Our case this module, one of virtue ethics, brings us to a systematic overhaul of one of the largest toy making companies in the world in Mattel. The overhaul took place during almost the entire first decade of the second century. The over haul was in compliance with the Global Manufacturing Principles (GMP). This is an amazing case that I feel is similar to inflicting pain on yourself in order to get used to pain therefore a stronger and better person. The thing that I do not understand is that conflict, pain and problems do not create character but simply reveal it.
Regardless of my feelings on character issues the toy maker Mattel did set out do so something quite unusual for a corporation of their size in trying to comply with the GMP. The “GMP called for the creation of and independently and externally based monitoring system that would verify Mattel’s compliance with it code of conduct in a manner that would be credible to the public and engender trust in Mattel’s GMP-related performance claims” (Sethi, Veral, Shapiro, & Emelianova, 2011, p. 487).
What they implemented enacted, but ultimately terminated over the course of a nine year life was described as “totally unprecedented” (Sethi, Veral, Shapiro, & Emelianova, 2011, p. 487) by Prof. S. Prakash Sethi. Sethi was one of the people hired to conduct operations to identify and explore any immoral or unethical procedures in the company’s labor culture. We are going to be looking at this case in the context of Virtue Ethics and seeing how a few of the virtuous attributes, that shined the brightest in my eyes, attempted to ratify and create anew their corporate labor culture.
The virtuous attributes that stand out to me in the case and the one’s I would like to highlight are those of Idealism, Accountability and Consideration. Idealism is the belief in or pursuance of ideals (Collins English Dictionary, 2009). It is also defined as the cherishing or pursuit of high or noble principles, purposes, goals, etc. (Dictionary. com LLC, 2012). Idealists see the world for what it can and should be.
They strive for a more utopian and harmonious existence for all. In my experience with idealists, they tend to look at the broader spectrum of possibilities and while, at times, they may see out of touch with the world, they are needed to make advancements and improvements that realists literally would not even dream of. Like many ventures, the idealistic mentality that creating Mattel Independent Monitoring Council (MIMC) to have a base line of what Mattel hould be as a company. “MIMCO would in fact be verifying the quality and veracity of audits conducted by Mattel’s own people. ”(Sethi, Veral, Shapiro, & Emelianova, 2011, p. 495). The idea of creating a workplace that was safe, productive and profitable is a noble cause. It would not only be profitable in the fact that consumers would feel better about buying their products but the workers would be more productive in a work area that holds higher standards for itself.
It has been a personal experience of mine that the higher the standards you have for yourself are the higher the standards those working for you will have as well “The creation of an audit protocol, including a detailed 75-page checklist for quantifying conditions inside every one of Mattel’s factories and vendor plants” (Sethi, Veral, Shapiro, & Emelianova, 2011, p. 489) is without a doubt unprecedented and noble. The reason that I believe the idealism did not last is because ideals are not something that you can realistically regulate.
Ideals are something to always strive for and should be set to high to reach but not to high that you cannot be successful at least a majority of the time. Mattel set their ideals as rules, not as ideals. They did not change their culture; they tried to change the rules. This created tension throughout the different processing plants and were hurting more than they were helping. Now that we’ve looked at their idealism, let’s look at the way they were making themselves accountable. Accountability is defined as an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one’s actions (Barton, n. . ). Those that are accountable for their actions are responsible and very respectfully to others. They, similar to the idealist, are in “pursuit of noble principles” (Dictionary. com LLC, 2012) regardless of the personal cost to them. Accountable people are not as abstract as idealist can be, but they also search for a utopian life. They difference between an accountable person and an idealistic person, other than groundedness, is that accountable people expect the commencement of a better life to start with them and no one else.
There scope of sight is much narrower because they look introspectively to see the changes that need to be made. The way that the Mattel Company created and actively pursued rigorous accountability measures was an awe inspiring and impressive feat in itself. Their creation of IMCC to follow the GMP was labor intensive for all people involved. “MIMCO, worked extensively over a 12-month period to create detailed operational standards and performance measures, and to secure agreement with Mattel’s top management and field managers, as to those standards” (Sethi, Veral, Shapiro, & Emelianova, 2011, p. 87).
These standards, while simplistic to start, created regulations that ultimately turned out to be to detailed and tended to micro manage this huge corporation when they were originally meant to be a broader set of regulations to follow. “The standards had to meet four criteria. ” 1. The standards must be quantifiable and objective in measuring and evaluating performance. 2. The must be outcome-oriented. 3. At a minimum, these standards must meet the legal criteria mandated by the labor and environmental laws of the country where a plant is located. . The standard-setting process is dynamic and interactive. (Sethi, Veral, Shapiro, & Emelianova, 2011, p. 489) Creating broad based rules to follow along with the host nations legal workforce regulations showed that Mattel took their accountability to their workers quite serious. Mattel set out on a virtuous quest to actively take care of those that were affected by their company. They even set up rules to protect one that could not complain the environment.
Mattel would “only work with those manufacturers or suppliers who comply with all applicable laws and regulations and share our commitment to the environment (Sethi, Veral, Shapiro, & Emelianova, 2011, p. 487). It is amazing and refreshing to see company take accountability for not only those who work for them but the environment that they inhabit. Consideration is defined as a thoughtful or sympathetic regard or respect (Dictionary. com LLC, 2012). Considerate people are those who will not only go out of their way to help others but they will try to place themselves in others shoes to figure out how to best help them.
Considerate people are slow and deliberate to act because they think through how their actions will affect others. In our case it is a regard for your employees and their quality of lives and working conditions. The consideration did not stop at the employee’s but at something more concrete in the laws and labor regulations in the host companies that the production plants inhabited. They set up regulations to prohibit forced labor and discrimination. They set up others to encourage freedom of association and to help working conditions (Sethi,
Veral, Shapiro, & Emelianova, 2011, p. 486). I feel that not just one of these ethical theories would suffice in addressing the issues brought up by the case of the toy maker Mattel. The combination of deontology and virtue ethics is the two that fit this case the best. They are able to both grasp and pull along the ethical nuances that the ideals of the company preached. The companies’ goal was to create a work environment that was suitable to work in and acceptable to the workers, managers, and consumers.
I feel that an article and a podcast from our readings clearly state why virtue ethics describe this case accurately. The decision to create a rigorous self-inspection tool showed how they really felt which was that “only a virtuous life can lead us to that final goal, which is happiness” (O’Brien, 2009). They used their “certain ideals, such as excellence or dedication to the common good, toward which we should strive and which allow the full development of our humanity” (Velasquez, Andre, Shanks, & Meyer, 2008) to try to enhance their company and reputation.
The ultimate failure should not be a surprise because what they were trying to idealize wasn’t one person, but a huge corporation. Looking back into our earlier module of deontological ethics, two articles also describe this case accurately. Looking at Kant’s first rule of Categorical imperative that you should “act only in accordance with that maxim through which you can at the same time will that it become a universal law” (Johnson, 2008). The other deontological point that this case brings up is one of cultural relativism. From the idea that the ethical principles of the culture is the arbiter of what is right or wrong” (NA, 2011). The commitment to the companies ambitious Idealism, accountability, and consideration ultimately failed because of the rigors that each of these contain. It also failed due to the fact that we are not dealing with a single homogeneous entity but a large multifaceted multicultural corporation. The transition from virtuous ethics to enacted regulation is a difficult and treacherous step to take.
It is a massive overhaul that is more like socialism, in the fact that in theory it works, but in actuality it is extremely difficult for all people to agree is the correct route and have it be successful. I believe that this venture was unsuccessful because of many factors starting with the “75-page checklist” (Sethi, Veral, Shapiro, & Emelianova, 2011, p. 489) that middle management was over dauntingly tasked with enacting to the in ability to change corporate cultural norms.