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ethical implications of a business polluting a third world country are fairly straightforward -- at first. Businesses are able to do such things in third world countries because of a number of factors that are intrinsically related to the innate poverty that exists in these nations. As such, it appears as though businesses are forsaking the health concerns of local inhabitants in order to maximize their profits and increase their commerce and productivity.
Doing so, of course, from a perspective that completely disregards basic humanitarian concern for citizens who have to live in polluted areas -- who breathe contaminated air, drink and bathe with contaminated water, and eat food raised from contaminated land and water sources -- is ethically irresponsible. This line of thinking presents a skewed cost-benefit analysis in which the ultimate costs of such an action are not the monetary ones a business must pay to dump or produce toxic activity in such a location, but the reduction in the quality of life for local inhabitants.
However, the benefits from such a cost-benefit analysis are applied to both a particular company polluting a third world nation and those local inhabitants themselves. The mere presence of such a country and the labor it will provide in such a region facilitates much needed economic growth and job for destitute people who rarely have an alternative to achieving means of financial sustainability. In this respect, companies can consider their actions ethically acceptable since they are aiding in the monetary concerns of a city, a state, or even of an entire nation.
The ultimate, benefit, of course, is for the company itself, which is able to employ cheap labor which allows it increase its productivity, and to pollute some area far from its principle base of operations. From a strictly monetary ethical perspective, then, such an action is acceptable for the company.
The primary reason that a company would want to conduct business in a third world country while disregarding pollution control standards is for the monetary advantages it would incur. There are a number of financial boons that such a company would reap, and which would inevitably adversely affect the host country as a result, especially when one considers the logic of Lawrence Summers who believes "the costs of health-impairing pollution depend on the earnings forgone from increased injury and death" (Lawrence, 2008, p. 291). The areas in which the "earnings foregone" are minimized, of course, are in third world countries in which the cost of lives, and of workers who have those lives, is inordinately lower than in more developed areas. Therefore, regardless of how much pollution is involved in a company's actions, from a monetary standpoint it will still be economically beneficial to conduct such activities in a third world country.
Other cost factors include the solid business sense it makes in conducting polluting activities in places in which there is low pollution, and not in those in which there is high pollution. The costs of conducting such activities in regions in which there is already high rates of pollution is considerably higher than doing so in areas in which the rate of pollution is lower. Doing so would inevitably lower the costs of operation for a company, which is seeking to do so in order to maximize its profits. From an economic perspective, then, it does not make sense for businesses to continue to operate pollution causing activities in areas that already have high contamination rates. Another reason why a company's costs decrease while operating pollution causing activities in the third world is because people in those places value environmental concerns less than they do monetary ones, and are willing to work for less money while polluting the environment more in order to eat.
The relationship between economic progress and pollution has been debated for a number of years. The perceived nature of that relationship, which was once simply defined by the fact that in order to progress economically the natural environment would inherently have to suffer as a result, has changed during contemporary times. In this conventional notion of the relationship between economic progress and development, it is the poor who inevitably pay the price by living in polluted environments that are extremely noxious to their bodies while governmental and corporate entities reap the benefits. This line of thinking follows the notion that there is a tradeoff between monetary gains and environmental health.
However, more recent philosophy on this subject matter claims that environmental and economic progress interests are actually the same, at least on a long-term basis, since environmental deterioration will inevitably affect economic progress eventually and poor people do not have sufficient funding to invest in a healthy environment. Therefore, increasing the health of one's environment actually assists in the prolongation of economic progress. This line of reasoning on the subject proves that economic development ultimately needs a healthy environment to function effectively -- particularly on a long-term basis.
Yet those who adhere to the conventional relationship between economic progress and its debilitating effect on the environment claim that environmental controls ultimately slow progress, because they are limiting the amount of growth a particularly company can produce. Slower growth, this line of reasoning concludes, means that fewer people will profit from economic development.
However, what none of the aforementioned economic viewpoints consider is the fact that morally, human beings have a right to live in a healthy, livable environment no matter what sort of country they live in, third world or otherwise. There are several formal theories of ethics that adhere to this idea, the most salient of which is naturalness. As related to this scenario of whether or not it is moral for humans to live in a livable environment, naturalness has two primary tenets -- natural law theory and natural rights. The latter of these is the conception that all humans have the right to liberty, life, and the pursuit of happiness, which is endowed to them at their birth. These rights naturally include a livable environment that is not polluted for the economic profit of some corporation. The second principle that defends the moral right to live in a healthy environment, natural law theory, revolves around the notion that there are laws that supersede those of man, such as universal law, that defend moral virtues and rights even when human law forsakes those same rights. The right to live in a safe, healthy environment is one of those rights.
Other formal ethical notions that verify the moral right for humans to live in a safe environment regardless of their income and economic situation, and that of the country they live in, deontology. This non-consequential line of reasoning was propagated by Immanuel Kant, who believes there were categorical imperatives related to intrinsic goods that people should follow. One of those was the conception of the golden rule, that one should do unto others as one wants done unto him. If companies and their representatives are not willing to live themselves in the filthy, polluted environments they produce,
Wealthy nations most assuredly have an obligation to assist poorer nations in the development of greener industries and sources of energy. Regardless of where a particular country is located or wherever it chooses to do business (and particularly that which involves emitting pollutants and harming the environment), all inhabitants of earth share the same world. Toxicants and pollutants in South or Central America will certainly affect the world's environmental health -- which will, at some point, inevitably affect the environmental health of the location of wealthier nations which, for the most part, are located in Europe and North America, Australia and throughout certain parts of Asia. Therefore, the obligation of wealthier nations to help those less so build environmentally friendly businesses and methods of operation in ultimately in the best interest of those wealthy nations, since the repercussions of those industries will definitely affect the former nations as well as the latter.
An excellent example of this fact is the pressing issue of global warming, which is a secular issue that affects all nations regardless of their wealth. With many wealthy countries choosing to build industries that disseminate copious quantities of pollution in third world countries, these emissions are inexorably making these areas "vulnerable to the water shortages, droughts, flooding rains, and severe storms that increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases…make" (Lawrence, 2008, p. 292). As such, the companies and its workers will inevitably become affected by these (not quite) natural disasters -- which will reduce profits and the quality of life not only for local workers, but also for those representing the interest of wealthier nations. Additionally, when these occurrences move from third world countries to more wealthy ones, the latter will fully realize the fact that we all share one world, and the best way to reduce environmental disasters is to take precautions for them by helping poorer nations utilize green sources of energy.
The most efficacious means of enacting uniform global pollution…[continue]
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