Theories of Whistleblowing in Companies


This essay will review the basic principles of four theories of morality. The theories are reviewed in the light of a decision, which needs to be made. The decision involves a company located in Canada but with a manufacturing plant in Mexico. It has come to light that the Mexican plant has been making use of illegal child labour to compete well with rival companies in the Canadian market. Whistleblowing has been pointed out to be a challenging practice especially when business ethics are involved (Kum 1; Wellman 572). This paper will give four suggestions to be implemented on whether a whistle should be blown on the company depending on the theory referred to.

Relativist Point of View

In the light of the relativism theory, it will not be proper for the whistle to be blown on the company. The relativism theory argues that truth is not uniform. The main argument is that the truth will depend on the subject in question. The theory acknowledges the differences which exist between different people and aspires to ensure that each person or society respects each other and avoids imposing their own values on others. Some of the slogans which have come to light when referring to this theory are: “What’s right for you may not be what’s right for me.

What’s right for my culture won’t necessarily be what’s right for your culture. No moral principles are true for all people at all times and in all places” (Ethical Relativism 1). Arguing in the light of this theory, it has been pointed out that “the value of a human being is determined by a combination of social preferences and patterns, experience, emotions, and “rules” that seemed to bring about the most benefit” (Ethical Relativism 1; Velasquez et al. 1). What this implies is that a person can have varying values depending on the society in question. What ought to be noted in the later quotation above is that relativism thinking bring about relative mutual benefit.

Drawing our focus back on the question of the plant in Mexico, there is a need to shade light on some basic facts. It is worth noting that Mexico is not a developed nation and as a result most of its people are struggling to raise their standard of living (Ruiz 1). Having this knowledge of the country it is easy to understand why its people resort to all means of attaining livelihood. It is worth noting that there are high probabilities that the parents of the children who work with the manufacturing plant in Mexico are aware that their children work at the plant. The fact that the children keep on reporting to work every day is a sure indication that they are allowed from their parents. Having deduced that the parents have allowed their children to work implies that families in Mexico allow their children to work. Furthermore, it should be noted that families are the significant building blocks of the society and therefore it will be correct to assume that the society in Mexico allows children to work, that is, child labour is allowed.

Therefore, it can be said that child labour is accepted. This practice has brought benefit to both the Mexican society and the company. It should be noted that the practice makes it possible for the company to compete with other companies in Canada. The fact the manager views illegal child labour as s wrong can be viewed as his/own point of view which actually is contradicting other views. The children used and their parents view the child labour as correct. The company management equally views the child labour positively. Actually all the parties who aware of this fact view it favourably because of the positive contribution it makes to them. Therefore, it will not be right to impose one view that the practice is wrong on all the other parties involved since to them it is correct. Therefore blowing the whistle will be a wrong action to do.

Utilitarian point of view

In the light of the utilitarian theory, whistleblowing should not be carried out. According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, “Utilitarianism is an effort to provide an answer to the practical question what ought a man to do?” (1). The answer given to this question is that a man ought to act in a way that will result to the best consequences given the factors in question. The basics of the utilitarian theory argue that the consequences resulting from an action undertaken should be weighed and a decision made.

This theory argues that the best decision is the one that maximizes the goodness of an act as opposed to the wrong of the act (Andre and Velasquez 1). Therefore, a utilitarian when making a decision will endeavour to ensure that the goodness of the act will overcome the wrong of the act.

Focusing on the issue of child labour practised by the plant in Mexico, there is a need to identify the wrongs and the rights involved and then decide in favour of whistleblowing or not. The act of employing children in the Mexican region benefits both the Mexican society and the company. As it has been pointed above in section 2.0 Mexico being a developing country implies that job opportunities are low.

Employing children will act as a means of supplementing the family source of income in the Mexican families. This will help to raise the living standards of the families involved. The benefits accrued from the cheap labour goes beyond Mexico; the company’s existence depends on this labour to survive the Canadian market competition. This implies that the employees and the investors all depend on the cheap labour.

It should be noted that an act blowing the whistle on this company will bring to a stop all the above benefits. The company will definitely face serious legal issues which may likely bring it down. The company going down will mean employees finding themselves without jobs and this will translate to the investors losing their capital. The children who used to benefit from the wages they were paid will also stand to lose this benefit. Taking into consideration all these wrongs which are likely to be incurred from the act of blowing the whistle, a utilitarian will not advocate for whistleblowing.

Kantian point of view

Kantian ethics are based on the means applied to reach the destination. The Kantian theory stipulates that correct means should be used to reach the destination. It has been noted that

Kantian ethics is deontological – it is concerned with the morality of duty. Kantians are therefore primarily concerned with the means to the end; the intention or motive for action. It opposes the view that the end justifies the means and does not account for the outcome of an action. (tutor2u 1)

The Kantian theory does not see the end as the means of justifying the means (Kantian Ethics 1). In the light of this theory whistleblowing might not be viewed as the best solution to the issue in hand. By the company using cheap child labour there are many people who stand to benefit. By using the cheap child labour the company is positioned to compete well with other companies in Canada. This benefit will stream down to reach the investors and employees of the company. On the other hand the children who are used also benefit from the wages they earn.

It is clear that there are many parties who benefit and possibly the elimination of the cheap child labour from the company may lead its going down. The company going down may cause more havoc than it may be causing by making use of illegal child labour. Blowing the whistle on the company will bring the company down resulting to loss of jobs and capital by the investors. Whistleblowing will actually not benefit anybody in the company as everybody right from the whistleblower, the other employees to the investors will stand to lose. Therefore, from the Kantian point of view whistleblowing is not the best means to handle the situation. The manager should come up with a different way of solving the issue.

Virtue Ethicist points of view

The virtue ethicist will insist that one should act in a virtuous manner. Virtue ethics will give an advice for one to “act as a virtuous person would act in your situation” (Athanassoulis 1). Elsewhere Hursthouse has given a characteristic claim associated with virtue ethicist: “an action is right if and only if it is what a virtuous agent would, characteristically do in the circumstances” (67). A very good clarification is made on the way a virtue ethicists will view some situations:

But we virtue ethicists read it the other way, as an answer to the question, “What is a right action?” Answer: It is not, necessarily, an action that maxi-mizes utility; not, necessarily, an action that is in accordance with any moral rule, principle, or law (as those terms are normally understood); but, simply, what a virtuous agent would, characteristically, do (or have done) in the cir-cumstances. (Hurthouse 68)

Therefore, arguing from the virtue ethicist point of view it will be correct for a whistle to be blown on the company. What the company is engaging in is obviously not correct and therefore any virtuous agent will have no option other than going against this practice. Despite all the wrong consequences that whistleblowing will have on the company and its investors it is still the best course of action for a virtue ethicist. It is obvious that the company may go down due to stiff competition it will face without the support of the cheap labour and further the whistleblower and other employees may lose their jobs. The investors may lose huge investment but still a virtue ethicist will stand by the decision of blowing the whistle.


According to the utilitarian theory, it is not right to blow the whistle on the company since that will be imposing one own point of view on the other parties who seemingly benefit from the arrangement. In the light of the utilitarian theory blowing the whistle will lead to the more harm than good. The company will likely go down and this will not benefit anybody and thus this may not be the best option. The Kantian ethics will also not advocate for whistleblowing as a means of solving the problem because of the end impact likely to be left on company. A virtue ethicist will stand for blowing of the whistle because a wrong committed ought to be surfaced.

Works Cited

Andre Claire and Velasquez Manuel. “Calculating Consequences”. The Utilitarian Approach to Ethics 2010. Web.

Athanassoulis, Nafsika. “Virtue Ethics”. Internet Encyclopaedia of Philosophy 2010. Web.

Encyclopaedia Britannica. “UTILITARIAN ETHICS: an Introductory Explanation“. WEBRINGS the Directory to over 1000 Articles by California Sceptics. 2010. Web.

Ethical Relativism. What is ethical relativism?. 2010. Web.

Hurthouse Rosalind. “Virtue Ethics and Human Nature.” Hume Studies 1999: xxv (1&2), 67-82. Web.

Kantian Ethics. Kantian Ethics: “Good vs. Evil” 2007.

Kum, Martin. “The Ethics of Whistleblowing.” Ezine Articles. Web.

Ruiz, Ramon. Mexico: Why a Few Are Rich and the People Poor. New York: Cengage, 2010. Print.

Tutor2u. “Religious_Studies – Kantian Ethics.” Tutor2u | Economics | Business Studies | Politics | Sociology | History | Law | Marketing | Accounting | Business Strategy. Web.

Velasquez Manuel, Andre Claire, Shanks Thomas and Meyer Michael. Ethical Relativism 2010. Web.

Wellman, Christopher. A companion to applied ethics. New York: Wiley-Blackwell, 2003. Print.

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