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Sample Essay on Business Ethics

Business ethics play a critical role in business success as they help a firm maintaining good relationships with its employees and clients; thus, they provide moral guidance that enables a corporation to create an excellent internal and external environment. Even though essential, environmental responsibility is an aspect that is largely disobeyed by enterprises globally. This practice ensures that a company protects the environment from pollution through its practices; it discourages prioritizing economic motives at the expense of protecting the surroundings. Although many companies approach corporate social responsibility with the required seriousness, some businesses ignore the responsibility and engage in unsustainable practices, thereby producing commodities that destroy the environment.

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Environmental responsibility is critical to ensuring that corporations have a good relationship with the public and retain a desirable public image. Although business ethics are always perceived as voluntary actions that firms should institute to improve the welfare of its workers and other stakeholders, there are government rules and agencies that are mandated to take action against non-compliant entities (Holme and Watts 1). For instance, businesses that are found culpable of polluting the environment can be sued as is evident in the many court cases by environmental groups against firms seen to engage in environmentally unsustainable activities. The Dow Chemical Company is such a company that was perceived to cause extensive environmental pollution through its chemical products and toxic wastes.

The Dow Chemical Company, commonly known as Dow, is one of the largest manufacturer and supplier of chemicals, agricultural products, plastics, and synthetic fibers. The company provides chemical products and solutions to the electronics, energy, packaging, coatings, and water markets. The company, which is based in Midland, Michigan, is the second largest chemical manufacturer in the world, with annual revenue totaling to over $58 billion. Despite its financial success, the firm has been at the center of court cases due to widespread pollution caused by its market products and wastes (Katz 99). Dow has continuously been at loggerheads with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over its general environmental degradation.

Recently, Dow was accused of causing air and water pollution in the US. The company creates air pollution through the production of pesticides and expulsion of fumes from its manufacturing plants; it also causes water pollution through the waste released into the rivers. In those cases, the company was found guilty of environmental pollution crimes, which resulted in consider fines. Dow was found guilty and agreed to pay $2.5 million for violating the Clean Air Act (CAA), Clean Water Act (CWA), and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) (“Dow Chemical Company Settlement”). In addition, Dow was instructed to correct all the violations it had been found culpable of and implement compliance measures to reduce environmental pollution from its plants. “Dow will implement a comprehensive program to reduce emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) from leaking equipment, such as valves and pumps” (“Dow Chemical Agrees”). The manufacturer was also required to expand its permit to cover wastes that disposed into the water. Therefore, pertinent environmental authorities took action against Dow due to the harm its operations caused on the environment.

In 2016, Center for Environmental Health (CEH), a health lobby group, sued Dow for the health risks that Telone, a pesticide, posed to California residents. The product contained the chemical 1, 3-Dichloropropene, which is known to cause cancer (“Health Watchdog”). Telone is a widely used pesticide in California and scientists have proven it remains airborne for many days after application. The suit cited Telone as a severe health threat to the residents and sought to limit its use. The CEH also wanted Dow obliged to issue warnings to residents before the use of Telone. Furthermore, the pesticide had been banned in California in 1990 following findings that it was harmful and that it spread outside the farms. However, the product was allowed back in the market following Dow’s lobbying. However, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation lifted the restrictions contrary to the findings and recommendations of its scientists. In addition, the suit included the aspect of racial discrimination considering Telone is used in California, which is mainly occupied by minority groups (Beyond Pesticides). Telone is known for its carcinogenic properties and its continued production by Dow poses serious environmental and health problems in California. However, instead of taking up the pollution claims against its product, Dow continued to advocate for it and has not made any changes to the product to eliminate or minimize its harm to the environment.

Dow has also been seen to cause air pollution through its gaseous emissions from all its manufacturing plants. Through its different plants, the firm contaminates the air through flares produced during maintenance activities (Shelley). These flashes produce toxic gases that exceed the recommended amounts. In fact, the company releases quantities of 1, 3-butadiene, acetylene, benzene, butane, butane, carbon monoxide, ethane, methane, nitrogen oxides and other harmful gases beyond the allowed levels (Shelley). Therefore, the enterprise should use raw materials that release less destructive gases to minimize pollution.

Dow also pollutes the environment through improper toxic waste disposal. The firm is the second largest toxic chemical waste producer in the US as can be seen in the 600 million pounds of chemical waste produced in 2010 (Williams). Despite boasting of having treatments plants and processes that prevent soil and water pollution through recycling and reuse, it has been reported that the business releases harmful solid and liquid waste. It has been proven that land along the Tittabawassee River is full of dioxin, which is released through liquid waste that flows into the water resource. This substance enters the stream through runoff from Dow, and then it seeps into the soil around the river during floods. In fact, Dow is the largest producer of the compound in Michigan and accounts for a substantial fraction of all dioxin in water and soil (McTaggart). However, the corporation claims that dioxin levels in Midland are safe, but research results indicate otherwise. For instance, in 1996, it was found that the dioxin levels on the company’s land were 8,840 parts per trillion (ppt), while other areas around had a concentration of 602 ppt; this amount exceeds the 90 ppt level recommended by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. Furthermore, subsequent studies have indicated a rise in dioxin levels in the county, suggesting that the company has not been making efforts to reduce the compound’s quantities it releases into the environment through its toxic waste in the Tittabawassee River (McTaggart). Studies by the EPA and other agencies have shown that dioxin is carcinogenic; as a result, Dow poses a severe threat to the environment and health of people living around its plants.

As part of its corporate social responsibility in conserving the environment and efforts in preserving a desirable public image, Dow should implement various mechanisms for reducing and eliminating its environmental pollution. The company should minimize the air, water, and soil pollution its market products, practices, and operations cause. Furthermore, the manufacturer should invest heavily in research and development to produce environmentally friendly commodities. The corporation should provide a soil fumigant similar to Telone but one that is not carcinogenic and diminishes quickly after it is sprayed. The company should also work to reduce the number of hazardous air pollutants it releases into the environment at its plants by instituting leak detection mechanisms and repair programs. In addition, the organization should comply with the National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) in all of its facilities. Regarding water pollution, Dow should institute mechanisms to cater for runoff water from its plant in Midland to prevent its harmful waste from draining into the Tittabawassee River. By reducing runoff and instituting proper waste disposal methods, the firm would reduce the amount of waste that ends up in surrounding water bodies, thus eliminating dioxin pollution of water and soil.

Besides the need to make profits, businesses have a responsibility to protect the environment and ensure that its products and activities do harm the environment. Dow seems to have prioritized profits and neglected its environmental responsibility, which is illustrated by the numerous times the company has been sued for ecological destruction. To avoid the suits, which have negatively affected the firm’s public perception, Dow should implement preventive measures to protect the environment.

Works Cited

Beyond Pesticides. “Did Dow Chemical’s Pesticide Cause Air Pollution Over California?” Alternet, 30 Sep. 2016, Accessed 28 Feb. 2018.

“Dow Chemical Agrees to Pay $2.5 Million Penalty to Resolve Air, Water and Waste Violations at Its Midland Michigan Complex”. Department of Justice, 29 Jul. 2011, Accessed 28 Feb. 2018.

“Dow Chemical Company Settlement.” United States Environmental Protection Agency, Accessed 28 Feb. 2018.

“Health Watchdog Sues Dow for Pesticide Air Pollution.” Center for Environmental Health, 20. Sep. 2016, Accessed 28 Feb. 2018.

Holme, Richard, and Phil Watts. Corporate Social Responsibility: Making Good Business Sense. E & Y Direct, 2000.

Katz, Rebecca S. “The Corporate Crimes of Dow Chemical and the Failure to Regulate Environmental Pollution.” Critical Criminology, vol. 18, no. 4, 2010, pp. 97–125.

McTaggart, Ursula. “Dioxin, Bhopal and Dow Chemical.” Solidarity, Accessed 28 Feb. 2018.

Shelley, Adrian. “Planned Pollution: Dow Chemical and Mallet CO2.” May 25, 2016. Accessed Feb 28, 2018.

Williams, Rebecca. “Dow Chemical Co. Ranked Second-Largest Toxic Waste Producer in the Nation.” Michigan Radio, 12 Jan. 2012, Accessed 28 Feb. 2018.

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