Application of Utilitarian Ethics to an Organizational Problem – The Case of the Sole Remaining Supplier

Module 2 Assignment Instructions – The Case of the Sole Remaining Supplier

In the Module 2 Case, we will apply utilitarian ethics to an organizational problem. Read the excerpt concerning the philosopher Jeremy Bentham, the father of utilitarian ethics:

Please read the following case study from the Markkala Center for Applied Ethics: The Case of the Sole Remaining Supplier and the actual outcome.

Please write a 5- to 6-page paper in which you address the following:

Drawing upon utilitarian ethics, discuss what you believe the supplier/transistor company should do.

Keys to the Assignment

The key aspects of this assignment that should be covered in your paper include the following:

  • What do you believe is/are the key utilitarian ethical problem(s) confronting the supplier/transistor company in this Case?
  • What advice do you believe Jeremy Bentham would have given the supplier company?
  • Apply Steps A through D of the Utility Test to the above case. Be sure that you carefully document each step in the process.
  • Choose one of the following five tests: Rights Test, Exceptions Test, Choices Test, Justice Test, or the Common Good Test. Click here: . Now, apply the test you’ve chosen to the above case. In your paper, be sure that you have fully discussed your decisions at each step.
  • Compare and contrast the results you have obtained from the Utility Test with the additional test you have selected. Which of the two tests is most informative, and why?

Application of Utilitarian Ethics to an Organizational Problem Sample Paper – The Case of the Sole Remaining Supplier


            Utilitarianism is based on a rather interesting view of ethical behavior, suggesting that it is one that takes into consideration the common interest of humanity as the top priority when making any moral decisions. When a business is conceived as a way of transforming the culture and society as a whole, utilitarianism can be best applied. This is because it is an ethical perspective that can easily assist in addressing any ethical relationships between the business and the society. There is no doubt that businesses play an important role in shaping cities, work environments, playing environments, as well as people’s values, desires and even hope. The society benefits as a result of the services and job opportunities presented by businesses. Stakeholders, on the other hand, can benefit from so much more by being part of the business. Unfortunately, a business is constantly challenged by the question of “how to do business in such a way that it contributes to the greater good?” This is because at times it because difficult to identify the right course of actions when doing good to stakeholders may mean doing harm to consumers, and vice versa. This paper takes into consideration a case study that is presently being challenged by a similar question. It draws upon the utilitarian ethics, and champions the thesis that the best way for the supplier company to act is by taking the right actions which will eventually lead to the greatest good for the most individuals.

Key Utilitarian Ethical Problem Confronting The Supplier/Transistor Company

            From the case study, all the members of the board who had an argument for and against the continued supply of transistors to the heart pacemaker company had some reason ground (Shanks, 2014). Unfortunately, they all could not be considered, especially since the company is one that applies utilitarianism. The major utilitarian ethical problem is the fact that their supply of transistors to the pacemaker company may not be leading to the greater good of the individuals involved. First, the company is creating heart pacemakers that are still life threatening, as is proved by the man who yawned deeply only to pull a wire and disrupt the function of the product. The company is feared not to be strict on testing their products before distributing them to hospitals (Gustafson, 2013). As a result, the supplier company is worried that it is only contributing to products that are far more risky than beneficial to consumers (Shanks, 2014). Second, the dysfunction of the pacemakers places the stakeholders of the company at risk. This is because they will be considered liable in case any individual or group seeks to sue for the damages caused by a failed pacemaker.

            Both consumers and stakeholders are important individuals for the company, as the resulting actions will either lead to their greater good or bad. This is where the third problem arises, as both parties seem to be on the opposing side. If the company decides to keep selling the transistors to the pacemaker company, the stakeholders will benefit while consumers will be at risk. On the contrary, stopping the sale will mean less profits for stakeholders. Both actions have risks involved as the stakeholders will risk being sued, while consumers will risk their lives (Kortenkamp & Moore, 2014).

Jeremy Bentham’s Possible Advice to the Supplier Company

            Jeremy Bentham strongly advocates for utilitarianism. He believes that people’s actions are guided by pleasure and pain (Zalta, 2014). Therefore, in the case study, he would have considered where all respondents were coming from. From his belief, some would be advocating for the action that would give them the most pleasure, while others would be trying to escape from possible pain. Aside from this, he also believes that actions should be evaluated, and the results are what will determine the morality of the decision made (Zalta, 2014).

            Instead of simply acting on their feelings, fears and the action agreed upon by the majority, Bentham would advice the supplier company to take a different approach. First, all the arguments of people do not really matter, as much as they are free to air their concerns. This is because taking these into consideration will lead to biased results, due to the pleasure and pain response generally used by individuals (Gustafson, 2013). Second, both actions must be considered individually. It is important to identify the benefits and risks associated with each one of them. Before the greater good of the highest number of people can be identified, the risks and benefits must all be weighed. If the risks outweigh the benefits, then the action is not a moral one (Zalta, 2014). Third, since the company’s situation features different parties, both of which are entitled to the greater good, it will be ethical to consider a common ground. Here, the leaders of the supplier company need to decide which direction will lead to the greater good of both sides (Kortenkamp & Moore, 2014). The steps that will benefit both sides to the maximum is the best one to take.

The Utility Test

            The utility test is basically focused on measuring whether the good has been maximized while the harm has been minimized. In the case study, the best action to take will be one that will create the most beneficial outcome. Utility is a valid way to decide right and wrong actions in that everyone is considered equal and everyone has a desire to be happy and avoid unhappiness (Gustafson, 2013).

            The actions taken by the group will affect the user of the pacemaker product, the pacemaker company and also the stakeholders of the supplier company. If the company decides to stop its supply of transistors, the product users may end up losing their lives as they will lack the medical equipment that would offer them the support they need. The pacemaker company will not have any transistors to use in the production of the pacemakers, thus they will run out of business. Due to the reduction of companies supplied to, the stakeholders of the supplier company will also suffer from reduced returns. Therefore, it will be better to chose an action that will benefit majority of the people involved (Kortenkamp & Moore, 2014).

The Common Good Test

            The common good has been defined variously by many groups and individuals. Generally, it means the general conditions that are set in a way that everyone will benefit equally. Therefore, the common good test is designed to help identify if the actions taken are designed to promote the common good for all people involved. This test is a valid way of deciding right from wrong as it not only considers individual good, but the common good of others as well. In the present situation, the company is torn between two groups; the stakeholders and the consumers. This is why the common good test is effective in determining the right moral action to take.

            In the present situation, the healthcare system and a flourishing economic system are the two major systems that could be advanced or damaged by the actions this supplier company chooses to take (Hurtado, 2008). To strengthen these systems, the actions that should be taken must be those that will ensure their functioning is not disrupted (Gustafson, 2013). Therefore, the company must take any necessary steps that will ensure they improve the quality of the heart pacemakers. With the presence of better products, consumers will be presented with a minimized risk of product malfunction. Therefore, the system will be improved as the pacemakers will be a game changer for the big number of individuals who need them. The economic system should also be considered. This supplier must take all the required steps to ensure that they encourage the supply of the transistors, which will eventually be used for the making of pacemakers whose sales will boost the economy.

            Certain actions that may be taken will lead to a weakening of the systems. For instance, if this only remaining supplier opts to back out just like the rest, for fear of being liable in case of a lawsuit, the result will be a poor healthcare system and economy. This is because many people who rely on pacemakers for life improvement will not be able to get the aid they need. Similarly, due to the failure of the pacemaker company, the economy will not be able to flourish as much as it would have, if the products were also being exchanged and taxes were being collected. The economy will also fail due to the increase in number of unemployed individuals, who will have to lose their jobs due to the failure of the pacemaker company. Therefore, the common good will be achieved only when these systems are promoted, since this will also lead to the benefit of the other members of the society (Kortenkamp & Moore, 2014).


            Considering the two tests, the best one is the utility test in that it does not consider a generalized approach. Instead, it focuses more on the groups of people involved, rather than institutions and systems. Therefore, it is easier for the company to base its decisions on people who will be directly affected, rather than those who may not even note a certain change after a decision is made.

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