Heileman Brewing Company was struggling under a load of debt, and it was looking for a segment of the market for beer that could help it stay afloat. As well as the internal financial problems, the brewing company was stuck in an industry full of problems. A few years back, the beer market was supposed to reduce by 2.1 percent in the previous year. This reduction was due to the rising awareness of many social and health issues associated with alcohol. Heavy drinking affects the functioning of the liver and as a result, cirrhosis. Alcoholic beverages were required to carry warnings on the consumption of alcohol. Interest groups asked the government to raise drinking age, limit alcohol availability and increase drunken driving penalties.
Demographics of Heileman Brewery in one of its leading markets showed that one of its beers under the name “Colt 45” had become a top seller among the young people. Sales of other regular beers were declining while those of Colt 45 were rising. The different characteristic was the high alcohol content in Colt 45. It was 4.5% compared to 3.5% of regular beer. In 1991, Heileman produced a new malt beer called Powermaster that targeted young city blacks. Power Master contained 5.9% alcohol. In addition, the new company hired rap musicians to appeal to the targeted markets. This way, Powermaster advertisements showed the feeling of having power and being masterful.
Consequently, the new beer was highly criticized. Newspapers and magazines editorialized that the company should not target a population that was already affected by drug problems and alcohol. In response, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms ordered the company to stop the use of Powermaster label in its beer product. After several months, the company regrouped and issued a high-alcohol content beer in a different container. The can was named Colt 45 Premium, and BATF did not object the use of its new name.
Heileman’s Brewing company decision could be viewed as not morally appropriate. It distributed beer that exceeded the allowed alcohol content. As a result, this increased the effects associated with excessive alcohol consumption such as cirrhosis. Laws are made to be adhered to and when Heileman Company exceeded the percentage allowed then that was not morally correct (Shaw pg.7). In addition, advertising it to people of a young age and make it look convincing was another morally wrong thing to do.
Heileman’s company is one among the many businesses that are affected by new advances in business ethics. Technology advances bring up new issues in business ethics (Pava pg.9). Connections between social and economic systems in different nations have influenced the current questions in business ethics. Historically, the agricultural and industrial revolution brought about changes in business ethics. Agricultural revolution led to the development of commerce that resulted in ethical problems that the concerned trading fairness in matters such as setting prices. Today, we have information revolution (Wicks pg. 10). The internet, digitalization, and other technologies have made it possible to manipulate information in new ways. For example, Heileman used advertisements by rappers in televisions so as to increase sales.
With these emerging business ethics, problems and risks occur (Bredeson pg.5). These risks may not be predictable and could be ignored by those affected. For example, in Heileman case, the youth in ghettos that bought the Powermaster were fully aware of its effects. However, they went ahead and consumed it ignoring the risks associated. Another emerging problem is on privacy (Machan & James pg. 20). Databases collect information of almost everything, and dangerous information could be argued as violating the right to privacy.
Privacy is important, but consumers must be protected (Malden pg. 22). BATF had the power to interfere with Heileman’s beer since the consumers health was at stake and Heileman was doing business in a morally inappropriate manner. BATF, therefore, ordered a change of name to Colt 45 since Power Master was a negatively influential name. The consumers faced a potential harm arising from false and mistaken information.
All issues referred to as ethical come under the justice notion (Bowie & Ronald pg.6). Actions are considered to be good when best results are accomplished. This accomplishment is determined in terms of the least amount of pain and the highest amount of pleasure (Cowton pg.21). However, in the case of Heileman beer, it provided both harm and pleasure which is not ethical. Social and economic inequalities are to be arranged so that they can be of significant benefits to the less advantaged in the society.
Another issue that makes Heileman’s beer distribution unethical is the fact that the company is creating wealth through harming the health of young people. As much as people want to make money, doing so at the expense of others is unjust and inappropriate (Weiss pg.13). The economic and legal framework structures are important since they affect people’s lives. People are entitled to good health as a fundamental human right (Ciampi pg.23). This issue explains the high criticism on the Heileman’s company case. Interest groups such as MADD come in to find for such rights and push the government to create regulations that protect its people. Companies such as Heileman should be educated in business ethics and morally appropriate ways to conduct business.
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