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Ethics of Abercrombie and Fitch

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The moral essence of decisions has become central in the viability of an organization in the contemporary world of business. In cases of unethical ethical practice, customers have become more connected and integrated so that they can vote for boycott of a firm's goods or services (Makarem & Jae, 2016). Abercrombie and Fitch are amongst the unlucky beneficiaries of the boycotts that contribute to significant declines in the company's revenue and popularity. Organizations such as Abercrombie and Fitch will enhance ethical choices through the implementation of acceptable ethical structures. Through the incorporation of sound ethical frameworks in their decision models, firms like Abercrombie and Fitch will avoid controversial decisions and in turn improve their profitability levels.

Abercrombie and Fitch is a company whose main target is the youthful demographic. As such, the firm has tried to shape its practices and appearance to be appealing to this demographic. This approach has however resulted to negative and perhaps unforeseen blowbacks from the public. The infatuation in the image has enveloped the company from the type of product, the type of client and the employees it hires. As CEO of the company, Mike Jefferies had said that the company was only targeting cool and good-looking people and would not stock commodities for the fat people (Kohn, 2015). This led to a blowback which the company has been unable to recover. Whenever the story is re-published, the public is reminded of the issue ad more of them boycott the company’s products. The company was also sued by 62,000 employees over its look policy (Kohn, 2015). The company wants the employees to buy clothes from the company which they are not reimbursed. The company tends to have a reference for young, good-looking employees who can easily appeal to the youthful demographic they target. The company’s look policy has also seen a lawsuit as it inhibited a Muslim woman from wearing a hijab at work. These approaches by Abercrombie & Fitch on its products, market, and employees have been deemed unethical by the public and as a result, have cost the company a large market share.

From the facts of the case, Abercrombie & Fitch appear to have undertaken a narrow consequentialist framework in making their decisions. In the instances, the company was making decisions largely based on their target market. The only consequence that mattered was the results their action had on their customer base (Morin & Dick, 2015). The consequentialists often deem the end to be key and not the means. As seen, the company is only focused on reaching its target market and ignoring the means such as the effect their look policy on employees and the effect of the campaigns to those members of the public that do not fit their targeted demographic.

Abercrombie & Fitch tend to have embraced ethical egoism. The morality of their actions is considered on the sphere on how they serve the self-interest of the company. The egoistic approach suggests that the ethical decision should result in the greatest good of the individual. It seems to be a variation of the utilitarian approach which requires ethical decisions to possess the greatest common good of the society. Proponents of the theory like Ayn Rand consider that the society benefits when people pursue their self-interest (Morgenthau, 2014). The firm seems to have been only concerned with its profits when it constructed the look policy and made the unwarranted statements on the type of clients it intended to pursue.

The company in an attempt to stop the unhinged profit downfall tried to revamp its image by altering its ethical approach. The company upon seeing the impact of the lawsuits and lost sales decided to replace its controversial look policy. The new dress code embraces the individualism of its employees (Kohn, 2015). The hiring practices have been adjusted from focusing on attractiveness to meet the general practices. Furthermore, the company has tried to change its customer focus to encompass a broader market. In doing this, it stocks commodities for larger sized individuals which it had been evasive in the stocking. The company has even altered its marketing practices from having the scantily dressed model to more modest models (Friedman, 2015). The executive shake-ups in the firm should further reduce the controversial approaches in the company.

The new approach by the company still has elements of the consequentialist ethical framework. The key difference with its earlier approach is the new leaning towards a utilitarian ethical practice. The company is currently assessing its decisions based on the general satisfaction of society. The proponents of utilitarianism deem that actions that benefit most in society are ethical. The resultant outcome of the action matters and not the approach (Russel, 2014). The number of people who are negatively affected by a decision should be smaller than that of those who are positively affected by a decision to be accepted as ethical.

The consequentialist framework is however limited since the outcome of a decision cannot be accurately predicted. The decision taken in the framework focuses on a predicted outcome which may not materialize as such. The company needs to consider using the deontological framework in making ethical decisions. This approach was greatly proposed by Emmanuel Kant. Kant did consider that people should consider doing right as a duty and not based on the consequences of their actions (Murphy, 2016). The approach considers that people have control over their actions and should, therefore, consider it their duty to perform these acts for good. The consequence of an action is irrelevant in determining the morality of the action. The ethics of actions in the deontological perspective arises from duty, and thus, people need to do good since it is required of them. Under this approach is the natural law of ethics which proposes the universality of ethical decisions (Girgis, 2014). The actions undertaken by a person will be justified if they would consider them to be right when done unto them. The essence of the theory appeals to the inner person and identifies that right and wrong should be agreed and determined by the society. The duty-based approach will inherently assist the company in ethical decisions since the actions performed will be universally accepted by the society.

The controversial acts by the company were based on the consequentialist ethical framework and more so on the egoistic approach. The negative publicity and loss of customers were a clear indication of the need to alter their ethical framework. The new framework is largely based on utilitarianism as the company attempts to satisfy the needs of all its stakeholders. This approach is limited due to the limitation to its consequentialist roots that require the effective prediction of an action’s outcome. Since it is difficult to predict such outcomes, the company should consider adopting the more practical deontological ethical framework (Chakrabarty & Bass, 2015). The company under the proposed ethical framework will be guaranteed to undertake decisions that are morally acceptable to the society. Abercrombie and Fitch, need to understand that it is its duty to make ethical decisions that benefit the society. If Abercrombie & Fitch neglect's, they risk losing the favor of the more liberal, sensitive and reactionary contemporary society (Singh, 2016).

References

Chakrabarty, S., & Bass, A. E. (2015). Comparing virtue, consequentialist, and deontological ethics-based corporate social responsibility: Mitigating microfinance risk in institutional voids. Journal of Business Ethics, 126(3), 487-512.

Friedman, V. (2015). The Abercrombie & Fitch Makeover: A Review. Nytimes.com. Retrieved 27 March 2017, from https://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/28/fashion/abercrombie-and-fitch-has-a-makeover.html?_r=0

Girgis, S. (2014). Equality and Moral Worth in Natural-Law Ethics and Beyond. Am. J. Juris., 59, 143.

Kohn, S. (2015). A&F's legal scandals have ruined the company (Opinion). CNN. Retrieved 27 March 2017, from http://edition.cnn.com/2015/07/30/opinions/kohn-abercrombie-fitch/

Makarem, S. C., & Jae, H. (2016). Consumer boycott behavior: an exploratory analysis of twitter feeds. Journal of Consumer Affairs, 50(1), 193-223.

Morgenthau, H. J. (2014). The moral blindness of scientific man. Elman, Colin u. Jensen, Michael A.(Hrsg.): Realism Reader, S, 47-52.

Morin, C., & Dick, D. G. (2015, January). The Development of the Ethical Approach Scale: An Operationalization of Moral Theory. In Academy of Management Proceedings (Vol. 2015, No. 1, p. 13236). Academy of Management.

Murphy, S. P. (2016). Contemporary Ethical Approaches to the Practice of Assistance and Foundational Accounts of Moral Duty. In Responsibility in an Interconnected World (pp. 35-59). Springer International Publishing.

Russell, D. C. (2014). What virtue ethics can learn from utilitarianism. The Cambridge companion to utilitarianism, 258-279.

Singh, J. (2016). The influence of CSR and ethical self-identity in consumer evaluation of cobrands. Journal of Business Ethics, 138(2), 311-326.

August 09, 2021
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