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Unocal Company’s Unethical Decisions in Burma Essay


Unocal is the company that decides to succeed in building a new business in Burma, a country with unstable and controversial political and governmental situations. As soon as Unocal signed a contract and identified its responsibilities, it got involved in all activities taken by the Burmese government as well as the decision to use its army to solve civil questions. The outcomes of the military activities in regards to the Karen people could be interpreted in a variety of ways; utilitarian, rights, justice, and caring approaches will be discussed in the paper to understand if it is possible to justify the decisions made by Unocal and if it would have been possible to achieve better outcomes another way.

The identification of the ethical aspects of different problems people face every day is a difficult task because there are plenty of interpretations of both what is right and what is wrong. Some people believe that ethics is a combination of religious beliefs, and some people admit that being ethical means doing things in regards to the law. There is also an opinion that ethics is the collection of the behavioral standards that have to be evaluated by society.

For example, the utilitarian perspective teaches people to consider the consequences and impacts of the decisions made and analyze the actions from the doer, who understands the worth of all actions made. Unocal investigated different aspects of the cooperation with the Burmese government. Several benefits, such as cheap and well-educated labor power, virgin resources, and controlled military support (Velasquez, 2014), were identified.

The main negative aspects concerned the conflicts between the military representatives and the Karen citizens and the identification of human rights violations. Still, the benefits of that cooperation prevailed. Therefore, from the utilitarian point of view, the decision made by the company can be justified. The only recommendation that could be given is the beforehand identification of the benefits for the locals.

There is another opinion that based on the idea of human rights. A rights approach focuses on the moral issues that touch upon all participants in a particular situation. Rights play an integral role in business ethics as well as the process of making appropriate decisions in terms of personal freedoms and choices. People are free to ask for a good job, housing, medical care, or absence of fraud and injuries in their lives. Many documents were introduced to prove the violation of human rights by the Burmese military representatives (Velasquez, 2014).

Unocal was aware of such situations and problems. Therefore, it was unethical to have deals with the army to build pipelines on the territory of people suppressed by the army. This decision involved Unocal in the violation of human rights, both directly and indirectly. The only recommendation that could be given from this perspective is the possibility to find another way to start the business and reduce the impact of the army on the project and people involved in the business directly and indirectly.

A justice perspective is another approach that explains how people and organizations may judge other people’s decisions and behaviors to make sure that all people are treated fairly and understand their benefits and risks. It is required to create a powerful system of requirements that should be met. Justice may be distributive with all benefits, and risks are distributed properly, compensatory with all compensations of harm considered, and retributive with a required portion of punishment for all wrongdoers.

From distributive and retributive points of view, Unocal did not do the right thing and could not be ethically approved because many people suffered from unfair harm, injuries, and burdens, and nobody took responsibility for all those cases. From a compensatory point of view, Unocal did everything right because the company made significant payments, tried to improve the quality of citizens’ lives with the help of new pipelines, and offered them employment. One of the recommendations that can be given is the identification of punishment for the army, which did so many bad things in regards to the Karen citizens.

Finally, there is a caring approach that helps one to comprehend that people’s well-being is a crucial aspect and cannot be neglected. Human relationships are in the center of this approach because only properly developed relations can help to provide the required amount of care for people. Unocal made an ethically wrong decision when it decided to invest in a new project by demonstrating the perceived unimportance of such issues as kindness, compassion, and support.

The Burmese army treated the Karen people badly, and Unocal was aware of that fact. Still, it agreed to invest in a new project regardless. The situation could be changed if Unocal demonstrated its care for people before the construction of pipelines began. Such an intention could prove the desire of the company to improve the lives of the Karen people.

In general, the majority of the decisions made by Unocal should be defined as unethical. The company thought only about its benefits. Even when the company decided to compensate the Karen people for some of the burdens that arose in that situation, it seemed like that decision was made only in an attempt to hide all those bad things that could not be hidden. The example of Unocal proves that business and the desire to gain as many benefits as possible are always more important than such issues as human rights, freedoms, and safety.

Reference

Velasquez, M.G. (2014). Business ethics: Concepts and cases. Harlow, Essex: Pearson Education Limited.

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IvyPanda. (2020, September 1). Unocal Company's Unethical Decisions in Burma. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/unocal-companys-unethical-decisions-in-burma/

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"Unocal Company's Unethical Decisions in Burma." IvyPanda, 1 Sept. 2020, ivypanda.com/essays/unocal-companys-unethical-decisions-in-burma/.

1. IvyPanda. "Unocal Company's Unethical Decisions in Burma." September 1, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/unocal-companys-unethical-decisions-in-burma/.


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IvyPanda. "Unocal Company's Unethical Decisions in Burma." September 1, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/unocal-companys-unethical-decisions-in-burma/.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "Unocal Company's Unethical Decisions in Burma." September 1, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/unocal-companys-unethical-decisions-in-burma/.

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'Unocal Company's Unethical Decisions in Burma'. 1 September.

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