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The inherent problem with the concept of overpopulation is the fact that the finite resources available on Earth cannot hope to support the potentially infinite expansion of humanity.
The Earth itself is a closed off ecosystem with no resources entering into it, as such its surface can only support a certain population of species, both human and animal alike, before the ecosystem inevitably collapses in on itself as a result of a severe strain on the planet’s natural and ecological resources.
It is based on this that when it comes to the threat of overpopulation as a challenge to management’s ethos of mass-production and mass-consumption, the problem lies in the fact that the ethos of companies at the present promote the overconsumption of resources instead of advocating for resource conservation and population controls.
In her article explaining the repercussions of overpopulation Kuo (2012) explains that in 1965 the global population stood at a mere 3.3 billion people who collectively taxed the Earth’s resources to only 70 percent of its bio-capacity.
This means that only 7/10 of the land, water, and air the planet could regenerate or repair yearly to produce various life sustaining products was consumed as well as its ability to absorb greenhouse gas emissions (Kuo 2012, p. 23-32).
Unfortunately the rapid expansion of the global population following the period of the 1960s resulted in humanity consuming more resources than the planet could replenish resulting in the present day conditions wherein 6.8 billion people are consuming the equivalent of 1.4 Earth’s (Kuo 2012, p. 23-32).
Company Culture and the Isolation of Corporations from Society
One of the most interesting concepts that I have learned from the course so far is that of the GooglePlex which can be roughly described as a self-contained environment that acts as both a work place as well as an environment that helps to develop and foster creative ideas and concepts.
Examples of this can be seen in the “campus style” complexes that Apple Inc. and AOL (America Online) have built for their employees within Silicon Valley which act as isolated environments from the outside world with their own restaurants, meeting areas, sports facilities etc.
This trend in which an office spaces facilitate creativity and the development of new concepts can similarly be seen in the offices of Disney Pixar, Adidas (Shanghai) and Kellogg’s (Madrid) wherein they have large open spaces, comfortable offices and meeting areas, beautifully manufactured lawns and landscapes, aesthetically pleasing furniture as well as have a general feel of modernity, comfort and most important of all “space”.
As explained by Willets (2011), the current trend in office development for several of today’s Fortune 500 companies is to make the environment less like an office meant purely for work.
Instead, psychological concepts related to relaxing and pleasing colors, openness, and comfort are applied so as to create a specific type of mindset among employees in which they feel more open towards communication and collaboration with each other which theoretically would result in development of new ideas and concepts that they can apply in their work (Willets 2011, p. 6).
The effectiveness of this particular approach is described in the Fuyuno (2003) study which compared the work environment of call centers with that of several startup companies within Silicon Valley such as the Facebook “campus”.
It was noted that the use of artwork, aesthetically pleasing furniture and other types of visual, auditory and physical stimuli actually resulted in a greater predilection towards creativity and lessened the likelihood of employee burnout.
However, it was explained by Thrift that space can produce identity effects resulting in the internal culture of a company often being dictated by the space by which it surrounds itself. In the case of Pixar, Kellogg’s and Adidas, the space that is present within their individual layouts can be thought of as far removed from the realities of what exists outside of the office.
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As seen in the case of the GooglePlex and its various iterations, there is a “divide” so to speak that occurs as a direct result of the space that is created in order to encourage particular thought processes among a company’s employees.
In the case of threat of overpopulation as a challenge to management’s ethos of mass-production and mass-consumption, employee space actually creates a certain level of “disconnection” between those inside and what occurs at the world at large.
The open environments, the artworks, and the pleasing aesthetics all work together to influence the internal corporate mindset in such a way that they do not regard such problems as being the direct responsibility of the company.
As explained by the article Inside the Googleplex (2007), a company’s ethos is developed as a direct result of the people that work in it, however, if the mindset of such individuals is product and results oriented instead of focusing more on CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) it is likely that a company’s operations will promote rather discourage overpopulation and overconsumption.
The issue when it comes to over population and management ethos is that it requires companies to think ethically in that they should orient corporate practices towards more sustainable methods of operations which would help to convince the general population to follow as well.
Unfortunately, this is not occurring, (Kristensen & Eskildsen (2012) explains that consumer sentiment involving companies at the present is resulting an ever deepening chasm wherein the general public believes that major corporations simply do not care either about the public or the environment.
Such a perception does have a considerable degree of validity given the explanation given earlier regarding current office spaces and how they disconnect the current corporate mindset from implementing proper methods of CSR (Kristensen & Eskildsen 2012, p. 47-61).
Corporations, Overpopulation and the Environment
As Jessica (2012) states “technology intensive enterprises are constantly pushed towards performance initiatives that place an emphasis on doing things faster, better and with fewer resources”. In fact this push towards better competitive performance through effective and more efficient resource utilization and allocation is one of the current driving forces of many high-tech organizations.
It must be noted though that the production processes of certain forms of technological output (i.e. consumer electronics, computer components etc.) do have an impact on the local environment which should be taken into consideration by an organization that utilizes corporate social responsibility as one of the foundations of their managerial practices.
What must be understood is that the drive for faster, better and less resource intensive production processes that are currently being pushed by various companies actually results in many of them choosing to utilize method of production that have an adverse impact on the local environment. This is all a result of the ever increasing population within general markets which companies are attempting to better encompass.
Evidence of this can be seen in studies such as Prechel & Zheng (2012) state that have examined the water quality in several of China’s industrial zones such as in Tianjin show an almost toxic level consistency of water run offs spilling into nearby bodies of water from several of these industrial zones.
Furthermore the air quality in such areas has also been shown to consist of a variety of carbon and chemical based particulates that are the primary causes for the growing cases of lung disease and cancer within several of China’s expanding industrial cities.
It is mentioned by Prechel & Zheng (2012) that proper environmental management practices should be implemented by technology oriented enterprises due to the need to comply with ethical and moral standards of operation and the fact that an organization that engages in questionable environmental practices usually develops a negative public image.
While there are certain challenges to this approach such as an increase in the cost of operations, lower production capacity, and the need to implement more stringent methods in the company’s operational procedure the fact remains that compliance to these ethical standards results in a better corporate image which resounds better with consumer groups especially when taking into consideration the growing focus on environmentally sustainable practices of industrial production.
The “Myth” of Business Ethics at the Present
Based on the information that has been presented so far, it is the assumption of the researcher that the cause of the lack of concern of corporations regarding overpopulation is the continued belief that the people that run companies will continue to utilize ethical methods of conduct despite the pressure to perform that is placed on them by Wall Street and investors.
The first myth is the assumption of companies that they select and train ethical employees who will always do the right thing. A survey conducted by various prosecuted individuals serving time for white collar related crime all reveal that the source of unethical behavior is not whether a person is ethical or not in comparison to other employees but rather if the opportunity is there and there are no apparent means of control.
The fact of the matter is so long as the opportunity is present; it is likely that a company may implementing unethical practices in order to keep up with investor expectations on company performance.
The environments seen in the case of Kellogg’s, Adidas and Pixar show a current trend in the development of isolated “spaces” for employees which Nelson et al. (2012) explains creates a mindset which fails to take into consideration the possible ramifications of unethical actions to the general public given the lack of a connection between the employee and consumers.
In such cases where there is no opportunity and stringent means of control exist even apparently unethical employees have no choice but to conform to an ethical method of doing business. For example, an ethical employee is told to find a method of keeping costs down in order to help the company survive the recession, the employee helps the company lower costs by outsourcing the means of production to China.
Everything seems to follow an apparently ethical guideline however a closer examination of the situation reveals that the labor used in the outsourced factory complex is tasked to produce items 18 hours a day, under harsh conditions and minimum safety standards in order to cut down on the cost of production.
From an ethical viewpoint such a situation seems horrid yet it is a part of nearly everyday business operations for various retailers. Such a method of operation actually describes what is currently being done in Adidas wherein a large percentage of its manufacturing operations has been outsourced to Third World countries due to cheaper labor costs.
Unfortunately, as seen in the case example shown, this practice is often rife with clearly unethical actions yet is allowed to continue in the name of profit. This is evidence of the level of disconnection brought about by present day office environments.
While companies may train employees to do the right thing the fact remains that the company itself is still a business. When told to minimize costs in favor of survival one of the first principles to take a hit is the concept of ethicality wherein low cost production comes at the cost of an abused labor force.
The fact is proper business ethics is more of a framework that a person attempts to abide by rather than a belief in one’s own ability to stick to ethical practices. If one believes that they are following proper business ethics under the belief that they will do no wrong without the need for a proper ethical framework then it is very likely that such individuals will commit unethical practices in the near future.
Thus, despite the current problems involving overpopulation and how the present day operational framework of companies encourages mass production and mass consumption, it is still unlikely that true change in the name of saving the planet will be implemented.
The Necessity of Implementing Standards in Corporate Ethics
There is an old saying that states that “the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing”, in the case of corporations this takes on a more significant meaning due to the proliferation of various departments, operational sites and standards of doing business in particular areas.
Feehan & Becker (2011) explains that the different “spaces” created across corporations, as seen in the case of Adidas, Kellogg’s and Pixar, also manifests itself into different ethical environments. Not all departments actually know what other departments are doing and, as such, this leaves a great deal of ambiguity as to what sort of ethical practices particular departments are or are not engaging in.
As such, this presents the necessity of establishing a standard set of ethical practices and procedures across all departments due to the need to ensure that when represented by a particular department in a certain business venture their ethical practices don’t reflect badly on the rest of the company.
What must be understood is that when a particular operation, department or employee engages in a distinctly unethical practice this makes consumers think of the company as a whole as being unethical despite the action being isolated to that particular instance.
It is based on this particular example that there needs to be a certain code of ethics in order to ensure a generalized form of ethical accountability across all departments in order to create a system that helps to encourage better resource utilization and the discouragement of excessive consumption practices.
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