Plumply’nut has been well received since its release. So far, it has been successfully serving its purpose of combating the worldwide problem of malnutrition. Most notably, it has started to affect one of the less industrialized countries and considered desperately poor in the world, Nigeria. Anderson Cooper from CBS News, together with the Nobel Prize awardee relief group Doctors Without Borders, featured the region. They stated that it was the worst and most rampant site of malnutrition. Two years later, it was claimed to have the lowest malnutrition rate (CBS, 2007).
Despite this, there are still millions of children worldwide who suffer from various types of malnutrition, based on the records of the Food and Agriculture Organization (World Hunger Organization, 2010). This means that there is still a lot of work to be done in spreading the influence of Plumpy’nut.
This circumstance gave rise to the ethical dilemma that the company is facing. As of the moment, the manufacturing of the Plumpy’nut product is centered in the company’s head establishment in France. In 2010, it has given off 35, 000 metric tons of the product. Furthermore, the company has established a system of business partnerships as well as franchises. This is to enable the creation of Plumpy’nut locally among the heavily stricken countries such as Kenya, Malawi, and most especially Niger (Rice, 2010).
Although UNICEF almost acquired 90% of the capacity of the production in France, a child’s two-month treatment still amounts to $60 a day. It is likely due to the company’s current supplying capability of producing only for 1 to 2 million children who have malnutrition against the hundreds of millions more. Given this urgent situation, the initial move of partnering with local partners in Africa is threatened with the possibility of American companies haggling for the Plumpy’nut patent. Moreover, it is found that there are two companies in Haiti that manufacture a similar product but are independent of the Nutriset Company (Rice, 2010). Looking at this risk, we understand that it is not how the Nutriset Company has envisioned the spread of the Plumpy’nut influence to be.
The facts contributing to this dilemma majorly point to the current range of operations of the company and its corporate vision versus the need for a swift response in solving the problem. The world has recognized that many of its people, particularly the children, are suffering from malnutrition. Worse, they pointlessly die young as if they were not given a fair chance to fight for their lives and hone their potential. With the discovery of Plumpy’nut, they were given hope close enough to cling onto life. Yet, it turned out that the opportunity to live is still far from their grasps because the production of the Plumpy’nut could not meet with these victims half way. With this, unfortunately, the company is inviting controversy. This is because it seemed the answer for the delay in solving the problem is certainly doable for the company. It is just that the company would not commit to it because it has other priorities. From a business perspective, these other priorities are understandably necessary to continue the company’s operations; otherwise, the company may seize to exist and so would the production of Plumpy’nut.
Every business enterprise has a set code of conduct and ethics that has to be adhered to by every stakeholder in the business. The code establishes minimum sternwards of ethical conduct, which have to be followed by all of the partners and competitors involved in the same business. Ethical practices prohibit the violation of human rights and the workers. Businesses are supposed to be cognizant of the health, safety, and environmental standards in the employees’ workplace. However, due to the immense competition, some of these ethical practices are contravened (Tittle, 2000), causing harm to the clients or the partners involved.
With a close reference to the case study, it is clear that some ethical practices are violated. The first issue is the fact that the Nutriset Company holds a specific grant of ownership of the Plumpy’nut (Treviño, & Nelson, 2011). It is, therefore, unethical for any competing organization to duplicate the services offered by the company that holds the patent. Although the rate of production is low and cannot fully meet the demand of catering to the millions of children affected by malnutrition, the ownership right has to be respected.
Another critical ethical issue in this case study is the intention of the USA to supplement the manufacture of peanuts. This will automatically render the many employees attached to Nutriset Company jobless (Treviño & Nelson, 2011). It would be against the rights of such employees. On the other hand, there are many children who are at risk of dying from malnutrition. The United States can prevent such deaths through the massive production of peanuts. Thus, it is an issue if the lives of numerous children are lost on the pretext that business ethics has to be respected. It will also be morally wrong to leave children to die when these deaths could have been prevented by the entry of the USA into the market for the production of food that will be supplied to the malnourished children (Tittle, 2000).
The first issue that we would suggest solutions to is on the ownership grant of the Nutriset Company. Since the company has the entire right to the patent, it must assert its legality to the alleged copiers of the patent. Nutriset must discuss with them and point out the appropriate procedure in order for them to continue their operations. It would mean that Nutriset must initiate communication with these companies, present the matter, and negotiate. The negotiation would include paying for the rights and having a cooperative working relationship among them. Alternatively, Nutriset may take the shares of these companies as opposed to closing them down. However, it is important to note that in solving the problem of malnutrition, the world needs as many manufacturers as possible. Thus, the aim would not be to close down the other companies; rather, as much as possible, Nutriset and the other companies must find a way to collaborate.
The next issue to solve is the American interest towards the patent and on becoming one of the major suppliers of the Plumpy’nut. In this scenario, America has not joined the industry yet while Nutriset has the obligation to take care of its employees, local partners, and consumers. We must understand that the stakeholders here are the employees, partners, and consumers. America is not yet a stakeholder. Thus, decisions must involve the current stakeholders. With or without action, they are the ones who would get affected.
If the company lets America in, it would seem that the employees would be compromised in exchange of being able to cater to more consumers. On the other hand, if the company does not allow America in, Nutriset gets to keep the relationship with its employees. However, the number of the consumers catered to will stay the same. It is important to note that the company gives importance to its employees. Besides, it is neither in the corporate vision nor in the company’s long term plans to invite America. Thus, unless the company would be open to finding another way, Nutriset would not be able to satisfy the market demand.
Here, we see that the solution to the first issue could be connected with the second, that is, if Nutriset settles with the companies allegedly copying the product and makes them their partners, then the company would not have to be pressured in letting in the United States. These companies would be treated as local partners, which is what the company has been doing in the first place. Furthermore, having more partners would enable the company to have more power in operating and distributing the product for the untapped consumers.
In conclusion, Plumpy’nut is a big business that caters to a massive market, and which aims to solve a global problem. With this, the company has a serious responsibility towards its stakeholders, which include the employees, partners, and most especially the consumers. Issues have arisen due to the frustrations in solving the problem instantly even when the company could not respond as fast. As a result, many companies emerged, which threatened the business and its stakeholders. The lack of careful decisiveness may compromise some stakeholders. Thus, as suggested, the company must carefully look into who is truly involved in the issue and negotiate with them.
CBS Interactive, Inc. (2007). A life saver called plumpynut: Anderson Cooper reports on a nutritional breakthrough. Retrieved from http://www.cbsnews.com/news/a-life-saver-called-plumpynut/
Rice, A. (2010). Could a peanut past called plumpy’nut end malnutrition. New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/05/magazine/05Plumpy-t.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
Tittle, P. (2000). Ethical issues in business: Inquiries, cases, and readings. Peterborough, Ont: Broadview Press.
Treviño, L. K. & Nelson, K. A. (2011). Managing business ethics: Straight talk about how to do it right. New York: John Wiley.
Vilcox, M. W. & Mohan, T. O. (2007). Contemporary issues in business ethics. New York: Nova Science Publishers.
World Hunger Organization. (2010). 2011 world hunger and poverty facts and statistics. Retrieved from http://www.worldhunger.org/articles/Learn/world_hunger_facts