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Apple Incorporated and ExxonMobil and the Ethical and Social Responsibility Issues They Face in Today's Society.

Grant Manor
Northwest Connecticut community College

Abstract
This paper explores social and ethical issues and situations two companies, Apple Incorporated and ExxonMobil, are facing today. Some issues that will be discussed are Apple Incorporated's stand on "pro-discrimination" many state legislatures are trying to pass, Apple Incorporated's ethically questionable ResearchKit™ and whether or not this new tool will be a good advancement or an unethical way to make money by selling medical records to third-parties, and lastly ExxonMobil's continuing case with the New Jersey State legislature over oil contamination from ExxonMobil's refineries. This paper will discuss these situations, what is good and bad about these situations, and some possible actions the companies could take to remedy the situations.

Apple Incorporated and ExxonMobil and the Ethical and Social Responsibility Issues They Face in Today's Society. In Andrea Chang's article titled "Apple CEO Tim Cook is forging an unusual path as a social activist", Chang discusses how in a recent interview Tim Cook took stance against "pro-discrimination" state laws that allowed people in the particular state to refuse service or goods to any person because of the owner's religious beliefs. This article talks about how Cook has personal interest in these issues as he is gay, and that he considers being gay one of the greatest gifts he has ever received. The article also includes that when Cook was making the statements about the "pro-discrimination" laws he was speaking for himself and Apple Incorporated. It is interesting how Cook is stating what he thinks and believes very clearly because as public of a figure he is, he runs the risk of turning away a demographic of customers that disagree with his thoughts. In the past technology companies stayed away from stating their opinion on public matters because the leaders of the companies thought it was better to just make and sell their product than to state their opinion and get into debates about their opinions. Steve Jobs himself most often did not voice an opinion on public matters, but perhaps with the changing modern society tech company's leaders public role will change. Some impacts this bold statement could have on the company are firstly that some of the employees could be offended by this and then want to leave the company, secondly if some of the employees feel that the CEO was favoring gay people and might then feel some hostility towards those coworkers, or thirdly if any suppliers of their product parts did not agree with this statement the suppliers might want to stop the chain of supply therefore causing Apple Incorporated to find another supplier. The CEO might perhaps make another statement saying that he is not condemning those who want to uphold their religious beliefs. By releasing this statement he can appease the people who think he is attacking their opinion, and the statement might help them see that he thinks them having their own opinions is fine but they cannot push their beliefs and opinions upon other people. On Apple Incorporated's website they have a statement of ethics having to do with their suppliers. The website says that Apple is committed to bringing equality and respect for the environment to all their employees, this certainly seems true with the statement Tim Cook made but perhaps he might have been a bit to bold in expressing this sentiment. Another big item Apple Incorporated is facing is an ethical issue with their new ResearchKit™. In an article titled "Apple Inc. ResearchKit Gaining Traction Despite Criticism" Martin Blanc discusses how even though there are many ethical researchers who do not like the idea of ResearchKit™ and how this new technology will give Apple Incorporated access to millions of medical records, ResearchKit's trial study filled up completely with eleven thousand people in one day. Critics are worried about data not being collected accurately with the Iphone, or that patients might not be able to understand the consent forms. Ethical researchers also argued that the data would be shared with other companies or in some cases purchased by third parties. Even though eleven thousand people signed up for the test in one day there are researchers that do not like the idea of patients doing a study independently, these researchers worry that without a supervisor to tell the patients how to conduct the study something would be mishandled therefore corrupting the data and rendering it useless. Although some advantages of this type of research include the fact that patients cannot lie to sensors built into the phone as they could to their doctors, and there is no need for a researcher to be present so participants can be tested wherever they are most comfortable. This new direction for Apple Incorporated might be seen as a risk for some shareholders and they might not like this new direction. This is something that has never been done before and that might be frightening for some shareholders, even though that is how Apple Incorporated was built, on the idea of doing something nobody has ever done before. If this medical trial is successful and the critics are quieted by good results then not only will the employees and the leaders of the corporation be happy and relieved so will the shareholders who's money is invested in the project. In the business world it is good to have a claim on the next big thing so if Apple Incorporated successfully navigates this research trial they will have handled the critics with grace and poise. In both these situations Apple Incorporated demonstrated a proactive business strategy, they anticipated a problem of opportunity and acted upon it. In the first issue before anyone could grumble about how Apple Incorporated did not care about political issues Tim Cook made it abundantly clear where they stood and how they felt on some issues. In the second situation Apple Incorporated answered the critics proactively by hitting a homerun with the trial before any critic had a chance to really build up steam with their argument against the program. ExxonMobil is currently struggling with an ethical issue with the state legislature of New Jersey. ExxonMobil recently settled with the state of New Jersey and Governor Chris Christie for two-hundred and twenty-five million dollars for the case of ExxonMobil damaging the environment around two New Jersey cities because of leakage from ExxonMobil's refineries. This case has been pursued by many different representatives from within the New Jersey for the last decade but this issue is relevant because the settlement was announced recently. This deal is mostly good for ExxonMobil because they do not have to pay as much money as New Jersey originally wanted and the settlement ends any opportunities for damage claims at other ExxonMobil sites. This case and the publicity it is getting will most definitely affect the corporation of ExxonMobil because oil companies already have a bad name in terms of their social responsibility to the environment. So the fact that they are paying the bare minimum for a lot of damage to the environment in two cities will cause people to dislike ExxonMobil even more. What the executives can do to gain back respect in the people's eyes is perhaps a grand gesture such as, building a park where the leakage from their refineries were, or maybe paying more than the agreed upon amount to New Jersey and voluntarily cleaning up other refinery sites. This would help restore the common man's faith in ExxonMobil and maybe even gain them more business because of the good publicity. On ExxonMobil's website they have a code of ethics listed which says that ExxonMobil will always comply with the law and do whatever they can to go above and beyond their social responsibility. The code also states that ExxonMobil will operate with the highest integrity and honesty possible, and that they expect the same from all of their employees. In this particular issue ExxonMobil did not follow their own code very well and perhaps their executives need to reread the code themselves and learn how to follow it more closely. With this issue ExxonMobil adopted a defensive business strategy, they accepted responsibility but did the least amount possible to remedy the situation. They dragged their toes on agreeing to a settlement and just in general were not cooperative with the state legislature of New Jersey. Corporations and big companies are socially responsible to their employees, their customers, and those who could in anyway be affected by the company's supply chain. Being ethically and socially responsible within a company is very different than being responsible by yourself. Within the business a person must understand that even if they are the lowest of low employee any action they take reflects upon their place of employment and their superiors, whereas as an individual any action taken the responsibility for that action is only upon the person who takes said action. Also as an individual if you do not uphold your social and ethical responsibility people will not know about it unless you tell them, with an organization every move is chronicled by some form of news so if they do not uphold their responsibility everyone might find out about it and the company would lose business. In the Apple Incorporated two instances above the company displayed a willingness to accept their social and ethical responsibility. ExxonMobil however did not show that same willingness, so Apple Incorporated seems like the company that will appeal to customers more than ExxonMobil. The best path for a company seems to be to either accept responsibility for a mistake right away or to act proactively to prevent a mistake from ever happening. The economy and business world of today might be quite different if every single company exhibited a dedication to their ethical and social responsibility.

References

Accountability. (n.d.). Retrieved April 8, 2015, from https://www.apple.com/supplier- responsibility/
Blanc, M. (2015, March 13). Apple Inc. ResearchKit Gaining Traction Despite Criticism. Retrieved April 8, 2015, from http://www.bidnessetc.com/36814-apple-inc- researchkit-gaining-traction-despite-criticism/
Chang, A. (n.d.). Apple CEO Tim Cook is forging an unusual path as a social activist. Retrieved April 8, 2015, from http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-tim-cook- 20150331-story.html
ExxonMobil's Code of Ethics and Business Conduct. (n.d.). Retrieved April 8, 2015, from http://corporate.exxonmobil.com/en/investors/corporate-governance/code- of-ethics-and-business-conduct/our-code
Haddon, H. (2015, April 6). N.J. Governor Announces Details of Exxon Mobil Environmental Damage Settlement. Retrieved April 8, 2015, from http://blogs.wsj.com/metropolis/2015/04/06/n-j-governor-announces-details-of- exxon-mobil-environmental-damage-settlement/

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