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Responsible commerce was a completely strange concept for me before I learn this subject. A literary understanding of responsible commerce is that a company, a corporate, an organisation or individuals should take responsibility for whatever they do during commercial activities, not only for their customers, but also for themselves. The bottom line for all the commerce activities is that they must make sure that all of their activities are legal. Only under this premise, we can talk about what is responsible commerce. As a company or corporate, customers is always the first position they should care about. A company may based on the facts when they selling their products or propagating their culture. Which means the any act of cheating and dishonest is not permitted in commercial activities and company can only build their reputation if they follow these rules.
Another responsibility a company should take is that they may protect the environment. In some cases, many multinational corporations built their factories in developing countries due to the low labour price. They seek their maximum interest while destroy the environment in these area. After these multinational corporations leave, they always leave a lot of problem to the country and people who live in this country. As an organisation or a country, I think they may build some rules or legislations to standardise the commercial activities. It is easy for a country or an organisation to build rules or legislation to take all the commercial activities under their control. If a standard of commercial activities is built perfectly, a company will pay the price and lose their reputation when they against these rules. As an individual, we should deeply understand what things are right and what things are wrong and we should always do the right thing not only in commercial activities but also in all the daily activities.
Individuals’ awareness of responsible commerce is the most significant thing. It is because every company, corporate, organisation is consists of every single person and all the commercial problem will be smoothly solved if the awareness of individuals’ is high enough. All of these are my understanding of responsible commerce before I learn this subject and these are only a superficial discussion. However, in the process of learning about responsible commerce, I know that responsible commerce is not a concept which is only about responsibility and it contains a lot of theories. Firstly, a responsible commerce must stand the test of ethic and moral rules. Business ethic requires us to ask some questions before we start to do commercial activities, such as what are our goals and what I want achieve from this activity. Responsible commerce is not only to others but also to our self. Moral rules may help us to control and standardise our activities. So that business ethic and moral rules can help to know what activities good or bad.
In other words, responsible commerce is a responsibility which may help us to seek our own interests by using a right way. Secondly, responsible commerce requires us to balance the profits of different aspect. According to case 2.2, In order to avoid the high compensation, Union Carbide Corporation conceal the truth about the number of people killed in this accident and argue that the case should be heard in India. In this case, Union Carbide Corporation only takes responsibility for their shareholders instead of the local community and their employees. Therefore, responsible commerce is a responsibility which may balance the interests of different group of people. Thirdly, Companies should return to society while they get interests from society. This is a significant way to help companies to build a long-term interests and reputation. Only those improvident leaders have just focused on the short-term interest and most of these companies cannot existed for a long time. The last one is the harmonious development of man and nature.
We cannot sacrifice the environment in order to seek our own interests and this kind of interest foundation is unstable. Therefore, all of these are what I think about responsible commerce after I have learned this subject. Another important concept is utilitarianism. Utilitarianism, a superficial understanding of this concept is to seek the maximum interests or happiness. It requires us to always think “the greatest happiness for greatest number of people”. If the number of happiness of all the people who affected by our action is greater than the unhappiness. Then we will do it and it will be a right thing. Generally speaking, utilitarianism is only focus on the consequence. If the consequence is right, the action is right and if the consequence is wrong, the action is wrong. Utilitarianism offers us a new way to analysis the case which we meet in our learning and it also helps us to judge our action in our daily life. Before I learned this theory, I always felt confused that whatever an action is, there must be some people benefit and some people damaged from it, what rules should we use to judge this action to see whether it right or wrong.
However, after I learned the theory of utilitarianism, I know that if the consequence of an action is in keeping with “the greatest happiness for greatest number of people”, this action must be the best action. On the other hand, utilitarianism can also be used to judge our daily activities. For example, if I do not study hard, maybe I have a lot of time to play computer games, listen to music or hang out with my friends. However, this is just my short-term interests or happiness and my long-term interests will be damaged. Such as, I cannot pass this subject or I cannot find a good job in the future. Obviously, my happiness of long-term is greater that it of short-term and I should always study hard. According to BP (British petroleum) oil spill we can see that the violation of basic rules of utilitarianism will cause a big disaster. On April 20, 2010 there was a loud explosion and fire on oil rig operated and owned by Transocean, Ltd. The rig was drilling for oil off the coast of the state of Louisiana, U.S.A for BP. The explosion and fire caused the death of 11 workers and another 17 people were seriously injured. However, BP thought that this was a small accident and their rescue operations was very slowly and full of mistakes. On April 24, oil was found leaking from the well for the first time.
A risk analysis done by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said the incident “poses a negligible risk to regional oil supply markets and will not cause significant national economic impacts” (U.S. Department of Homeland Security 2010). White House press secretary Robert Gibbs at a news conference said that he doubted this was the first accident that has ever happened and he further doubts it will be the last (Gibbs 2010). A later Homeland security report on April 25th 2010, evaluated the critical infrastructure and said they had been short term impact to the region or the national crude oil reserves, however a US coast guard remote underwater camera showed that the well was leaking 5,000 barrels of crude oil per day and approved a plan to remotely cave in the gap with the use of a blowout preventer to stop the leak, this was being used as a seal or plug.
A downpayment of compensation of $20bn were agreed by BP for victims of the oil spill and BP indicates that the they had already paid 1.25 billion for this disaster by the end of May. If we use theory of utilitarianism to analysis this case, we can find that there are many problems in this case and most of these problems can be solved perfectly or decrease the costs to the minimum if leader of BP knowing this theory. Firstly, it is easy to see that the total amount of happiness is obviously greater than the amount of unhappiness and I still insist that no one can get interests or happiness form this disaster. BP only cares about interests of their shareholders instead of the local community and their employees. 5,000 barrels of crude oil got into ocean per day and ocean have been seriously polluted. It is a huge disaster not only for the people and countries which around Gulf of Mexico but also for all the people and countries. Everyone in the world is involved in this disaster.
As for BP, they lost their reputation in this disaster and have to pay more than 20 billion dollars in the future as compensation and this amount of money not include the cost of cleaning up the ocean. Secondly, more information shows that this is not the first time of BP oil spill and leaders of BP deeply know that where is problem and how to solve this problem. However, BP did not do anything to prevent this disaster and even after the disaster was happened, BP said that this is negligible risk and will not affect significant national economic impacts and their rescue operations was very slowly and full of mistakes. It is because that maintenance and repair cost of equipment is very high so BP just ignore that, finally, this disaster was happened. We can see that BP sacrificed their long-term interests in order to get the short-term interests. After this disaster was happened, BP wanted to get through this disaster by lying. However, when people fund out the truth, BP ruined its reputation and no one will trust BP.
Thirdly, utilitarianism may help BP to make a flexible approach to moral decision-making and encourage BP to focus on the consequence of their actions. If BP followed the rules of utilitarianism then they will realise that the results of their actions will cause a completely disaster and this disaster will totally destroy BP. Therefore, BP oil spill can referred as an example of who reject to judge their actions by using utilitarianism and finally destroy themself. If BP uses utilitarianism to judge their actions, they may avoid this disaster or decrease the costs to the minimum. Utilitarianism offers us a good way to analysis cases and judging our actions. We cannot make sure that one thing must be right if it follows the utilitarianism, but we can make that one thing must be wrong if it does not follow the utilitarianism. However, Utilitarianism is not an only way to judge our actions. There are still some strength and weakness with this theory. Misunderstand of utilitarianism may cause a seriously problem that a utilitarian cannot ignore.
The first advantage of this theory is that we can make sure that the number of people who benefit from our actions is always greater than the number of people who suffer from it. Secondly, utilitarianism may help us to make decisions which are more democratic, because it is acceptable to majorities. Thirdly, it will force us to consider all the results of our actions and help us to prevent some potential errors. However, utilitarianism is not always right.
There are still some problems about this theory. Firstly, there are still some people who were damaged, though the core factor of utilitarianism is “the greatest happiness for greatest number of people”. Secondly, it may misunderstand people to only focus on short-term interests instead of long- term interests and will lose their reputation in the future. Thirdly, it is hard to calculate how much degree of happiness and unhappiness sometimes. On the other hand, a same action always causes the different consequences in different situation. Therefore, based on the strengths and weakness above, the appropriate use of utilitarianism will help us to deal with some problems perfectly while a misuse of it will cause seriously problems.
‘BP Oil Spill – Not Over Yet’ 2010, Oil Spill Intelligence Report, vol.33, pp 1-3. John 2011, Counting the cost of the BP disaster one year on, accessed 20/4/2011, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business Terry 2012, US law firm urges pension funds to file Deepwater claims against BP, accessed 6/5/2012, http://www.guardian.co.uk