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Sniffing Glue

In: Philosophy and Psychology

Submitted By agregs
Words 1871
Pages 8
A G
October 8, 2013
Professor Newhouse

H.B. Fuller – Sniffing Glue

After reading, "Sniffing Glue Could Snuff Profits", I did not think there was a moral problem. H.B. Fuller is a company that simply makes industrial glues for a wide variety of applications. Many companies rely on this glue to manufacture their own products in order to turn a profit. Fuller prides itself in being an honorable company that is looking out for society and I don't think anything has changed after this glue incident. H.B. Fuller's moral obligation is to provide reliable products to their buyers and to "conduct business legally and ethically, support the activities of its employees in their communities and be a responsible corporate citizen." I don't see how it is Fuller's fault that children in Central America are sniffing their product instead of its intended use.
For Fuller, I think the biggest thing at stake is the company's reputation. They pride themselves on the fact that they only care about the children and flaunt the fact that they run their company legally and ethically. Many people are mad at the company for not doing anything about their product being readily available for Central American children to sniff. Another huge thing at stake is these children’s lives. They seem to easily be able to get their hands on this product to use for sniffing instead of gluing things together, which could end badly. If children start dying from this use of the product, Central Americans will be enraged with H.B. Fuller and this could turn into a bigger deal than it already is. Another effect at stake is, if Fuller changed their product the consistency of the glue could change and Fuller's large variety of buyers for this product may not be able to use it anymore. That scenario would be great for the children because it would no longer be harming their lives and Fuller would be living up to its mission statement. However, it could also be devastating to the company. If they changed their product, there is a chance the consistency would change and not be as useful for many of their current buyers. If that happened, Fullers profits could drop dramatically and potentially put them out of business.
I don't think any moral rights have been violated here. I also feel a utilitarian would agree with the way Fuller has conducted its business. A utilitarian believes that for every action, the outcome should give the greatest good to the greatest number of people. From this article, I think Fuller has followed the utilitarian approach. By making this industrial glue and supplying it to many different types of companies, they are satisfying the greater good. If these companies didn't have H.B. Fuller's glue, who knows if they could even make the products they have or if they would have been successful without this glue. The article says it is used for many products from cars to diapers. If Fuller didn't have these glues, my car might fall apart while driving and more lives would be in danger. There could be other companies to supply the right glue needed, but Fuller's glue has won awards and many trust it. It appears that Fuller is successful in what they do, which makes many other companies successful.
From the view of a Kantian, I think they would disagree with my thoughts and the thoughts of the utilitarian. A Kantian would want to use a maxim to see if what Fuller was doing was morally wrong or not. Using Kant's maxim theory on behalf of the Fuller case, I believe he would say something along the lines of: When I distribute products, I will knowingly send harmful, addictive products to my buyers. After stating the maxim, it would have to be universalized and if it stood as a true statement after that then a Kantian would be happy. If the maxim theory was universalized it would state: When all men distribute products, all men would knowingly send harmful, addictive products to their buyers. After reading the universalized maxim, I feel a Kantian would not agree with my thoughts and Fullers actions. I think they would say that the H.B. Fuller Company was morally wrong in their actions.
I feel as though Fuller is doing what it needs to survive as a company. There aren’t many things they can do about the Resistol. H.B. Fuller has stated that they have already altered the product to change the smell to something more toxic in hopes that would ward off many of the children in Central America that have been sniffing it. If they were to stop sending this product to Central America altogether, as some critics believe they should, I feel that many of the there won't be able to be successful. Those companies rely on this glue to make their products and sell them for a profit. Without this super-strength, award-winning glue, they may have to choose a less reliable source, which could harm their businesses.
I partially agree with the critics saying that the company so far has only been worried about their image instead of the children. A spokesperson from the company did say that they "simply don't believe it is the right decision to keep our solvent product on the market" however, they still seemed to be selling the same product after that statement. If I were Fuller, I feel I would also be concerned about my image because they don't want their other buyers backing out of their product because of one problem in Central America. If this is the only area where consumers are using their product outside of the intended use, they do not want all their buyers to worry about that possibility happening near them. On the other hand, if Fuller truly believed in their mission statement and really wanted to help the kids, they would have done more to change or move their products.
Some critics believe the Fuller's only moral option is to withdraw completely from Central America, and I disagree. If Central America is a big part of Fuller's profits, they are not going be able to easily withdraw and still be as successful as they are. I think Fuller has a few different options. One being, they could change where they send their products in Central America. Like to more secure locations or directly to the plant using their product. They could also have the companies in Central America that are using their products, sign contracts stating that they have to use their product for industrial use only and anyone who distributes it to individuals for other use will have consequences. From an economic standpoint, if Fuller were to withdraw completely like some wish, Central America could have a hard time making products without this glue and that would hurt many more people.
More often than not, I think companies should not be responsible for consumers misusing their products. If the company followed the legal guidelines for marketing their product appropriately, and clearly telling consumers how to use their product, I don't think any liability should fall on the company. The consumer is choosing, with full knowledge, to misuse the product. This means they are consciously choosing to harm themselves. If Fuller put out all the necessary guidelines and warnings and the children still chose to misuse it, which is not their problem.
This can be compared to when the tobacco companies started selling tobacco. The tobacco industry actually marketed their products saying their product was refreshing and that doctors recommended their product. Now there are so many lawsuits against tobacco companies because they falsely advertised their product. As for Fuller, they did nothing of this sort. Fuller never advertised their product as something it wasn’t so I don’t believe they should be under any scrutiny.
I do believe they could alter their product to reduce the harm now that they know what is happening with their product; which Fuller said it has done. I think people are more concerned with this issue ethically because it does involve children but again, I don't see how Fuller can take all the blame they are receiving. The children are young and may not know exactly what the warnings mean, but an older person in the community can very well tell them what the hazard is and what sniffing the glue is doing to their bodies.
I believe that it is very relevant that other companies are making very similar products. H.B. Fuller is not the only industrial glue manufacturer in the market but no one seems to be having a problem with the competition. Critics are focusing on Fuller because they are one of the largest makers of this glue and are recognized multiple times with awards and honors for their products. I also believe that they are focusing on Fuller rather than the competition because of the fact that Fuller loudly vocalizes its views on giving back to the community and children. I feel that if other companies were as forward as Fuller was or as successful as Fuller, than critics would be focusing on those companies as well. If the same product is out there somewhere, I am sure there are people sniffing that glue too. But if there is less money to get from a small company by creating lawsuits and making a scene, then people will leave the little companies alone and go for the big ones that can make a difference.
I find this situation comparable to that of Unilever, the maker of Q-tips. This issue isn't as serious as this one with Fuller but the underlying issue is similar. Q-tips weren't made to be used to clean ears but many people do, including myself. I know the harm that can be done from misusing their product but I still choose to use it the way I do. I’m sure there have been cases of people trying to sue Unilever for ear-canal damage from their product. Personally, I would not expect Unilever to do anything different, to change their product or the distribution of their product. I knew the risks of what I was doing and knew what the possible outcomes were. Therefore, I chose to put myself in harms way and have to take responsibility for my own actions. I think the same thoughts should be applied to Fullers glue sniffing issue.
I don’t think H.B. Fuller has done anything morally wrong. They have a perfectly legitimate and socially useful product that almost everyone uses appropriately. How people use their products at home isn’t their problem. Fuller deciding to continue to sell their product in Central America broke no ethical rules. Fuller still cares about the community and donates money to various causes, but their main focus is their business and their profits. When the problem came to the surface, Fuller changed the smell in their product to try to stop children from enjoying the smell of their glues. They did what they could do without drastically changing their award-winning product and I feel like that is enough.

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