International Business: Ethical Dilemma Questions Ch.14 & 15

You have selected a supplier in China who will manufacture one of the components that go into your consumer-electronics device. You learn that this supplier has switched to a manufacturing technique that is leaking potentially hazardous materials into the ground-water. What would you do? Would you tell them to go back to their original method? (Would you pay them more if they said the original method was more expensive to implement?) Would you withdraw your business and try to find another supplier, knowing this will cause delays and possible stock-outs of your products? Would you help the company clean up and solve the hazardous materials leak? Would you report the supplier to the government and let the government handle it (even if the government is prone to turning a blind eye on environmental issues)?Use the case of Coca-Cola in China to discuss and analyze your managerial approach to a complex business issue. Coca-Cola operates thirty-nine bottling plants in China, which is an important market for Coca-Cola. The company’s sales in volume grew 19 percent in China while declining 1 percent in the United States. Coca-Cola also hopes to expand its business into the juice, dairy, and ready-to-drink markets. It had offered $2.3 billion to buy Chinese company China Huiyuan Juice to get a strong (20 percent) share in China’s juice market. Chinese regulators, however, rejected the deal. In 2004, Coca-Cola was forced to shut down one of its bottling plants in south India after community organizers blamed it for causing water shortages there. (A year earlier PepsiCo’s plant in the same state also lost its operating license for similar reasons.) Coca-Cola is now partnered with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to improve the water quality of the Yangtze River, which is the longest river in Asia and supplies 35 percent of China’s water but is now the most threatened river in the world due to pollution. Coca-Cola is working with rural farmers, for example, to reduce runoff from animal waste into the river by turning it into biogas for cooking and heating instead. The company has pledged $24 million over seven years to support fresh-water programs globally. It’s also striving to be “water neutral” by making its “waste” water pure enough for agricultural irrigation and completely offsetting the amount of water it uses in its soft-drink products by funding clean-water projects and watershed preservation efforts around the world. What do you think of these moves by Coca-Cola? On the one hand, as the world’s largest beverage company, its water-neutral plan could make a big difference, and its clout brings attention to the world water issue. On the other hand, bringing attention to the issue could put the spotlight on the company itself, which uses 2.5 liters of water to make 1 liter of Coke. In fact, when looking across the whole supply chain, 200 liters of water go into making a single liter of Coke (due to water-intensive sugar cane crops). However, looked at from an entire-chain perspective, it takes 140 liters of water to make a cup of coffee and 800 to 1,000 gallons of water to get a single gallon of milk. If you were a Chinese consumer, would you be more likely to buy Coca-Cola products given the company’s efforts to clean up the Yangtze River? If you were an executive at Coca-Cola, what actions or programs would you recommend or support?

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