Moral Issues in Business (12th Edition)
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Expert Chegg Question Answer:
Battling over Bottled Water
WATER IS THE LIFEBLOOD OF THE EARTH, BUT BY
2025, according to the U.N., two-thirds of the world’s population could face chronic shortages of water. In fact, some countries are already importing huge super tankers of freshwater from other countries. But one place that’s definitely not short of water is the state of Michigan, which has 11,000 lakes and is surrounded by Lakes Michigan, Huron, Superior, and Erie. So it came as a surprise to some that the Nestle company’s new Ice Mountain bottled-water plant in Mecosta County, Michigan, dredged up so much controversy when it began pumping water from a local spring.78
Nestlé’s willingness to invest $100 million to build a new 410,000-square-foot bottling plant in Mecosta reflects the fact that bottled water is big business, with annual sales of $6 billion (up 35 percent since 1997). Many county residents, in fact, are thrilled about Nestlé’s being there. The Ice Mountain plant employs about a hundred people at $12 to $23 per hour, significantly more than many local jobs pay. And the company shells out hundreds of thousands of dollars in local taxes. Township supervisor Maxine McClellan says, “This is probably the best project we’ve ever brought into Mecosta County.” She adds that she wants “a diversified economy where our kids don’t have to move away to find jobs.”
The problem, as some local residents see it, is that Nestle has also built a 12-mile stainless steel pipeline from the plant to Sanctuary Spring, which sits on an 850-acre private deer-hunting ranch and is part of the headwaters of the Little Muskegon River, which flows into the Muskegon and then into Lake Michigan. The company started pumping 130 gallons of water every minute from the spring, with plans to increase that to 400 gallons per minute, or about 262 million gallons a year. But whose water is Nestle pumping? That’s the question being asked by Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation (MCWC), a local Mecosta group that has filed suit contesting Nestlé’s right to the spring’s waters. Although the company has a ninety-nine-year lease on the land, MCWC contends that the water itself is a public resource. As Jim Olson, MCWC’s lawyer, explains it, under the doctrine of “reasonable use” the owners of a stream can use its water for drinking, boating, swimming, or anything else “as long as it’s in connection with their land.” But, he argues, “this does not include the right to transport water to some distant land for [some other] use. We’re arguing that the same is true with groundwater—you can’t sever it from the estate.”
Michigan State Senator Ken Sikkema, who chaired a task force on Michigan water issues, rejects that argument: “A farmer pumps water out of the ground, waters potatoes, and sends the potatoes to Illinois—there’s no real difference. The water in those potatoes is gone.” This reasoning hasn’t assuaged the fears of three American Indian tribes who have joined the fray. Citing an 1836 treaty that protects their fishing and hunting rights in the Great Lakes region, they have brought a federal lawsuit against Nestle and the state of Michigan to stop what they see as a massive water grab. “Our fear,” says a spokesperson for the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, “is that the export could significantly and permanently damage the fishery.”
However, David K. Ladd, head of the Office of Great Lakes, argues that bottled water is a special case. Legally, he contends, it’s a “food,” regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. “There’s no difference between Perrier bottling water, Gerber making baby food, or Miller brewing beer. When you incorporate water from the basin into a product, it’s no longer water per se.” And Brendan O’Rourke, an Ice Mountain plant manager, adds that the 262 million gallons it wants to pump are less than 1 percent of the annual recharge rate of the local watershed, equivalent to just 14 minutes of evaporation from the surface of Lake Michigan.
For their part, scientists opposed to the project argue that Nestlé’s pumping has already lowered the local water table and that northern pike are having trouble spawning in a stream fed by Sanctuary Spring. Jim Olson argues that the Ice Mountain plant should reduce its water consumption to 100 gallons per minute or less, not increase it to 400 gallons. “Every gallon removed is needed for the stream to sustain itself,” he states. “The right to withdraw groundwater does not include the right to diminish. existing or future uses.”
In 2003, to the surprise of many, Michigan state court judge Lawrence Root bought that argument and upheld the MCWC’s lawsuit. Ruling that the environment is at risk no matter how much water Nestle draws out, he ordered the pumps turned off. Two years later, an appellate court reversed Judge Root’s decision, and MCWC and Nestle subsequently entered an agreement limiting Nestlé’s withdrawals from Sanctuary Spring to 250 gallons per minute—although there has been some legal skirmishing between the two antagonists since then. In the meantime, however, the political tide has turned against Nestle. Small towns in Maine and California have opposed its building new bottled water plants in their jurisdictions; Congress has held hearings into the diversion of groundwater by bottled water companies and other businesses; and Michigan has passed legislation that, among other things, makes it virtually impossible for operations such as the Ice Mountain plant to remove more than 100,000 gallons of groundwater per day.
Assess this case from the perspective of the utilitarian, libertarian, and Rawlins theories of justice. How would each address the case? Which theory’s approach do you find the most helpful or illuminating?
- Step 1 of 2 The assessments of the case based on the each theory are given below. Utilitarian: In utilitarian point of view, it is the matter of maximizing good over bad. Instead of pumping water for hopeless activities such as boating and for swimming purpose when other people are facing water shortage, the water can be shipped to African countries where people are affected by drought. Providing water for people are in great need for survival would be ethical and moral activity. Libertarian view: In the libertarian point of view, NS Company activity will not be considered as unethical because, it refers to person’s right and freedom. Thus, NS Company has authority to pump any amount of water because the rights are not considerable factor from this viewpoint. As per libertarian view, the moral activity from the reform perspective, this means change is considered as good activity. Rawlsian theory of justice: Rawlsian theory focuses on the basic liberties such as freedom of speech, or freedom of personal property. In the given case, NS Company has the SS Constitute property contracted, but do have rightful owners. So, the native AM Country people will have authority to dictate because, the property belongs to them. If NS Company activities are immoral, AM Country people can take action against the NS Company
- Step 2 of 2 Conclusion: Utilitarian theory is considered as helpful because, in the theory there is some amount equality followed. The theory objective is to promote justice and morality among all people’s action. Hence, utilitarian theory is an appropriate study to be used.