Finance & Accounting

Business and Professional Ethics

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Assessment Type


Word Count

750 words


Business Ethics


1 Days

Assignment Criteria


The aim of this exercise is to help you become familiar with the techniques of moral reasoning and to encourage you to think critically about moral issues. Remember to support your particular moral judgments about these cases with reasons. You should aim to justify your particular moral judgments using relevant moral principles and moral reasons. These principles may be very general, like the principle of utility ('maximize happiness'), or common deontological principles concerned with loyalty, promise keeping or those prohibiting killing and harming, etc. Aim to achieve a consistent fit between your moral beliefs, principles and particular judgments. Refer to the readings for seminars 3 and 4 in order to find examples of moral principles and reasons and explanations of moral reasoning and justification. 

Make sure you answer every part of each question. Remember to provide sufficient detail in Section C to give a clear indication of your overall position with regard to the cases and the principles you endorse. This is a short answer assignment. You do not need to answer the questions in the form of an essay. Please include a bibliography with the main sources from the question and any additional sources you reference directly. Include citations in the body of the assignment where appropriate.

Answer ALL the questions from sections A, B and C (questions 1-6)

Section A


Read the following news items and answer the questions:


'GlaxoSmithKline to pay $3bn in US drug fraud scandal' 

  1. What are the main ethical issues raised by GlaxoSmithKline's decision to promote and market drugs for unapproved uses? Do you think that such practices are morally permissible or unethical? Provide detailed reasons to support your conclusions.
  2. Do you think it was morally acceptable for GlaxoSmithKline not to release relevant research data and to make unsupported safety claims for one of its diabetes drugs? Is there a moral difference between merely failing to provide relevant information and actively making false claims about the safety of a drug? Give reasons for your answer. 
  3. GSK's activities were found to be illegal. Would it make a difference to your assessment of the case if such activities were not against the law? Why/Why not? 

Section B 

Watch or read the transcript of the following program and answer the questions: 

Globesity: Fat's New Frontier. 

  1. Do large food and beverage companies have any moral obligations or responsibility to consider the consequences for public health of marketing and distributing certain kinds of food and drink products? Why/Why not? Answer this question using examples from the documentary to support your conclusions. 
  2. The program describes a range of marketing techniques used by food and beverage companies in different countries: the marketing of soft drinks to schools in Mexico; the door to door selling of snack foods fortified with micronutrients and marketed to low income families in Brazil; a snack food boat that visits small villages along the Amazon to promote and sell food and drinks. Do you find any of these marketing techniques morally problematic? Explain in each case, why or why not. 

Section C 

6. Compare your responses to the two cases. Do you apply the same principles and standards of conduct to pharmaceutical companies as you do to food and beverage companies? Explain why or why not making sure you identify the morally relevant differences or similarities between the two cases to support your conclusions.

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Assignment Solution

Section A

Ethical Issues raised by GSK

  1. The main ethical issues are of firstly, social responsibility and secondly, obligations to stakeholders that include consumers. As per me, these practices are morally impermissible because promoting a drug denoted as 'cold-remedy' (Solomon, 1991, p.362) can't be anything but an unethical act. Along with it, deliberately concealing information to promote unapproved use of a drug can induce fatal consequences (Thomas & Schmidt, 2012), and thus, not only meeting the moral obligations to the customers, GlaxoSmithKline fails to meet its social responsibility as well. 

Moral difference between GSK's actions 

  1. It is absolutely morally unacceptable for GSK to go on to make safety claims for that drug, without disclosing research data (Thomas & Schmidt, 2012). It is unacceptable because GSK is unable to uphold its moral obligations towards its customers, who are also considered as stakeholders in Business Ethics as rightly argued by Solomon (1991, p.361). 

Yes, there is a moral difference between merely failing to provide relevant information and actively making false claims about the safety of a drug, as the former is unintended and might be coincidental, whereas, making false claims is equivalent to an intentional lie and thus, is a worse unethical act.

Morality and legality of GSK's actions 

3. I would not make any difference in my assessment even if GSK's activities are found to be legal, as morality can't be reduced to the law (Callahan, 1988, p.11). Although there are similarities between morality and law, or rather, the similarity is desired, practices can be immoral irrespective of being legal. On the other hand, there are examples of practices (homosexuality, or anti-Semitism) which are not immoral but are illegal (Callahan, 1988, p.11). So, the GSK's activities being immoral should be condemned, irrespective of whether it is found to be legal or not. At no cost, the lives of any innocent being can be risked (Thomas & Schmidt, 2012).

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