Profit vs Ethics

Corporate espionage. You have probably heard of this term in the news or in movies or TV shows. You have probably also heard of the fraud that occurs in corporate America. Why and how often does it happen? Why has our society gotten used to the greed in big business? Why doesn’t the media talk about it more often? It’s very difficult to answer these questions. Since determining my blog focus to be about the ethics of Monsanto’s business practices, I have come to realize the topic of business ethics starts with one’s definition of capitalism. Many people believe in a pure free market economy with little government regulation as possible. Forget ethics when the point of business is to profit at all costs. But I think people often forget how a company’s business decisions can affect society as a whole.

In 2005, Monsanto was charged with bribing Indonesian government officials to omit their genetically engineered (GE) cotton from environmental assessment tests. Records ranging from 1997-2002 showed that Monsanto spent around $700,000 to bribe senior officials. There was little dispute and Monsanto agreed to pay a fine of $1.5 million to the U.S. Department of Justice. Though I’m not sure a $1.5 million fine was a harsh enough punishment, I think it’s worth noting that Monsanto took full responsibility of the issue and even created an individual page on their website that addresses this investigation.

So why did Monsanto want to risk their already dark reputation? There have been reports their GE products are contaminated (report link here). In the end, it all comes down to protecting their high market share. This article by Greenpeace highlights Monsanto’s near-monopolies in developing countries. If Monsanto had been approved of their GE crops in Indonesia, it would have opened up a new market for them and left small farmers in the dust.

While others see it as Monsanto creating its own opportunity in a free market system, others may see it as an exploitation of labor in a weak economy. Where do you stand?

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2 thoughts on “Profit vs Ethics

  1. I certainly believe that Monsanto does not practice the correct business ethics. Since their business is frowned upon by most, they have to do a lot of sucking up to the public and government. They act like most other companies that are hated by the public (energy and banks). Monsanto definitely has a lot of lobbyists in Washington. These lobbyists are helpful in Monsanto being able to produce many of the products that they otherwise would not be able to produce. I am curious to the extent of “dirty” products being produced overseas and how much corruption is taking place internationally. In countries like India, Monsanto probably does not even have lobbyists but instead pays off government officials. Monsanto makes the most money by making sure word does not get out about the possible harm their products create. If governments started to attack them about what is going into their seeds, then people would take notice. As long as Monsanto lobbyists exist, then Monsanto should be financially fine as a business.

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    1. I agree completely. Monsanto’s money definitely has a huge influence on agriculture policies and regulations. It’s disturbing because a majority of the American people are “brainwashed”, so to speak, about corporate lobbyists and the media turns a blind eye on it. It will be interesting to follow because Monsanto is currently losing revenue and is planning to cut a couple thousand domestic jobs. I also think it will also be interesting to follow the presidential election because Senator Bernie Sanders is committed to his grassroots campaign in order to raise awareness and act against interest groups and super pacs. But back to what you were saying, as long as Monsanto can pay for votes in Congress then they’re virtually untouchable. Corporate greed has ruined our economy and I’ve always wondered what it would be like if it weren’t that way. If workers were paid fair wages and received full benefits then people feel more secure with their jobs and would thus be more productive benefitting in the entire company; so why don’t more corporations do that.

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