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Is online marketing making kids obese?
The main harms and benefits for the stakeholders
Holahan (2002) highlights the main harms and benefits of the stakeholders in her case study that is meant to answer the question whether online marketing contributes to kids being obese. According to research carried out by Center for Digital Democracy and American University, kids spending a lot of their time engaging in internet activities end up suffering from childhood obesity and other health problems related to diet. The authors of this report suggest that online marketers use avatars, instant messaging, chat tools and games to lure kids. These offers online entertainment and pass time activities for kids although the results are devastating on the health of children (Holahan 2002).
As Holahan (2002) states, "For parents trying to promote healthy eating habits, these online sales pitches are making mealtime no picnic". This means that parents are really having a hard time controlling the eating habits of their children. Food and beverage manufacturers, distributors and marketers manipulate the kids unethically through advertising against the will of the parents. The research by Center for Digital Democracy and American University concludes that online marketing for low nutrient food use specific methods that targets the kids and teens (Holahan 2002).
Applying a Utilitarian perspective in an ethical analysis
In business ethics 3 lecture, Crane (2000) explains that an action is considered as morally right according to utilitarianism perspective if most of people affected by the action benefits from the results. In his lecture, Crane (2000) identifies one of utilitarianism as subjectivity and therefore refines the theory into act and rule utilitarianism. Food and beverage manufacturers, distributors and marketers are the only ones who reap the greatest amount of good from their unethical advertising leaving the kids and their parents the results of unsound health (Holahan 2002). Schor (1998) estimates that in 2002, kids aged between 4 and 12 years spent 30 billion dollars. Based on act utilitarianism, the amount of pain caused by these uncontrolled online advertising exceeds the amount of pleasure gotten by the kids. Based on rule utilitarianism the underlying principles of online advertising that targets the kids produce more pain than pleasure to the society in the long run.
Clashes of rights are involved and whose rights matters the most
In a business ethics lecture, Crane (2000) presented information on ethics of rights and justice and defined natural rights as "certain basic, important, unalienable entitlements that should be respected and protected in every single action". Holahan (2002) observes that kids visits some websites to feed their virtual pets mainly to have fun. On the other hand, an online marketer promotes or exchanges goods or services for money. Though it's a kid's right to have fun the online marketers provides misleading information and this results to wrong choice of food that subsequently affects their health.
It is also the right of a marketer to choose a marketing practice that is more appealing to the target. As a result, Montgomery (2007) observes that marketers use social networks where kids can add a product as a friend and recommend it to a real friend for fun. This will make the kid a product promoter while making the product to acquire a social status and an identity appeal. There appears to be a clash of right between the kids and the marketers. The rights of the kids matters most because it's their health which is at stake. The research by the Center for Digital Democracy and American University suggests that online advertising leads to poor food choices by kids resulting to obesity in childhood (Holahan 2002).
Insights gained from an ethical assessment of the case based on Kant's ethics of duties
Kant states that a consequence is not the morally important thing but the way decision makers think when making their choices. He further observes that good will is only found in humans, is not a material thing, and is the power of moral choice and its presence gives people their dignity. Doing something in order to feel good or in order to gain from it is an act of inclination. This is opposed to doing something out of duty, which makes the will to be good (Garret 2006). Kant believes that actions resulting from the sake of duty have moral worth. If one performs an action by inclination like the online marketers, then that action, based on Kant's view, has no moral worth.
Assessing the approaches of contemporary ethical theories
In a business ethics lecture, Crane (2000) presented information on contemporary ethical theories and explains that virtue ethics asserts that actions are morally right if they are undertaken by people who are morally excellent. He therefore concluded that the first step towards acquiring a morally correct behaviour is establishment of a morally excellent character. Montgomery (2007) suggests that online marketers are of wicked characters because online food marketing manipulates the decision of kids against the parents when choosing high sugar and high fat foods. She also observes that some online promotions targeting the kids and teens get them unaware. The kids are unconsciously engrossed in online games and music competitions that are meant to promote some products. Montgomery (2007) finally suggests that something need to be done in order to restrict the online advertisement and in turn control consumption of low quality food.
Crane (2000) defines feminist ethics as an action that assign a priority to empathy, harmonious and a sound social relationships, concern for each other and obviating from harm. In a business ethics lecture Crane views humans as "interdependent actors within a social web". The feminist theory is depicted by companies which stopped advertising to kids below six years old and advertising only harmless products. Some companies include online games on their websites that encourage kids to consume only healthy foods like fruits and vegetables (Holahan 2002).
In a lecture for business ethics, Crane (2000) explains that discourse ethics are meant to solve any state of opposition of accepted standards of social or professional behavior between persons, ideas or interests.Steinmann (1999) observes that the elemental objective of business ethics is a harmonious relation to allow freedom from disputes. Habermas (2000) suggests that opposing parties should engage in an extended verbal expression in speech or writing that should finally settle the disputes. The case study does not contain any interaction or dialogue between parties involved to discuss the way forward. This is an indication of lack of discourse ethics.
In business ethics lecture, Crane (2000) explains that postmodern ethics as an approach that places the distinction based on ideas of right and wrong on the far side of having good sense and sound judgment towards others. Postmodern ethics allows a person to have the freedom to follow the desires and beliefs which he perceives as right when making a decision. Holahan (2002) observes that kids choose online games as a way of having fun while marketers get the opportunity to promote their products. Both parties perceive their respective decisions as sound.
Primark's current framework and management processes for CSR-corporate social responsibility
Carroll (1979) explains that the origin of the term corporate social responsibility (CSR) can be discerned from the three words making up the phrase, "corporate", "social" and "responsibility". He therefore concludes that CSR covers the responsibilities of corporations to the community or the society .In broad terms the organization identifies all the stakeholders and ensures their needs and values are considered and addressed in strategic decision making.
Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is concerned with how companies produce positive effects to the society through management of business processes (Baker 2007). For good corporate social responsibility companies consider two aspects of their operations. The company should first know the quality of their management in terms of both human resources and processes. They should also know the impact on the society both in terms of nature and quantity.
The European Commission's definition of CSR is "A concept whereby companies integrate social and environmental concerns in their business operations and in their interaction with their stakeholders on a voluntary basis." This clearly shows that CSR can be used in solving economical problems and rebuilding trust in European social market economy.
Holme (2008) explains," corporate social responsibility is the continuing commitment by business to behave ethically and contribute to economic development while improving the quality of life of the workforce and their families as well as of the local community and society at large". This suggests that CSR is concerned with giving back to the society.
Primark's CSR objective is to ensure that its human resource team, suppliers and the society at large are involved in the company's success by considering them in their undertakings. The company achieves this through ensuring that the workers are exposed to equal opportunities based on individual performance. The company's suppliers are treated in conformity with the rules or laws and without fraud or cheating. The company respects the society and handles environmental issues properly.
In a business ethics lecture Matten (2000) explains that companies engage in CSR for business and moral reasons. He further explains that business reasons are meant to improve employees' commitment, satisfy the customers and benefit the company through long term investment. Moral reasons on the other hand are important because corporations are powerful and therefore cause social problems. All their activities have social impacts and their contribution does not only rely on shareholders but also rely on other stakeholders.
Primark's effort on ethical trading is an indication of the company's willingness to strive for success without compromising the interests of others. This implies the company is able to provide quality products to its customers without compromising the interests of their product manufacturers. Primark's values include caring for its employees, advocating for good relations with its neighbors and carrying out business ethically. All these values are in line with Associated British Foods group since Primark its subsidiary company. Protection of human rights, working conditions, good business processes and good relation with product suppliers and other stakeholders are some of overriding rationales that Primark shares with British Foods group.
The nature of corporate social responsibility covers legal that are required by the society, ethical that are expected by the society, economical that are required and philanthropic that are desired by the society from the company at a given time (Buchholtz 2008). Through backing of charitable undertakings within the local community, Primark supports the local community. The scope of projects ranges from those concerned with children, elderly, people with impairments and those concerned with healthcare. Other Primark's projects cover employment opportunities and provision of finances to non- working class.
Primark accepts its responsibility to carry out business ethically as a global business organization. This is achieved by closer monitoring of the employees to ensure their values are up to the standards of the company. As a global organization that operates across three continents, Primark has given back to the society by providing employment to over 0.7 million people.
In a business ethics lecture Matten (2000) highlights that corporate accountability refers to the ability of the company to take responsibility of consequences resulting from its actions. Primark is environmental conscious. Packaging is designed to ensure minimal amounts are deposited to the landfills. It also takes part in a scheme that encourages abidance with the obligations of waste management regulations both in United Kingdom and Ireland. Primark is also adopting the biodegradable paper bags and replacing plastic carrier bags that are detrimental to the environment.
European commission on CSR concluded that CSR was equally important to all European countries. The commission believes it is the best representation of the social model that will contribute to job creation and employability (Brussels 2006) Primark takes part in waste management schemes both in United Kingdom and Northern Ireland. The company also complies with waste management and packaging obligations, one of the recommendations of the European commission on CSR.
Sustainable and continuous growth in business and availability of good employment opportunities are the two tasks that challenge the European Union. The commission of European communities suggests that the two challenges must be addressed first due to global competition. The basic pillars that the commission suggest in order to protect and safeguard the European society model are provision of high quality of life, equal opportunities, social inclusion and a healthy environment. To implement this, the commission called for a renewing of the Lisbon agenda by advocating for jobs formation and growth partnership (Brussels 2006).
According to the report presented by the European Union commission, the revised Lisbon approach encourages growth in a way that supports development which is an ultimate goal for European Union. The key areas identified as ways of delivering the development strategies are job creation and innovation (Brussels 2006).
In conclusion there is no universal definition of corporate social responsibility. As far as Primark is concerned, CSR entails transparent business practices that are based on ethical values. Compliance with legal requirement, proper treatment of people and safeguarding the environment are the major ways that Primark exercises its corporate social responsibility.