Social Responsibility of Major Corporations and business ethics

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Economic Ethics and the Impact of Industrial Pollution

Economic ethics means doing business in such a way that one profits from the usage of natural resources by not jeopardizing the resource's survival for future generations. The environmental consequences of industrial pollution had not dramatically affected the atmosphere at the beginning of the industrial era, and so there was little need to protect the environment from business waste. However, as time passed, the impact of pollution became more pronounced, prompting businesses to reconsider their actions in order to become more socially conscious, resulting in the development of corporate ethics. A firm needs to be accountable to the surrounding environment and community and thus ensuring that their activities do not adversely affect the society or environment. In particular, rivers have been used by many major companies for disposing of their chemical and solid waste. In fact, some of the rivers are severely affected such that they are rendered useless in supporting other economic activities. The paper will focus on Boeing's pollution of the Duwamish River and its restoration efforts as an example of ethics in business, the relevance of ethics to business and other issues relating to ethical behavior in business (Aghaei, Sacidinia, & Salehi, 2012).

Social Responsibility and its Relevance to Industry

The responsiveness of firms in an industry illustrates the selfless nature of industries to the media and consumers by participating in wider social issues that do not add financial gain to the enterprises in the industry. Many buyers make ethical decisions when purchasing goods and services, and companies that have proof of active social responsibility policies increase their sales margins due to the image they cultivate by their social responsibilities to society and environment. Therefore, increased buying from customers increases the industry profit which illustrates the value of a positive reputation. However, developing trust from consumers takes time, money and effort in establishing Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) projects. An industry that has firms that contribute to helping people who are in need by using part of their profits goes a long way in boosting their workers' morale which consequently leads to increased productivity that ultimately increases the industry profit margin. In fact, a firm that utilizes its financial resources to help the community and restore the environment ends up making more profit (Ferrell, Fraedrich, & Ferrell, 2008).

Development of the Issue

Before industrialization, human beings used natural resources in a way that ensured their sustainability. The river, forest, and other natural resources were utilized at a moderate rate as there was no urgency in the massive utilization of the resources. As the population increased, human beings developed efficient ways of using the natural resources to produce many goods and services thus industrialization was born. Many industries sprung up which utilized chemicals that were harmful to the environment and produced wastes that were equally toxic to both animals and plants. At first, the damage to the environment was not significant, but as industrialization took root after the two World Wars, a lot of wastes were being channeled to water bodies, air, and land. The energy used by the corporations produced exhaust gases that polluted the air and chemical byproducts that were mainly directed to rivers. Therefore, after some time, animals and humans started experiencing the harmful effects of pollution such as acid rains, extinction of various species of animals, global warming among other adverse effects (Stelle, 2015). The society realized that businesses have to be responsible for the environment so that nature would be protected for future generations. Thus, the government created laws to force companies to protect the environment, but some companies did not require legislation to force them into action. Therefore, the issue of business ethics was developed and has been in play since.

Example of Ethics in Business

The Path that Led to the Pollution of the Duwamish River

A casing point is the contamination of the Duwamish River which is located in Seattle. The river has seen a fair share of pollution from many companies since the Second World War. During the Second World War, Boeing, an Airplane manufacturer was contracted by the US Government to manufacture airplanes to aid in the war effort In Europe. During that time, ethical behavior of businesses to the environment was not existent. Both the government and stakeholders were not keen on the damage to the environment more especially the rivers. In fact, many manufacturing companies that spring up to supply parts to Boeing developed manufacturing sites along the river as it provided a cost effective waste disposal mechanism. The scale of the construction of planes in the war effort resulted in the disposal of large amounts of chemical waste to the river from the company. However, the company had a choice of either worrying about the pollution of the river or focusing on winning the war. After the Second World War, more industries sprung up which continued to pollute the Duwamish river (Stelle, 2015).

Contribution of Boeing to the Restoration of the Duwamish River

Boeing has, however, proved to be a company that follows ethical behavior as it is at the forefront of reversing the pollution effects by contributing financial resources to assist in the restoration of the river. In fact, the firm's responsiveness to the environment has become a crucial example of a company that fulfills its obligations to the community. The firm has been in business both before and after social responsibility became an important part of the corporate sector. It has channeled millions of dollars for the restoration or cleaning of the river. There are many companies which have to acknowledge their responsibilities to the Duwamish River by joining hands to restore and clean it. These firms are setting a good example that will be followed by other property-owners along the river who contribute to its pollution. Boeing has been on the forefront in restoring the river back to its former glory. In Washington, the Duwamish River is the most widely utilized natural resource by industries. It has supported industry since the Second World War with World War Two planes built at its shores. Therefore, it has been channeled, polluted and dredged throughout time. In 2011, it attracted a Superfund (Stelle, 2015).

The Boeing is working hand in hand with regulatory bodies to restore the river. Six years ago, the firm demolished a part of its facility located in the lower Duwamish River thereby giving way to the largest habitat restoration and cleanup on that part of the river. The corporation has managed to remove sediments that are contaminated by chemicals amounting to over 4500 railcars for a length of 1 mile on the riverfront. It is estimated that Boeing has pumped financial resources amounting to over $150 million to fund the whole project which comprises of additional activities that include sediment cleanup, building demolition among other restoration activities as outlined in the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (Stelle, 2015).

As part of the guidelines of the EPA, the commercial mulch that was to be used in the restoration and cleanup was tested by the company, and the presence of contaminants such as the PCBs made Boeing change tactics by creating a new mulch. Therefore, Boeing was not involved in the cleanup with the intention of seeking positive public ratings but was influenced by their ethical need to make the environment that they have contributed in destroying better. It was a selfless act despite the fact that the funds used in the cleanup project reduced their profit margins. In fact, their effort was recognized by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Restoration Centre (NOAA) which went ahead and awarded the corporation with the "excellence in restoration" award due to their efforts of single-handedly accomplishing the largest restoration on the Duwamish River.

About 95% of the Duwamish River has been destroyed by affluent and other wastes from companies along the river. The 5 Acres of restored land located in Boeings Plant 2 which was cleaned by the corporation offers a significant representation of the outcomes that can be derived from the complete restoration of the whole river. The restored land has become a sanctuary to the steelhead and juvenile salmon and offers protection to these endangered species from polluted waters, boat wakes and currents. The key to the successful restoration of the whole river is through smaller achievement of restoring small parts of it. Therefore, as more parts of the river get cleaned, the endangered species such as the Puget Sound Chinook salmon would have higher chances for surviving. Ethics are universal and have shared concepts whether applied in business, personal or professional life. Boeing discovered that it required the support of the tribes and community groups as they were the direct recipients of the outcomes of the restoration efforts. In an attempt to foster a good relationship with the community, the firm provided the Indian fishing community with anchors so that they could hold their nets during fishing without interfering with the reclaimed habitat. Additionally, the enterprise has promised to continue funding the maintenance of the reclaimed site for the next 30 years. Boeing has further demonstrated its ethical behavior by offering their knowledge and experience in restoration efforts in other locations such as the Pacific Northwest (Stelle, 2015).

Personal Experience

The Duwamish River is the home for endangered species of aquatic animals which include the southern resident killer whales and the Puget Sound Chinook salmon. I love nature and more especially the ecosystem in water bodies. I am an animal activist, and I always fight for the preservation of nature at all cost. Industrialization has contributed to the destruction of the natural habitats in many water bodies; the rivers are the most profoundly affected. The result has been a devastating extinction of many species of aquatic animals and plants in rivers and lakes. The issues have evoked feelings of anger towards corporations which are only interested in making profits at the expense of the environment and society. I am a volunteer at a Non-governmental organization whose objective is to investigate the harmful effects of business activities on the environment and provide solutions to the general public. Therefore I am deeply affected by the unethical behavior of some companies, and if it were up to me, I would develop radical measures that would stop the continued destruction of the environment by enterprises.

My Opinion and Proposed Solution to the Social Responsibility Issue

I think that the problems caused by corporations to the environment affect everyone and we should unite together to look for a definite solution to the problem. Ethics is about discerning wrong from right and making ethical decisions that are beneficial to every living organism (Burcea & Croitoru, 2014). Even though corporate social responsibility has become part of our lives, I am still not satisfied with the efforts we are putting to solve this issue. Many companies including Boeing are making a great effort in restoring the damage caused to the environment, and all should exemplify their hard work. The concepts of ethics such as the generosity, kindness, justice, selflessness, and courage are essential guides to conducting business ethically. For instance, Boeing has been shown a lot of courage in restoring some parts of the river. Also, they have been generous in providing financial aid to the cleanup project by giving millions of dollars. Boeing is an excellent example of being selfless because they have been active in repairing the damage to the Duwamish River that has been eating up their profit margins. Despite this fact, the organization has promised to continue providing financial support to the reclaimed 5 acres of land.

My proposed solution to the issue is carrying out awareness to businesses through seminars and advertisement on the importance of conducting business while taking care of the environment through selfless acts such as investing in cleanup projects that do not have financial gains to the company (Burcea & Croitoru, 2014). Also, more strict rules should be developed to force selfish companies to be socially responsible. For instance, all firms which dispose their wastes to the river must develop secondary companies that will convert the waste into other uses or render them harmless. Another perspective on the issue is the responsibility of organizations towards its employee working conditions and in particular, providing a healthy environment to its workers who comprise of the pay and working conditions.


Ethics are important in any field of business. They are a guide to the way businesses should conduct themselves. Principles such as honesty, selflessness, and generosity have been useful in defining and directing ethical behavior in business. In summary, business ethics involves doing what is right. Social responsibility in organizations is crucial to the success of the enterprise as buyers tend to make ethical decisions when purchasing goods and services. A company that cultivates a good reputation will most likely receive many customers. A firm can still make profits without being socially responsible, but the chances of success when compared to a socially responsible company are lower (Aghaei, Sacidinia, & Salehi, 2012). Major corporations with large manufacturing industries have been known to produce a lot of waste which includes chemical and solid waste to the environment which has destroyed the ecosystem. The environment has been degraded by the waste channeled to rivers, forests, among other natural habitats of animals, including humans. Boeing has been at the forefront of restoring the Duwamish River and thereby becoming an example to many firms in the industry.


Aghaei, M., Sacidinia, M., & Salehi, M. (2012). Business Ethics. International Journal of Scientific and Research Publications, 22503153.

Burcea, N., & Croitoru, I. (2014). Business Ethics. Journal of public Administration, Finance and Law, 139 - 143.

Ferrell, O. C., Fraedrich, J., & Ferrell, L. (2008). Business Ethics: Ethical Decision Making and Cases. Mason,USA: South- Western Cengage Learning.

Stelle, W. (2015, June 18). Once a Polluter , Boeing now leading on Duwamish River Cleanup. The seattle Times, pp. 15-15. Retrieved from The Seat.

December 21, 2022

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