This paper analyzes the effect of consumer decisions and moral irresponsibility issues affecting factory workers. The customer’s responsibility determines the conditions surrounding workers’ location in the industries. The paper takes into consideration classical cases like the collapse of the Rana Plaza Factory, the Sweatshop in China, and the Supplier Company in China (Brinkmann 128). Customers can be held morally responsible for the poor working conditions faced by the workers, the laying off workers, and accidents leading. All these harms experienced by the employees are because of the buyer’s decisions (Brinkmann 129). The buyers wield a lot of power; hence, the manufacturers make their employees work under poor conditions to meet the clients’ demands. In addition, the paper will look at different arguments explaining whether customers are responsible for the harms associated with their decisions. A critique and conclusion will be given regarding individual behavior as consumers (Brinkmann 130).
Explanation of the Issue
At the Sweatshops, moral harms include the likelihood of people working under unsafe and hazardous conditions. They receive poor wages, contributing to low quality of life despite being overworked. The customers demand delivery of quality products at a lower cost whereas the best way to fulfill this is by bringing down the pay for the workers (Schwartz 47). In addition, the working conditions for the employees are not improved and they are dangerous in the case of the garments factory in Bangladesh. The people have a high probability of getting laid-off and their chances of obtaining another job are minimal. Moreover, lack of a job will contribute to poor living conditions. All these arguments explain that decisions and demands made by the buyers are to blame for the harm to the employees (Schwartz 47). Business owners can end up closing and having loss as seen in the case of the sweatshop in China.
The collapse of the Garments Factory in Bangladesh was foreseen and the workers were warned from using the building (Brinkmann 129). However, the buyers insisted on order delivery hence the need to return to work. The result included the death of over 1,000 people with about 2,500 injuries. If the consumers were morally responsible and had concern for the lives of the factory workers then the harms could not have occurred. The profits that the retailers were put first before human lives and the results are regrettable to date (Brinkmann 129). From these three cases, it is clear that irresponsible decisions can have costly impacts (Amber 02).
In consumer ethics, moral responsibility deals with promoting the best consequences for everyone. Regarding a consumer as a causal agent, if a person’s actions contribute to a negative consequence, then they are responsible for the adverse consequences (Schwartz 47). The individual difference principle explains that personal responsibility has relations to individual actions. As a customer, one is responsible for the harm in the Sweatshop Factories because their decisions act as a causal agent (Schwartz 47).
The causes of the collapse of Rana Plaza are related to the consumers in that they exert pressure on the factory to complete the orders in time. The Western consumers placed more emphasis on the fast fashion trends and this contributed to the reputation damage to the garment industry. Knowing that there was a possible impending disaster and continuing to pressure the management is a contributing factor to the accident (Schwartz 47). The consumer is given the highest position in business and this makes it impossible to protect the employees. Their decisions can lead to consequences mainly borne by the workers or other customers (Schwartz 47).
The case of Wal-Mart shows that it needs to keep a realistic standard in order to ensure that foreign suppliers can purchase the products. In addition, it has to ensure that the workers do not get hurt when the standards are set very high (Schwartz 47). The retailers put pressure on the suppliers to provide goods at a low price otherwise, replace them with another factory that manufactures similar items. Wal-Mart tries to raise the wages and drive the costs low as possible but this is not possible. The poor working conditions at Wal-Mart cannot be blamed solely on the factory but the consumer presents the biggest contributor (Brinkmann 129).
Customers determine the activities of factories because the suppliers have to fulfill their demand and businesses attempt to satisfy client demands. However, closing up may be the only option if the costs of products keep going down (Schwartz 47). As a consumer, one bears the moral responsibility for harm because he or she wants goods at lower prices without considering the consequences of having products at such costs. It is obvious that when the prices are low, then someone else is bearing the burden (Brinkmann 129). The fact that consumers want cheap products results in the cycle of harmful working conditions and poor wages (Schwartz 47).
Moral Decision Making
According to the arguments raised regarding ethics in consumer choices, the user is responsible for the harms because they get involved directly or indirectly in decision-making (Schwartz 47). The adverse consequences suffered by workers are because of the need to give the consumers the pleasure of using the products such as clothing. The arguments presented in Schwartz, support the viewpoint by showing how consumers have the power to influence the workers. From the consequentiality point of view, the consumer is a contributor to the adverse consequences (Brinkmann 129). In addition, the buyers have a moral responsibility to ensure their decisions do not affect others in a bad way and that they are ethically acceptable (Schwartz 47).
On the utilitarian concept, an individual quantity of purchases contributes to negative consequences (Schwartz 47). Produced items are delivered but the customers do not question the possible effects resulting from the manufacture. Collective wrongdoing assigns the individual different responsibilities that they have in the conceptual progress of the consequences. The actual outcomes of individual contributions are grouped to bring about severe consequences. Therefore, the decisions of consumers come together to develop a collective outcome (Schwartz 47). This argument states that a person is morally responsible because buying an item makes them complicit.
Response to criticism
One of the biggest criticisms of consequence theory is that some concepts are more theoretical than practical (Schwartz 47). The collective-action problem cannot apply because people always act individually but share the consequences of their actions. Morality can also differ in people and the responsibilities will vary depending on an individual (Brinkmann 129). Additionally, culpability is not applicable in some situations when the buyer of a product does not change the expected outcomes (Schwartz 47). However, it is crucial to know that individual actions can lead to adverse consequences on a collective ground.
Consumers contribute to the consequences of their decisions because there is collective wrongdoing resulting from bad decisions individuals (Amber 02). From the three cases, it is clear that consumers play a paramount role in the consequences associated with buying, selling, and manufacturing products. Every consumer has a responsibility to ensure that their actions and decisions do not harm others (Brinkmann 129).
Amber, Hildebrandt. Bangladesh’s Rana Plaza Factory Collapse Spurs Change, Finger Pointing. CBC News. (2014). Print.
Brinkmann, Johannes. “Looking At Consumer Behavior in a Moral Perspective.” Journal of Business Ethics 51.2 (2004): 129-141.Print.
Schwartz, David. Consuming Choices: Ethics In a Global Consumer Age. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2010. Print.