For paper 2, I chose to focus on Patagonia and their sustainable business practices. I plan to ethically analyze Patagonia on the basis of Deontology, which incorporates Emmanuel Kant’s theories. I began my research by using Google Scholar and searching “Managing Business Ethics by Trevino and Nelson”. We read a chapter from this book for class so I thought it would be a good place to begin my research. I found 825 articles that cited this book, but when I searched within the cited articles I was not able to find anything that would be useful in my paper. I then turned to past class blogs and searched for papers using Patagonia and/or Deontology. The Business, Society, and Government 4 blog had a Paper 2 post written on Patagonia and Deontology. I looked at the posts’ bibliography and found a book called Business Ethics: A Kantian Perspective by Normal E. Bowie. I found this book in the Bucknell Universtiy Library and plan to use it as a source for my paper.
The book is separated into three sections, each chapter being one of Kant’s formulations of the categorical imperative. Bowie uses Kant’s formulations to show how a company in today’s capitalistic economy can be ethically structured and managed. The first formulation of the categorical imperative states that one must, “act only on that maxim by which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law.” This suggests that a person can act on a principal if and only if they would support everyone in the universe doing it. For example, stealing is ethical if we would want everyone in the universe to steal from each other. Of course we would not want this, so it is clearly unethical. Bowie applies this formulation to the business world by showing how it can be used to test the moral legitimacy of contemplated actions.
The second formulation of the categorical imperative says, “act so that you treat humanity whether, in your own person or in that of another, always as an end and never as a means only.” (pg 43) Kant believed that human beings should be respected because human beings possess a dignity beyond all price. This dignity comes from a human’s capability of autonomy and self-governance, making them responsible human beings. This formulation requires businesses to treat stakeholders in a noncoercive and nondeceptive manner. Businesses cannot just use employees, they have an ethical obligation to provide their employees with meaningful work.
The last formulation of the categorical imperative loosely says “you should act as if you were a member of an ideal kingdom of ends in which you are both subject and sovereign at the same time.” (pg 87) A business is a community of individual persons (a kingdom of ends) and since these persons are moral creatures, the business should be governed by morality. The laws that govern this community are Kant’s first two formulations of the categorical imperative. If a business acts according to the first two formulations, they are a moral community.
This source provided a lot of information about Kant’s three formulations of the categorical imperative. I was able to get a broad understanding of what they all are and have hopefully shared that understanding with you. I plan to use these three formulations to analyze Patagonia in my paper. Just from obtaining a broad understanding of Kant’s ethical theories, I believe that he would agree that Patagonia is an ethical corporation.