Saint Mary’s student examines ethical examples
Nicole Caratas | Monday, March 30, 2015
In the latest installment of Saint Mary’s “Justice Friday” series, senior accounting major Taylor Etzell gave a presentation on ethical business practices.
Etzell said ethics is involved in any situation in which there is actual or potential harm to another party, and ethical decision-making is what comes into play when you attempt to resolve those actual or potential conflicts.
“You can relate ethics to anything in your life, not just business decisions,” Etzell said. “I think it’s important to implement an ethical framework into your daily lives so that you can always recognize those actual or potential conflicts and then be able to immediately, without second guessing your first judgment, make a decision for that situation.”
Chesley Sullenberger, the pilot of the plane that crash-landed in the Hudson river in 2009, is a real-life example of someone who implements a good ethical framework, Etzell said.
“The pilot had a matter of moments to decide what he was going to do and why he was going to do it,” she said. “He is a person who had a pre-established ethical framework … and he made the decision to land the plane on the river. He didn’t know what the outcomes would be, but he also knew that by doing that he was going to harm fewer people. It definitely would have been a different situation had he not been pre-accustomed to making those decisions in a split second.”
Etzell said another good example of a company with an ethical framework is the Johnson & Johnson case from 1982.
“Tylenol capsules were poisoned with cyanide,” she said. “Once people started to realize that there was a tie between the Tylenol capsules that had been taken and the fatalities that had occurred, Tylenol execs decided to pull off all the Tylenol bottles across the nation.
“It was all in a concentrated area around Chicago. They couldn’t prove it was in California, but that didn’t matter. They decided to stop all production, they sent out all of their employees to take off all the bottles from the shelves so that no more fatalities would occur based on these capsules. This lost millions of dollars.”
Etzell said Vice President of External Affairs Bob Kiffin immediately recalled all the bottles and sent out his employees despite the large loss of revenue. Because of Kiffin’s ethical framework, she said, he was able to recognize the monetary loss was less important than the many lives that could potentially have been harmed had they left the bottles on the shelves.
“He didn’t even refer to [the company’s] code of ethics. He just automatically sent people out. … Every employee didn’t second guess it. They understood why.”
Etzell then gave tips for how everyone can implement an ethical framework into their daily lives.
“The first thing you need to do is to gather all of the facts,” she said. “You need to understand the issues and identify the aspects that within your control. … You have to understand the whole issue.”
“Gathering all of the facts is very important because then you can substantiate your decision. You have to tell people why you came to that conclusion and how you got there.
“Converse with yourself. If you converse with yourself, then you’ll be able to reflect on all those facts you gathered, and you’ll be able to understand why you made that decision.”
“The third [step] is to reflect on that decision,” Etzell said. “Does this decision that you made make you embarrassed? If the answer is yes, it was probably not the right decision for that instance.”
Etzell said having an ethical framework is important to be a valued decision-maker and lifelong learner. She said being conscious of ethics will make people self-aware, which will help them to find their right place when it comes to employment or service.