenge is a project for public to send their proposals for producing clean sodium chloride stream in an innovative way (Environmental science & technology, 1995). Monsanto is also an entity who cares about academic developments. In U.K., there is mutual trust fund which is set up by Monsanto and other British intuitions in backing up the finance of the biotechnology studies since 1982 (Nature, 1982). The Washington University awarded a U.S.D. $23.5 million fund for a five-year project in which the health and medical research (Culliton, 1982). In 2000, Monsanto is the first company to donate their license to researchers in order to provide technological supports in improving the development of golden rice. Golden Rice is geneticallymodified rice which contains lager β-carotene. The β-carotene eventually transform into vitamin A in our body system. Importantly, the Golden Rice can help four millions people who suffer from vitamin A deficiency and other vision problems (Normile, 2000). For clarifying the public concerts and the professionals’ rights, there are at least 25 categories of private agronomic researches can be used by the scientists and the government (Waltz, 2010).


According to the business ethics and social responsibilities theories set by Howard and Archie, we can understand how the company can affect the community in legal, environment, metaphysic, or even health.

As a multi-national biochemical leader, the global expects the firm to behave in the way that is higher than the normal social expectations. The community would expect the company to bear the discretionary responsibility which is a kind of social duty to build up excellent business goodwill for the company. Be that as it may, Monsanto has only performed the economics aspect and part of the legal aspect, namely the case about the compensation for the polychlorinated biphenyl pollution in Anniston. According Archie’s morality model, the corresponding actions taken by Monsanto did not satisfied the public. Monsanto only took deny and defend attitude to response those public issues, such as biological weapons, pollution in, Roundup health problem and hormone problem. They shift some of the issues to the court and let the court to determine the truth. Unfortunately, they are not willing to clarify the public worries for some cases. Thus, public are not willing to trust the company and their products. For instance, the GM milk and GM food are not welcome in Europe.

Even they have lot of rooms to improve their integrity and problem-solving attitude, we should not outweigh the contribution of Monsanto on biotechnology.

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