To the senior management of Southern Water, this report seeks to address the ethical values and the fundamental impact of sewage water disposal in the coastal areas of Kent and Sussex. The report shall analyze the impact of the act on the company’s overall image and answer why the company chose this path and what were the consequences the company faced? It also aims to determine the stakeholders’ roles in making the decision. Additionally, the report shall analyze companies with good ethical standards and recommend the case in question.
Southern water disposal of vast amounts of wastewater attracted a lawsuit that ended up with the Environmental Agency deeming it a criminal act, thus drawing a fine worth £90 million. The 51 pleads of guilty by the company were seen as intentional. The pleads caused harm to the environment, with 6,971 discharges between the years 2010-2015. the disposal additionally attracted a penalty of £126 million for regulatory failings.
The main ethical question is enshrined in the question, “should companies dispose of waste in the sea?” business ethics is mainly concerned with the areas of decision making, management, codes of conduct, and the underlying moral principles of a business. Beverungen and case (2011 pp229) argue saying ethics in business about the essential dislocation of incredible experiences coming up when things are sprawling out of hand. For our case, the ethical issues involve the illegal disposal of wastewater into the coastal areas while disregarding the set rules and regulations of the Environment Agency. Secondly, the company negligently overlooked the effects of this act on the environment, human health, and other businesses whose survival depended solely on the coastal waters (B.B.C. 2021a).
Despite making a profit being the primary goal of a corporation, these issues imply that the company aimed at avoiding financial punishment and the cost of upkeep. The act painted an image of the company that shows a motive directed at only making money and preceding the effects of the process on the environment. The acts suggest that the company failed to recognize the integrity and ethics of a corporate entity that goes beyond the mere adherence to the laws and regulations in place. In philanthropic terms, the actions did seem to enhance the quality of life in society. The case brought forth a fine to be deducted from the company’s profits through compensation.
A corporate entity has the legal responsibility of complying with the rules and regulations set by the federal, state, and local governments. According to the laws, sewage companies were allowed to direct the wastewater directly into the ocean during seasons of heavy rains. Still, The S.W. Company continued to do so even in the seasons of low rains. The Southern Water Company was responsible for reporting the number of spills to the relevant authorities. They did the reporting, but they were not truthful to gain a financial advantage. Additionally, the company was responsible for cooperating with the inquiry, but it was partial and inadequate. Therefore, the failure to cooperate shows little coexistence between the company and law agents.
Ethically, the company lacked integrity in stating the number of disposals in their reports. The S.W. reported a lesser number to the authorities with the main motive of making more income and avoiding heavy penalties that come with the making of the offence. The company lawyers instructed the staff not to cooperate during the investigation where the S.W. was accused of intimidation and abuse. It is stated during one visit at a Queenborough on the Isle of Sheppey. A staff member removed files in form diaries and locked them away in a locker. Three officials were later convicted of justice obstruction. Furthermore, instead of the sewage plant treating sewages as required by the law, the company held large volumes of sewage in storm tanks and discharged them into the sea.
The wastewater disposal into the coastal areas led to severe ecological effects. At Swalecliffe treatment plant, residents could point out the sewage gathering on a footpath beside the schoolchildren’s brook en route to Tankerton beach. The Shellfish industry was devasted within the area, leading to the lowering of quality standards due to the infection of the shellfish with E—Coli, thus making them unsuitable for human consumption. The pollution consequentially led to the closure of the industries that mainly depended on the coastal waters.
The role of the business in society is to provide products and make available goods and services that will satisfy a public need or demand. There is a thin line between businesses working to profit and maintain societal order. From the case reported, the company seems to indicate that their focus was mainly on making a profit because of the financial implication of correctly reporting the correct figure of the disposals made. Treating the sewage during the low rain season was not incurred, thus saving the company more money; furthermore, from the comments made by the Chief Executive, Ian McAuley, he said that the judge had put the environment before anything else which was what mattered most. The statement most suggests that while deciding to dispose of the waste into the water, they completely ignored its impact on the environment and had other motivating factors beyond. The aim is to make more profit at the expense of the ecosystem.
Employee payment and remuneration are critical ethical issues that the company did not consider. The S W. boss, upon the ruling, awarded a £550,900 bonus for not being paid well. Follo ing his request, the boss was a two-year pay cut and bonus an immense reduction of his bonus. With his basic salary, pensions, and other additions, Ian McAuley’s wages accrued to more than £1million. Sebastiaan Boelen, SW’s chief financial officer, was given a bonus of £290,000 and a pay amounting to £650,000.
Some companies have shown high levels of ethical performance. Through their ethical practices, there is a significant boost to their brands’ reputation and that the workers on their lines of sourcing are treated well and fairly.
Patagonia is a clothing company in America that focuses mainly on outdoor clothing. The group changed from pesticide-heavy-cotton crops to naturally grown cotton for all its products in 1994. The company provides insurance packages and gives paternity leave for all its employees.
Starbucks is a coffee company committed to a fully sustainably purchased coffee. It has adopted a method known as C.A.F.E. (Coffee and Farmer Equity Practices) that helps it increase its sourcing strategies. The company ensures that everything is done ethically from planting until harvesting point. It has over 170,000 farmers and get a lot money in revenue in a year. The act thus infers that companies can generate enormous resources while keeping their ethical standards uncompromised.
H&M clothing retailers release a list of their suppliers quarterly to make sure that they are accountable of their sources. This ensures that the suppliers live to the company’s standards. The company aims at using 100% recycled or sustainably sourced materials by the year 2030The Dr Pepper Snapple Group has an area on social responsibility on its website the highlights policies on sourcing expectations from each of the suppliers to adhere to. The policies ensure materials that enter the company are of high quality and the companies from them treat their workers fairly. The group’s social responsibility aims at improving production efficiency, reducing water use, and packaging waste.
Southern Water should allocate funds to motivate the staff to do their work correctly. This is to prevent decisions that destroy the environment based on frustrations from the paid salary. Furthermore, the company should establish a page on its website dedicated to informing the public of its dealings and activities to enhance its accountability and transparency hence high ethical standards.
Utilitarianism is an ethical theory under a more fantastic concept called consequentialism. It highlights that whether an act is right or wrong is determined directly or indirectly by its consequences. This theory holds that the moral judgment of an action can only be made after the results have been determined. The theory was more political than moral as the government tried to improve the conditions of people in Greek. From this theory, actions can be judged right or wrong when measured against the pleasure or pleasure they give to the more significant numbers. According to the Cambridge dictionary, the moral theory is that an action is right if it gives as good (utility) for all people affected as an alternative choice the person could do. The moral duty of any individual is to generate his joy and that of people around him. Bradburn (2001) defines utilitarianism as the idea that a person should maximize the good for a more significant number of people.
The case at hand suggests that Southern Water Company is ethical through its establishment. The company was established to treat sewage from homes. Until the company started understating their spills into the oceans and the beginning of their pollution practices, the company served well and adhered to the rules and regulations of the Environmental Agency. It is reported that the company tainted its reputation after spilling the sewage water into the coastal areas. Additionally, the company paid its employees and thus led to the overall improved living state of the community at large. The consequence of the employment of the people was that there was a payment made, which acted to improve the quality of life.
Contrary to the opinion above, the company executives decided to dump wastewater in the coastal lands and rivers that later polluted the environment. The w tnesses are attributed to saying that the water turned milky. The action resulted in the company disposing sewage onto footpaths where children cross as they headed to school, thus posing a health threat to society. Additionally, the other consequence of the decision was that the shellfish business closed down, and the people who benefitted from the business lost their primary source of livelihood.
Furthermore, the company started misrepresenting the data of the number of times they have disposed sewage into the water. It al o decided to state falsely in the initial stages of the inquiry that it had truthfully stated their actions when in real sense they did give the correct figures to the authorities. The misrepresentation resulted in the company paying a fine of about £90million. This amount could have been used to develop better means of wastewater treatment and enhance the quality of life of the people of Sussex.
Legally, the company mainly focused on obstructing justice by not cooperating with the investigating authorities. The consequence was that it raised eyebrows as to why they were against the inquiry. Additionally, three officials were convicted of the same offence of justice obstruction without the company’s authorization. Some staff could hide files to be scrutinized by the investigating officer.
Kant was the proponent of this theory that uses a set of regulations to distinguish right from wrong. Deontology requires the people to do their duty by doing ethical actions that follow universal moral laws. Moral laws such as “don’t kill” do not require measuring the costs and return of a scenario therefore eliminates the aspect of subjectivity and uncertainty. Don’t logy deny that good intention solely determine corrective action and that action is right following an ethical principle rule (Crane & Matten 2016).
Through the work of Kant, we get to know that human beings operate based on an intrinsic human value. He de eloped three categories of imperatives in theory. These are human dignity, universal law, and universal acceptability. He said that the only thing unqualifiedly good is goodwill (Kant 1785). He argued that the main thing that defined a human being was the reason. Kant’s maxim motivation for doing the right thing is equally paramount. We should do our duty because that’s the right thing to do.
In the case of southern water, everyone performed out of negligence since the management to the workers by posting figures below the actual figures. They knew that it was wrongdoing, but they still went on to do it. Moral y, it was wrong to dispose of wastewater into the coastal areas.
Southern water knew it was wrong to obstruct justice by hiding files and not cooperating with the investigating personnel. Still, they went on to do it.
Because of the above theories in the tackling of sewage disposal by Southern Water, it is evident that what the company does is ethically wrong. In the practical view, the pollution led to Shellfish Company’s closure due to acts of S.W. The closure led to the loss of jobs. Thus the company did not do the activity for the more remarkable people but for personal gain, which accrued more enormous profits. In the Deontological view, the S.W. went against the law by contravening set rules and regulations such as understatement of the figures. The laws were made to be obeyed. The company further dumps the sewage water into the coastal areas while knowing it was wrong to go against those laws, for they knew the fines were hefty.
Ethical leadership is showing and promoting normal conduct through personal actions and interpersonal associations. Simply put, leadership shows appropriate ethical behaviour in their way of life and relationships at the workplace. The importance of ethical leadership is helping in the creation of a positive ethical routine and norm in a company. Additionally, ethical leaders boost the employees’ morale and excite them with the kind of management displayed. It al o aids in avoiding company scandals, dilemmas, and ethical issues. It al o helps the company gain more money through partnerships and customers.
As a manager, I should portray characteristics such as leading by example. I should have some expectations for myself, just like those who work for media should help the staff under me to have a great understanding of their job. I should work with honesty and integrity.
As a manager, I should be more willing to evolve. As the business expands, merges, or gets bought, I need to adapt to changes quickly. This character helps encourage the employees more. I should respect everyone’s equality and be impartial in all decisions. Not showing respect to some people makes them feel useless or treated unfairly. I need to have mastered control of my stresses not to push the staff. Good leaders who practice good behavior discover means of dealing with their stress. I will be taking time to meditate and thus help me make sound decisions. I am required to be compassionate and kind while dealing with disputes at the workplace.
Some of the unethical practices include false product claims in the name of marketing. This is mainly done by using fake reviews by companies and making adverts. And p printing of a product in the best possible light to attract customers. Hiding the terms of the agreement in the terms and agreement section, yet not many people read it, poses as unethical. Unethical keeping of account books hurts investors and makes the company lose money. Furth more unethical business practices towards employees where they are mistreated to reduce the cost of production and raise profits are unethical. Poor working conditions such as low-wage workers working for long hours. This also affects the company’s integrity. Sexual harassment and unfair competitions are practices that can harm a business so heavily. Selli g of customer data and bribery is a bad practice for business.
Methods of compliance that I would use in the ethical compliance are divided into phases where ‘the risk/cultural assessment’ through means such as surveys detailing the gaps that need to be filled in the current practice. Secondly, there is the program design/update to help my workers develop documents that show reporting structure and means of communication. This will entail a grassroots overhaul and the reschedule of the board meetings. The t third phase shall entail policies and process adoption that will enhance programs that are not limited to financial reporting. The fourth stage shall be about communication, training, and implementation. And t e last phase is doing self-assessment, monitoring, and reporting the actual test of the compliance levels.
Organizational values are the guiding elements that give an organization a sense and purpose and direction. The o organizational value shall be aimed at differentiating itself from competitors, guiding its employees in their decision making, boost its chance of attracting, signing, and retaining top talent in the company. These values are more likely to attract more customers and Inform its business strategy. Like a core value guides me, the company shall need values that will ultimately drive it to its goal. Organ national values also tend to boost employee interaction and motivation. This shall be through means such as understanding vision and values identifying with the values and behaviours that align with the company’s expectations.
BBC (2021a) Southern Water fined record £90m for dumping raw sewage Available at https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-kent-57777935 Last accessed 13/09/21
BBC (2021b) Southern Water boss’s £500k bonus criticised by MP Available at https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-sussex-57865503 Last accessed 13/09/21
Environment Agency (2021) Record £90m for for Southern Water following EA prosecution Available at https://www.gov.uk/government/news/record-90m-fine-for-southern-water-following-ea-prosecution Last accessed 13/09/21
Laville, S. (2021) ‘Southern Water fined record £90m for deliberately pouring sewage into see The Guardian 9th July 2021 Available at https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/jul/09/southern-water-fined-90m-for-deliberately-pouring-sewage-into-sea Last accessed 13/09/21