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KANTIAN AND UTILITARIAN THEORIES 1

Kantian and Utilitarian Theories Amanda Filson Business Ethics May 29, 2011 Dr. Jennifer Jill Young

KANTIAN AND UTILITARIAN THEORIES 2 Kantian and Utilitarian Theories Applying philosophical concepts to social issues can test the relevance of philosophy in contemporary society. Such application may also help to resolve present-day social issues, as philosophy can draw light on moral concerns. In this paper, the Kantian and Utilitarian moral theories are applied to the Nestle advertising controversy which began in 1970, and which lingers until today. An inquiry into the Kantian and Utilitarian ethical theories shall be made, similarities and differences pointed out, and an analysis done on how these theories may have found relevance in the stance of the advocates of breastfeeding opposed to the alleged unfair advertising practices of Nestle. The Nestle case study Nestle is a corporation engaged in home products processing and marketing worldwide. In the mid-1860s, it developed an infant-food formula as a supplement and/or substitute to breast-feeding. It then claimed humanitarian achievement after the formula was used by relief organizations such as the Red Cross to feed starving infants in refugee camps. In third world countries, the Nestle product has also been used as an alternative to less nutritious local infant feeding substitutes. And today, Nestle is the third largest home food company in the world with gross sales of nearly US$39 billion a year. But the Nestle success story is marred by controversy as the company has been charged for gross violations of a World Health Organization Code that affected both first world and third world countries. The controversy first emerged when in 1970, during a UN sponsored Bogota meeting on infant feeding, a Protein Advisory Group (PAG) expressed concern about a worldwide decline in breast feeding. PAG also sought examination of undue marketing-and-advertising of infant

KANTIAN AND UTILITARIAN THEORIES 3 formula, which may have been the cause of this decline. Taking the cue for a sensational story, media made follow-up reports on unfair, dishonest and deceptive advertising by Nestle (village visits by health care dressed representatives, free samples to new mothers, free or low cost products, and improper labels) allegedly designed for the adoption of bottle-feeding instead of breast-feeding by mothers. Outrage against Nestle came to a high point when a Caribbean Food

and Nutrition Institute attested that millions of infants suffered ailments or death due to bottlefeeding. The institute, however, did not clarify whether the cause was the infant formula or improper sterilization-and-storage of baby bottles and feed. Heightened indignation against Nestle resulted in a campaign led by the Infant Formula Action Coalition (INFACT) to boycott Nestle products globally. Subsequently, the World Health Organization (WHO) imposed a Code of Marketing of Breast milk Substitutes to prohibit advertising which discourages breastfeeding. After years in which Nestle seemed to comply with the Code, the Action for Corporate Accountability charged Nestle with non-compliance. Boycott of Nestle was again instigated, bolstered by the United Methodist Churchs study that Nestls advertising practices (free supplies to hospitals, stepped up donation to counter Ivory Coast governments promotion of breastfeeding) were designed solely to increase sales, thus violating the WHO code. Today, the issue is unresolved due to data issued by UNICEF that 1.5 million infants, who are not breast-fed, die each year. This study was used by the International Baby Food Action Network and its affiliates by accusing Nestle and other infant-formula companies of violating the WHO marketing code. The situation aggravated when a 2003 British Medical Journal reported that 90 percent of health providers were ignorant of the WHO code, while twothirds of mothers using infant-feed formula were not advised on the benefits of breast-feeding.

KANTIAN AND UTILITARIAN THEORIES 4 The Kantian theory on the moral issue Against the scepticism and relativism of the 18th century, Immanuel Kant advanced moral rationalism by theorizing that human reason is the source of all moral laws, and all moral obligations (Montemayor, 1994). Reason making commands that are absolutely binding on all men in all times is what Kant called the Categorical Imperative. And what motivates man to obey? Kant said this is mans pure sense of duty. Viewed integrally, the unconditional will to

obey the command of reason is for Kant the very root, mainspring and test of all moral actions. What specifically determines whether a human act is right? In other words, how can the core idea of the categorical imperative be formulated? Kant says that acts are right or good, thus expressive of the core idea of the categorical imperative when these acts redound to a universal law of conduct. And this happens through three formularies, which can find application in the Nestle ethical issue. First, by maxim. In human conduct, actions find expressions which express the will of the agent. For example, Mr. John may express a decision to comply with a work contract, but at the same time deciding to stop compliance in the event his interest is undermined. In this case the will to comply and will to stop compliance involve a contradiction of will, and therefore cannot result in a universal application to dutiful work compliance, or a universal law of nature, (Curtis, 1962). Another instance of conduct not accruing to be a universal law of conduct is when the expressed decision or maxim is hypothetical such as when a student asserts If I express caring, then I can win friends. Only when the expressed decision or maxim is unconditional, or without ifs and buts, can it be the categorical imperative as conceived by Kant,

KANTIAN AND UTILITARIAN THEORIES 5 and consequently universally binding. A categorical imperative should take the maxim form of I do this; I dont do that, unconditionally. In the case of the Nestle controversy, Nestle adopted a straightforward and unconditional conformance to the provisions of the WHO Code of Marketing of Breast milk Substitutes. This makes Nestls expressed decision or will to be without contradiction of will, and not hypothetical to any other goals/desires/consequences but categorical. This justified lifting of any boycott campaign on the company. However, when Nestle became recalcitrant and reneged on its compliance after some time, as alleged by the Action for Corporate Accountability group, then resumption of boycott is justified. It appeared that Nestls original conformance turned out to be a conditional one, and therefore not right. Secondly, by universal acceptability. The categorical imperative obliges from within as an expression of the higher human self. This redounds to making the act universally acceptable since it can be embraced by all other human beings. Among the applications of the principle of universal acceptability is the instance of manner of just treatment to minors. For the act to be universally acceptable, the agent must be willing to take the place of a minor and assume the consequences incurred by the minor. In the case of Nestle, the relapse of the company to again engage in unfair advertising made it appear that it is not ready to assume the place of mothers and infants, who may BE direly affected by the practice of bottle-feeding in disregard of breastfeeding. Again, there is convincing evidence that Nestls actions to unduly induce mothers to disregard breastfeeding are wrong. Thirdly, by treating human beings as ends in themselves, and never as means to ends. This formulation is derived from Kants recognition of the inherent worth of human beings, such

KANTIAN AND UTILITARIAN THEORIES 6 that they are never to be used as entities which can be instruments or ways to achieve other ends or goals. Thus when Nestle implemented unfair and dishonest advertising and promotions in product marketing (such as deceptive dressing of representatives as health care professionals, giving free samples of infant milk products to mothers and hospitals, inappropriate label warnings, etc.), wider markets and profits became the ends, while mothers and infants became the means for business interest. When Nestle stepped up donations of formula to hospitals in the Ivory Coast to counter the state campaign to promote breast-feeding, the business interest of Nestle above human interest again surfaces to show an evil intent. The Utilitarian theory on the moral issue The ethical theory of hedonism holds that the supreme end of man consists in the experiencing pleasure. This implies that mans action is good or bad depending on whether it gives pleasure or earthly happiness to man. Utilitarian Ethics is a British speculative conception which is viewed to be hedonistic, as it is a philosophy, based on empirical investigation, hedonism, the association of ideas and a liberal and human approach to political and economic affairs (Curtis, 1962). In utilitarianism, the good is understood to be earthly pleasure, happiness or well-being. And Jeremy Bentham used a quantitative calculus to measure and determine the proper moral choices in which pleasure is greater than pain. John Stuart Mill, who originated Utilitarianism with Bentham, added qualitative measures to the quantitative calculus in order to evaluate higher pleasures of the intellect and the imagination. For the classical Utilitarian Ethics which Bentham and Mill developed, there are two types of utilitarianism:

KANTIAN AND UTILITARIAN THEORIES 7 1. Individual or egoistic utilitarianism or simply egoism. Herein the norm of morality resides in the individual. What redounds to individual happiness is good, what prevents it is bad. 2. Social utilitarianism or simply altruism. This holds that an act is good when it is conducive to the collective good of society. And today, several features of social utilitarianism appeals to modern-day societies and organizations. These are: First, its clear and orderly basis for formulating and testing policies/ programs/processes. What promotes the general welfare more than other alternatives is good. That which does not promote total utility equal to other alternatives is wrong or must be modified. Principles, policies and rules must be subjected to the test of utility standards, and not accepted blindly. According to this principle, it can be seen that the World Health Organization formulated and imposed a code of ethics to safeguard general welfare, particularly of mothers and infants, as opposed to the advantage of individual groups or business companies. Nestle acknowledged the utility standards set by the World Health Organization when it complied with the provisions of the WHO Code. Second, the objective way to resolve conflicts of self-interest. Utilitarianism has a standard outside self-interest that can minimize or even eliminate conflict or dispute. In this regard, it is to be noted that Nestle made a timely move to set aside self-interest or corporate profit to conform with provisions of the WHO Code and reform according to the specific accusations by monitoring groups. Observably, Nestle has again made a self-admission of undue practices, including alleged relapses. In this regard, Nestle may have made an affront on the

KANTIAN AND UTILITARIAN THEORIES 8 Kantian principle as well, since it used humansmothers and infantsas means to an end, namely for corporate profit. Third, flexibility and results orientation to moral decision making direct organizations to focus on the results of their actions and policies, allowing them to fit decisions to resolve conflicts. In the case of Nestle, its undue advertising resulted in massive campaigns inclusive of threats to boycott Nestle products. Constructive moves were made by the company including its forming the Nestle Infant Formulation Audit Commission (NIFAC) to monitor and improve field operations, issue public reports, request WHO/UNICEF clarifications. These moves by Nestle bore the positive result of suspending the 1984 international boycott against Nestle. In addition, Nestle made more concessions such as upgrading information on infant feeding, benefits and superiority of breast-feeding, negative effects of wrong bottle-feeding practices and the economic and social impacts on the use of infant formula. Undoubtedly, Nestls moves to conform with the WHO Code and reform according to the demands of breastfeeding advocates were advised by top consultants and CEOs of the company. Any modern CEO will advise the same, given the fact that Nestls global enterprise is at stake. It may be added, however, that Nestle was reactive to the situation when it could have initiated proactive moves which more progressive CEOs would have advised. Problems should always be anticipated, even as field operations are monitored using modern Management Information Systems. A Corporate Social Responsibility program, encompassing social development projects, should be adopted by Nestle to demonstrate its social relevance especially to the sectors it serves.

KANTIAN AND UTILITARIAN THEORIES 9 Conclusion Kantian and Utilitarian Ethics have similarities in their common aim to provide guidance on moral conduct amid 18th century modernizing times in which nationalism and industrialization were emerging. Both theories need not be seen simply as speculative principles since the Kantian categorical imperative will have an impact after his death on the subsequent 19th century German idealism in which: The state had a will, a consciousness and a moral end of its own, on a higher level than that of any individual. Neither internally nor externally was the state limited by moral laws, since it was itself the fount of such laws (Curtis, 1962). On the other hand, utilitarianism will be the foundation of the American principle of American capitalism and free enterprise, expressed by Adam Smiths insight in which a free market system could combine the freedom of individuals to pursue their own objectives (Friedman, 19). The Utilitarian philosophy is also well entrenched in the Declaration of Independence as drafted by Thomas Jefferson: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness (20). On a broader perspective and compared with Kantianism, utilitarianism may have established itself as the more appealing and effective moral theory in modernizing societies, with the advent of free market enterprise which cannot thrive in idealistic and abstract principles as afforded by Kantian Ethics. Even today, Utilitarian Ethics appears to be in the forefront in creating economic and political advances in our global community. Nonetheless, the humanist values within Kantian Ethics deserve equal attention, as free enterprise need not use people as mere pawns or means to economic ends. In sum, modern societies can create the optimal

KANTIAN AND UTILITARIAN THEORIES 10 social and economic environment by adopting both the basic humanist idealism of Kantian Ethics and the realistic practicality of the Utilitarian Moral tenets.

KANTIAN AND UTILITARIAN THEORIES 11 References Curtis, M. (1962). The great Political Theories. New York: Avon Books: 75. Friedman, M. (1980). Free To Choose. New York: Pelican Books: 19-20. Montemayor, F. (1994). Ethics the Philosophy of Life. Mandaluyong City: National Book Store: 46-51. Shaw, Vincent, W. V. (2010).Moral Issues in Business. Belmont, CA: Cengage Learning.