Business Ethics And Moral Principles Of N.k. Fairbank And Company

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Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Lawrence Kohlberg’s: Theory of Moral Development
  3. John Locke’s Theory of Natural Rights


N.K. Fairbank and Company was one of the largest producers of soap and lard during the 1900’s. It was established by Nathaniel Kellogg Fairbank in Chicago. The company not only processed lard and made soap but also produced baking and animal products. Fairbank and Company had changed the history of soap by using edible fats, lard and cottonseed oil as ingredients. The soap was referred to as an ‘oval cake’ instead of a ‘bar’ which was easy to handle, stayed white in color and floated if it fell in the bathwater. Therefore, it was a common household item during those times.

All industries have competitors. However, during the 1900’s the only notable rival contending against the Fairbank’s was Ivory Soap as they too discovered how to float soap in 1891. This did not prove to be a setback for the company as they were able to open factories in St. Louis, Montreal and Louisiana. The company’s right was then sold to Thomas Hedley & Co. from U.K. in 1898. The product gained fame quickly in Great Britain and Germany as it was branded as the first ‘all-purpose soap’ and also lived up to its expectations. The brand was again sold to Procter and Gamble Company in 1930 and still remains as one of the best household brands in Europe.

The business grew steadily due to continued efforts using broad business methods and discriminating, intelligent advertisements. In order to make the advertisements more appealing, they often used children or subjects related to them. In the 1900’s, when racism was at its peak, discrimination was not seen as something unethical and wrong. Hence, the company’s advertisements were highly appreciated. Once such advertisement portrayed two children of different colored races, accompanied with the slogan, “Why Doesn’t Your Mama Wash You with Fairy Soap”?

Fairbank provided employment opportunities to a number of people in Chicago. However, in 1921 factories closed down as the American Cotton Oil moved to new factories in the South. The company led a successful business for 75 years.

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Lawrence Kohlberg’s: Theory of Moral Development

Kohlberg’s in his theory suggested that moral reasoning modifies with time. Therefore, six stages were stated regarding the development of morality. The first two stages (pre-conventional) targets children, where a child abides by rules either to avoid punishment or meet their interests. Thus, it can be concluded that a child looks only at external consequences. The next two stages (conventional) targets adolescents, where they try to meet the moral norms of society and maintains order by following the law. Many people are glued to this stage as they may perceive that moral development is dominated by majority. The last two stages (principled) focuses on the fact that rights of other should be maintained without the influence of the majority and one should follow their own ethical principles even though they may break the law.

Many advertisements in the past both targeted and used children as they easily persuaded customers to buy the product. Fairbank’s Fairy Soap not only used children in their advertisements but also went to the extent of using discrimination, where such ads may morally effect children. Since, the judging capacity of a child is still not developed, the child may perceive what he/she sees as something right. Thus, altering their development of morality. The advertisement as proposed by Fairbank, effects the child in such a way that the outcomes can result in bullying.

For example, when a child sees such an advertisement, not one but both parties are affected. Since discrimination was legal in the past times, the child having the majority support may use this as an opportunity to condemn the minorities. This action may shoot up to larger problems like those seen in America, where racism was highly consented.

The usage of children and racism in advertisements is a hot topic even today. Although, it may be seen as something unethical in this period, it is still practiced subtly in many ads. Due to the sensitiveness of the topic, the issue must be tackled carefully. Communities must ensure that all people should have equal privileges through self-awareness campaigns and community partnerships in schools and other institutional places. Hence ensuring morality to both the majority and minority parties in the community. Thus observing the Principled Stage of Kohlberg’s theory.

John Locke’s Theory of Natural Rights

Locke’s theory relates to natural rights which is derived from the natural law and proposes that all primary, crucial entitlements of people should be respected and guarded no matter the circumstances. All people should have the right to life and freedom, nevertheless of their race, culture or religion. The concept of Locke’s theory is based on possession of personal property. Subject to the advertisement, personal property may not only mean one’s physical belongings but also refer to one’s self ownership. The Fairy Soap advertisement, goes against Locke’s theory due to the discrimination against the ‘people of color’ as put by the Americans during the 20th century. During these times, the ‘whites’ often treated the ‘Negros’ as inferiors or slaves and advertisements such as the above only encouraged them to practice discrimination furthermore.

In order to maintain these natural rights, Locke suggested the importance of limited government governed by fair and equal laws. For example, in America, when the advertisement was released, the government, though a democratic one, did not treat all races equally. This could be seen in the voting process, where Negros were not allowed to vote. John Locke also argued that if the government oppresses the minority race groups, they have the right to abolish or alter its laws. Thus maintaining a fair contract between the high authorities and those ruled by it.

In situations where the government does not play a fair role and persecutes a specific race in a community. They have the right to fight back. Some of the ways to stop this problem is by the active participation of the community. This includes not only those oppressed but also those who are oppressing. Media, till today has proven to be influential means of communication. Hence, products of companies and businesses using such discriminating ads should be either boycotted or banned. Other forms used to stop such disputes are through peaceful revolts or protests regarding a reform in the laws, because according to the subjected theory one must protect their individual rights in every action performed.

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