Million$ of Rea$on$ for the NCAA to Change Its Current Amateur Sports Organization Model : The 2010 UNC Football Scandal

Imagine being a highly-touted college football player and receiving offers of all-expenses paid trips to South Beach and keys to a Bentley?  You know it is illegal to accept the offers, but let’s think about what happens to you if you accept an offer like this from a sports agent or some other booster.  One scenario is that nobody finds out.  You dominate in your college career while living like a king, and then you go on to have a professional career and become a 22-year old millionaire.  This seems to be the perfect life, but someone will probably find out, right?  Well, even if they do, you will get kicked off the team and have your character questioned by NFL general managers.  Then, after sitting out for a year and just having to stay in shape for the NFL draft, these same GMs offer you your first payday worth more money than you could have ever dreamed about receiving.  Deciding whether or not to accept these gifts then seems to be the best ever “win-win” situation for the athlete—take the gifts!  If you do not believe this is reality, look no further than the 2010 University of North Carolina football agent scandal.

Bentley with Money

This is a case of three players receiving significant amounts of gifts from sports agents while still students at North Carolina in 2010.  Marvin Austin, Robert Quinn, and Greg Little gave every Chapel Hill resident reasons to believe in the UNC football team, until they took the gifts, and consequently took away this same hope.  The three players were found to have accepted items including, but not limited to, rent payments, travel expenses, thousands of dollars in accessories, leased Bentleys, and all expenses paid trips to South Beach.  All three players were dismissed from the team, and the University of North Carolina took a huge hit to their reputation.  The school also suffered direct and measurable penalties with fines, vacated wins, and loss of future scholarships.  However, all three players are currently on NFL rosters—Austin signed for totals of 4 years and $3,675,000, Quinn for 4 years and $9,436,053, and Little for 4 years and $3,327,500 (Fox Sports).  Clearly, there is some sort of problem with the system if a player can take these gifts and be “punished” with angry college alumni and the loss of a year of college eligibility before becoming multi-millionaires.


While it seems the players made out just fine in the long run, it is clear that the NCAA needs to reevaluate its current business model when you consider that the situation experienced by these three student-athletes was not unique.  Under the current system, NCAA rules prohibit student-athletes from accepting any compensation for their athletic prowess from people not associated with the student-athlete’s school.  This is because the NCAA maintains that the school athletic programs are “an integral part of the educational program” since student-athletes are a crucial part of the student body, therefore, creating an amateur model where the student-athletes can not be considered professionals.  Moreover, the NCAA is unlikely to ever forego their status as an amateur sports organization due to the tax breaks on the billions of dollars it generates through college athletics.  Section 501 (c) (3) of the Internal Revenue Code provides a federal tax exemption for any entity that is created to exclusively operate for “religious, charitable, scientific, testing for public safety, literary, or educational purposes, or to foster national or international amateur sports competition.”  Therefore, the NCAA just does not care if, in this case, the North Carolina football program takes a hit to their reputation and a few student-athletes are put in a difficult spot, so long as the NCAA officials and universities are financially better off.

In order to put this in perspective, it is important to realize the magnitude of the money that is on the table for all of the different characters who are involved.  The NCAA enjoys approximately $650 million in revenue per year just from television and marketing fees, championship games, and investment fees and services.  Individual universities and colleges also make significant amounts of money from their athletic programs.  In the 2010 season alone, seven college football teams generated net revenue over $38 million, with only 4 out of 124 programs losing money.  In addition, reports estimate that alumni donations increase significantly as a result of successful sports programs.  On average, each team that makes the NCAA basketball tournament field of 68 teams receives an increase in alumni donations of $450,000, but this number can be much greater.  After winning back-to-back NCAA basketball championships and a NCAA football championship from 2006-2007, the University of Florida’s athletic department received an increase in alumni donations of $38 million.  Schools can benefit from athletic success in other ways, as well.  Universities that win a national football championship have experienced, on average, an 8% increase in enrollment for the following school year, creating yet another reason for school administrators to deeply care about their sports programs.  This conversation would not be complete without considering the significant benefits received by NCAA officials and coaches, as well.  Myles Brand, former President of the NCAA, made $895,000 in his last year, which is even less than contracts worth over $1 million that are signed by several athletic directors and coaches throughout the country.  Last but not least, we have the players.  These young men and women are the ones responsible for the money made by the previously mentioned entities; however, they are not compensated for doing so.  While many of these student-athletes receive scholarships to attend their respective universities, this is barely a fraction of the money they are generating for the groups of people who are preaching the ideals of amateurism and getting rich at the expense of their student-athletes (Corgan).


After laying out these facts, many different schools of ethics, including deontology, virtue ethics, and consequentialism, can be used to better understand and evaluate the actions of the many different characters in the UNC football case.  The situation for the players and agents was very similar.  Both groups of people had a duty to follow the rules and codes prohibiting the exchange of benefits between agents and students-athletes that are outlined in the NCAA bylaws, as well as the Uniform Athletes Agents Act (UAAA) and the Sports Agents and Responsibility Trust Act (SPARTA) (Heitner).  From a deontological perspective, these agents and student-athletes would be expected to carry out their duties and follow the rules.  However, the student-athletes, especially those from a disadvantaged childhood, can hardly be blamed for being swayed by the gifts and attention that agents offer.  From a consequentialist perspective, these football players knew that their most severe “punishment” would be a suspension, without having any impact on the millions of dollars coming their way in professional contracts the following year.  Similar reasoning can help explain why agents, who are in a bloodbath competition to sign the most promising future professionals, continue to offer gifts to student-athletes.  With some star athletes earning lifetime salaries of over $300 million dollars, an agent’s 3% take of that is $9 million.  Therefore, agents could risk a few tens of thousands of dollars in gifts and penalties to sway a player to sign with him and earn him 500 million times his investment throughout the player’s career.  With millions of dollars in potential earnings up for grabs, a few years of suspension or fines from violating the UAAA or SPARTA, if they are even caught, is often times not enough to deter illegal behavior by the agents.  While virtue ethics considers the character and intentions of both the players and agents, it is hard to hold them at fault when you consider the potential consequences for their actions in the NCAA’s current system.

The NCAA shares a large portion of the blame for this and many other occurrences of illegal behavior between agents and student-athletes.  Essentially, the NCAA has created a shareholder-focused business model, where its executives and highest ranked administrators are the “owners” and main beneficiaries.  While holding collegiate sports to amateur status has allowed the National Collegiate Athletic Association to receive millions of dollars in tax exemptions, it has consciously ignored the most important stakeholders— the 170,000 Division I student-athletes who make this all possible (  The NCAA should be blamed for maintaining its outdated system in an age where media sponsorships and the millions of dollars generated from the commercialization of NCAA sports have taken the association to record-high profits.  It seems as if the NCAA, with a focus on profits, has taken a consequentialist approach to this situation.  Apparently, the association feels that the money that would be saved from reducing scandals and the ensuing backlash to universities compared to the money saved through tax exemptions under the current system would not be enough to warrant changes to the current amateur sports organization model.

This relationship between the NCAA and its student-athletes can be closely paralleled with that of large corporations and its employees.  Many of the largest companies have received increasing criticism in recent years for seeking increased profits at the expense of treating its employees unfairly and subjecting them to extremely low wages.  The same case needs to be made for the NCAA.  It only makes sense, as a number of recently-published scholars have proposed, to lift amateur status and allow student-athletes to either receive money through sponsorships or a basic revenue-sharing system.  However, this would cause the NCAA to give up their tax exempt status and millions of dollars in tax savings.  A virtue ethicist would look at the character and intentions of the NCAA and see a group of people who are motivated by profits and financial growth with far less concern for its student-athletes.


There is no reason why the NCAA would not be able to lift amateur status from its student-athletes and still thrive in a rapidly growing industry.  In an “About the NCAA” section on its website, the NCAA claims that it was “founded more than one hundred years ago as a way to protect student-athletes (and) the NCAA continues to implement that principle with increased emphasis on both athletics and academic excellence” (  In reality, the NCAA is doing the exact opposite of protecting its student-athletes, and therefore, it is time for a change.  While the agents and players in the 2010 UNC football scandal clearly broke the rules, the system was set-up for this to happen.

Student-athletes generate hundreds of millions of dollars while playing in college and some go on to earn hundreds of millions more as professionals in the years immediately following college.  If the NCAA wants to protect its student-athletes, it is time to take a look in the mirror and reconsider if “stealing” the profits from the student-athletes is the best way to protect them.  Many proposals have been made and rejected, but now is the time to get all hands on deck and devise a solution before any more scandals take place.  The UNC scandal was probably not even the only case of illegal behavior during that season, but it was the only one that got caught.  We live in a world where unethical behavior can sometimes be overlooked until it is noticed, and consequently, causes media uproar resulting in serious repercussions.  However, the NCAA has now been caught by many people for their unethical business practices without any repercussions or changes.  Maybe punishment is not necessary for the NCAA, but it certainly is time to stop punishing its student-athletes.

“It Takes a Village…” Group and Individual Morality in the Manhattan Project

The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present – and is gravely to be regarded.

-Dwight D. Eisenhower, Farewell Address


I know that with your love of men, it no light thing to have had a part, -a great part-, in a diabolical contrivance for destroying them.”

-Dr. Edward Teller, Letter to J. Robert Oppenheimer (7August, 1945)

The Manhattan Project, started in 1942 under the direction of Major General Leslie Groves and overseen by Dr. J Robert Oppenheimer, existed for the sole purpose of creating an atomic bomb to give the United States an unprecedented advantage in World War II. Though there were major components elsewhere, the bulk of the project was done at the isolated Los Alamos Laboratory, built specifically to house what is often referred to as one of the greatest collection of scientific minds in history. The workers at the laboratory eventually developed a working prototype of the weapon, first tested at a site known as “Trinity.” Interestingly, however, some of the top minds involved in the project, especially Oppenheimer himself, came to be some of the nation’s most vocal detractors of the weapon and nuclear war in any form. While it is a fairly simple task to recognize these scientists’ remorse over the use of the bomb –it caused unprecedented amounts of damage and ushered in a new, terrifying, standard into wartime tensions- the true paradox lies in the fact that everyone involved in the Trinity test knew exactly what they were creating, and the potential consequences thereof (Roland 461). Discussion about the motivations behind many scientists who helped develop the nuclear bomb must, then, be presented in an organizational context, because the Los Alamos Laboratory was perfectly designed by Groves and Oppenheimer to facilitate intense, fast-paced collaboration with the singular purpose of constructing what the scientists liked to refer as the “Gadget.”


The Scientific Mecca

In many ways, the research facility at Los Alamos (and the scientists inhabiting it) is better described as a collective unit. In stark contrast to General Groves’ traditional vision for compartmentalized research groups, an open collaborative atmosphere internally marked the site, and the free exchange of ideas was encouraged. However, the formation of this work environment relied heavily on a potent combination of individual motivators (Bennis and Biederman). On an discrete level, many of the involved scientists were motivated for their own reasons, but the potentially impossible goal would have remained such had Oppenheimer not carefully designed a working environment with the specific goal of channeling each individual’s talent and motivation into a common “stream.”

At an organizational level, there were several uniting factors that, together, defined the Los Alamos Laboratory: a common enemy, a common cause, and several inherent shared traits found in those involved. Unlike the vast majority of the institutions from which scientists at Los Alamos came, every aspect of daily life was in place for the purpose of developing the bomb. Instead of individual research and the intrusion of everything else upon it, everyone was working on the same project, and everyone knew it. Even as people worked in the area of their specialty, the ultimate goal was singular; I believe, however, that this merely laid the groundwork for other factors to unite the scientists, acting as a metaphorical bridge for information to cross (Biederman and Bennis). Left as the only thing bringing people together, a common goal is far more likely to spark furious competition than to welcome collaboration.

Therefore, in the scope of the entire project, other common motivators played an equally important role in the formation of the uniquely driven group effort. In a more facetious sense, General Groves served as a common “enemy” to the distinctly non-military personnel, and the military itself served as the butt of a collective joke. Groves’ strikingly military manner of leadership[1] was at complete odds with the open atmosphere cherished by the scientists, and rules were openly mocked[2] (The Day After Trinity).

Legitimate wartime fears cannot be discredited, as nearly every member of the research team believed that the work they were doing was only preemptive in that if they failed at their job, others could succeed and American lives put at risk. Adolf Hitler served as essentially the perfect supervillian in the scientists’ eyes, especially considering the fact that many of those involved were Jews driven out of Europe (Kelly 26-27). Werner Heisenberg’s similar work on developing a bomb (which focused largely on heavy water and was eventually aborted), even in the eyes of former friends, existed conceptually as a looming threat; the possible existence of another nuclear weapon was very likely scariest to those who were trying to develop just that (Stimson, York, Kelly).

This unconscious disparity in thinking, however, ultimately served as the final uniting piece at Los Alamos, because, above all else, each of the scientists believed in their work. Oppenheimer, when recruiting potential team members, purposefully touched upon a uniting characteristic of most of the people involved: their egos. For months, he travelled across the country, personally inviting researchers in whom he had taken an interest on account of their distinguishing place in their respective fields. With regards to the perspective of these scientists, Oppenheimer made it extremely clear that they were needed. When this intrinsic motivator was universal and placed in the context of a common goal, it tied everything else together; each scientist didn’t simply envision a solved puzzle, they focused on their piece of the puzzle  (Kelly).

Pictured: Scientific Frenzy

Ultimately, all of these factors fail to shed light on the complete inner workings of the laboratory. As a unit, the group was marked by more commonalities than anything else, but similar to Himanen’s Informational Economy, the collective could only sustain growth and innovation by remaining internally indefinite. Against the facility’s breakneck speeds and creative scientific milieu, it was critical for anyone actively involved to feel useful (York). Oppenheimer’s challenge was then to satiate the same egos that he’d specifically invited[3]. As he knew, the state of progress enjoyed by the scientists was fragile, and the well-functioning organization could not be sustained without constant maintenance. It was for this reason that individuals who weren’t making any real progress in their area or were unhappy with their current work would be relocated until they were happily working again (Biedermannn and Bennis). With the overwhelming sense of community created in the lab, it was typical for scientists to get completely swept up in the constant flow (York). That flow, however, was not self-sustaining, but rather heavily curated by Oppenheimer who became the central figure in a community of 3,000 (The Day After Trinity).

The unique atmosphere did not go unnoticed by those governmental figures who knew of the Project; President Roosevelt personally ordered that the scientists not be notified of the destruction of the rival German lab site, and sent reports designed to maintain the pace after the victory in Europe (Stimson 4-5). The research eventually culminated in a test at Trinity on 16 July 1945, and soon after the two bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Many researchers, most famously including Edward Teller continued research on harnessing nuclear power for applications ranging from new weapons to the early stages of radiology for several years. Others, such as Oppenheimer, however, led the campaign against them.


The Frankenstein Complex

“I have felt it myself. The glitter of nuclear weapons. It is irresistible if you come to them as a scientist. To feel it’s there in your hands, to release this energy that fuels the stars, to let it do your bidding. To perform these miracles, to lift a million tons of rock into the sky. It is something that gives people an illusion of illimitable power, and it is, in some ways, responsible for all our troubles — this, what you might call technical arrogance, that overcomes people when they see what they can do with their minds.”

-Freeman Dyson


“The physicists have known sin, and it is a knowledge they must never forget.”

-Robert Oppenheimer


Play this now: [audio]

Only one scientist, Joseph Rotblat, left the Manhattan Project, but most of the scientists involved at Los Alamos (and to a lesser extent, Oak Ridge in Tennessee) were haunted later in their lives about the innumerable deaths that they enabled, as some knew they would be even whilst devising the bomb (Lifton and Mitchell 141). Frank Oppenheimer, brother to Robert, recalled first being overjoyed that the bomb dropped on Nagasaki actually worked, and then overcome with grief for the same reason (The Day After Trinity). Fascinatingly, most felt regret not for creating the bomb, but instead for the fact that it was actually used (a decision that provides for extensive analysis on its own, but not here), begging the question, “who is responsible for the deaths caused by the atomic bomb?” (Kelly).  No real answer exists, of course, but the idea provokes interesting consideration of complex morality.

An intriguing ethical perspective is appropriately American in nature, framing the actions of the scientists in the contexts of both Quaker and Puritanical values; each lends some unique insight into the motivations of the individuals involved. As Himanen explains, Weber’s “Protestant ethic” relies on an innate sense of duty, time optimization, and the idea that an end-goal is not a point, but a perpetual system to maximize results. Pacifist Quaker values, ever deontological, center on moral reasoning, and a binary instance of “Good” and “Evil” (Moore 61). Per these beliefs, Rotblat was the only scientist to make the right choice, as it is an individual’s duty to not cause harm. In this context, David Orr’s concept of imposing limits on research and knowledge itself are particularly relevant.

The counter argument is rooted in the Protestant ethic, which Himanen used to explain the organizational model of information networks, surprisingly akin to that of the laboratory. Where the Quaker beliefs focus on the role of individuals, this system applies incredibly well to the collective of workers[4] that was so tightly amalgamated. For each of the scientists at Los Alamos, there was a strong perceived obligation to prevent others from harm, and their capabilities stipulated that this was their means: because they could use their skills to help, they needed to (Howes and Herzenberg, Kelly, The Day After Trinity). Furthermore, the end-goal for many involved was technological advancement for its own sake. Robert Wison, who later forged the field of atomic energy, admitted openly that he and his groups hoped that the Gadget would be so powerful that it wouldn’t ever actually be used[5] (The Day After Trinity).

The main failure of this quasi-religious framework is that it assumes that the scientists acted on moral instinct, when, as established previously, there were other factors. While the individual egos likely contributed to the sense of personal duty (“only I can help in this way!”), the driving force mentioned most frequently by those involved was that of the challenge: the Project offered a unique scientific problem, and an unprecedented opportunity to solve it. Solving nature’s puzzles was, after all, their job as scientists (Lifton and Mitchell).



[1] He only accepted the role with the title of “General” because, as he recalled later, “I felt that my position would be stronger if they thought of me first as a general instead of as a promoted colonel” (Biederman and Bennis 173). However, as one scientist mentioned, “We didn’t care” (York).

[2] My favorite anecdote involves a security protocol stating that scientists should not audibly refer to each other as physicists or chemists. The staff thusreferred to each other as “fizzlers” and “stinkers.”

[3] Groves infamously was known to refer to the scientists as “primadonnas” (Biedermann and Bennis).

[4] I find this fascinatingly ironic (though irrelevant to the discussion at hand), as in general terms, the societies that grew out of these values were almost the opposite; Quakers found themselves living in more Marx-leaning communes, whereas the Puritans were largely intensely private and founded capitalism.

[5] As a side note, Lifton and Mitchell argue, rather forwardly, that this attitude was essentially a coping mechanism designed to avoid moral consequences by distancing themselves from the impact of their work.

Whole Foods: Changing the Way We Think About Food


The United States is currently facing one of the worst health crises the country has ever seen. Between 1996 and 2005 the number of Americans suffering from three or more chronic diseases increased by eighty-six percent, and the incidence of diabetes in the American population increased by ninety percent (Gene & Popper, 24). The source of this drastic increase in chronic illnesses can be directly tied to the lack of proper nutrition and the presence of dangerous chemicals found in the average American diet.  With two-thirds of the American adult population qualifying as either overweight or obese it is clear that the lack of government regulation in the food production industry has caused a nationwide epidemic (Gene & Popper, 24).

With drastic government reform of the food production industry unlikely to occur in the immediate future, there has become a societal need for alternative, healthy food options.  Current cultural trends show that American preferences are moving away from processed food and toward more healthy, sustainable food options.  This need has resulted in the creation of alternative grocery stores and restaurants with sustainable, nutritional focuses.  The most prominent example of one of these companies is Whole Foods Market.  Whole Foods Market was founded in 1980 by two individuals with the goal of transforming the way Americans eat and shop for groceries.  The aim of the founders was to create a shopping experience that encouraged nutritional education through the implementation of healthy eating habits and access to the highest quality foods available.  The company was formed in response to the processed food movement, as an alternative for individuals looking for healthy options (Whole Foods Website, 2013).  From a utilitarian viewpoint Whole Foods is an ethical company because every aspect of their business model from their food standards, to their educational programs, to their environmental policies result in positive benefits for all stakeholders that outweigh any societal costs.

Utilitarianism ethicists believe that it is the result of a particular business decision, not the decision itself that causes a particular situation to be ethical.  If the benefits of a certain decision outcome outweigh the costs of that same decision outcome then the consequences of that decision are ethical; if they do not, it is not ethical (Trevino, Nelson, 90).  The social costs incurred by society through the consumption of unhealthy, over processed foods found at standard grocery stores or in fast food restaurants have resulted in societal costs of roughly $40 to $100 billion dollars a year (Wolf, Colditz, 2013).  Not only is this practice unsustainable, but it is also unethical because the costs of these decisions to create unhealthy food options outweigh any potential benefits.  In this situation there is only one party that benefits from the consumption of processed food and that is the food corporations themselves.  Therefore from a purely sociological perspective the decision of using dangerous food producing practices is unethical and should be addressed immediately.

Whole Foods has been able to solve this ethical conundrum by implementing high product standards and offering a wide range of educational programming to customers, employees, and other potential stakeholders. Whole Foods has taken it upon themselves to eliminate dangerous and unnatural food additives from the products that they sell even though they are not required to by law. The list of prohibited food additives consists of roughly eighty different chemicals including BHA and BHT, two very commonly used preservatives made from petroleum, the same chemical used to make the gasoline that runs your car (Goyanes, 2013).  A full list of all prohibited food additives can be found at the end of this report (directly from the Whole Foods Website).  This is one example of how Whole Foods executives have created a company that is ethically responsible.  By eradicating all unnatural food additives in their products, Whole Foods has effectively eliminated any health costs associated with consuming food additives. While these foods options may cost a little more to purchase, the overall health benefits to the customer vastly outweighs any potential cost, which makes this policy ethical and beneficial to society as a whole (Heineman, Froemke, 2013).

Whole foods also has strict regulations for the production of its agricultural products.  Whole Foods prides itself on only selling the best organically grown produce available.  To be considered organic, the crop must be grown without the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) or ionizing radiation, all of which have been linked to health problems (, 2013).  Whole Foods also tries to buy produce from local farmers in the community whenever possible.  These actions result in positive consequences for all involved (Whole Foods Website).  The customer is happy because they know that they are getting a quality product, and local farmers are happy because they are able to stay in business. The growth of the big agriculture industry has created an environment where it is difficult for small, family owned farms to compete.  Yes, it is valid that organic produce is more expensive than standard produce; however, the positive health benefits outweigh any of these costs, making this an ethical policy.

Whole Foods also employs strict standards for any meat or animal products sold in their stores.  One of the major problems the has surfaced since the industrialization of the food industry is the inhumane treatment and genetic modifications of farm animals.  Today, in an effort to make larger profits, meat producing corporations like Purdue and Tyson are creating genetically modified animals that live inhumane lifestyles (Kenner, 2013).  Take a look at the difference between a normal chicken and a genetically modified chicken shown in the photo below.             12785_368494776592533_415201850_n

As you can see the genetically modified bird is so large that it cannot stand upright on its own.  In an effort to create a chicken that provides larger portions of meat, genetic scientists have modified the chicken’s genes to create a super bird that cannot support its own bulk.  (Kenner, 2013).  This form of chicken farming is not only cruel because it significantly diminishing the bird’s way of life, but also unnatural.  Like GMOs in agriculture the human body is not meant to ingest scientifically created organisms.  Also it should be noted that some farms use hormones to achieve the same effect.  These hormones should be avoided at all costs as they have documented negative effects on humans that ingest them.  Based on the utilitarian theory of ethics it is unethical for a company to genetically modify and inhumanly house farm animals.  In doing this major costs are incurred for both the animals and the individuals that are consuming their products.  There does not appear to be any societal benefits from the use of these genetically modified animal products.

In an effort to eliminate animal cruelty from our food chain, Whole Foods has partnered with the Global Animal Partnership (GAP), a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of farm animals, to establish their own meat standards.  All meat sold in Whole Foods stores must pass GAP’s strict six-step test.  This test requires that any animals used in the production of animal products are not to be confined to a crate or a cage, but instead allowed to roam free, outdoors, on dedicated pastureland.  They also encourage farmers to provide animals with an environment that encourages normal animal behavior, such as providing chickens with straw to peck at.  All physical alterations of these animals are strictly prohibited, and finally the animal must spend its entire life at the same farm (Whole Foods Website).  Farming practices such as these are ethical because they provide the most benefits to all the organisms involved.  The animals benefit because they have a higher quality of life, and we benefit because we are getting better quality meats.  Overall, while raising animals under these conditions may be more expensive for producers and consumers, these costs are offset by the massive health benefits provided for both the animals and consumers.

Whole Foods has also become the leader in providing sustainable seafood options.  With events such as the BP oil spill, Americans are becoming increasingly concerned with where their fish are coming from.  Also many of the country’s most popular fish species have become overfished, which has negative consequences for both the fish population and their natural habitat. In an effort to provide sustainable seafood options for its customers, Whole Foods became the first retailer to team up with the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), a non-profit organization dedicated to the implementation of sustainable fishing practices.  Whenever possible Whole Foods tries to sell MSC certified fish that come from MSC certified fisheries.  However, there are certain fish that cannot be farmed and when this is the case the company uses a sustainability rating program to separate fish into three categories–red, yellow and green–to guide customers.  The green rated fish are the best in terms of sustainability and quality.  Yellow fish species are a step below green rated species, and red labeled species are the least sustainable species (Whole Foods Website).

In an effort to further their sustainability goals, Whole Foods announced last year that it will no longer be carrying red rated fish. While this was a difficult decision for the company to make–as it did have the potential to cut profits and cause customers to look elsewhere for these fish–they decided to go ahead with the policy as a way to maintain their reputation by making the most ethical decision possible.  This example particularly exemplifies Whole Foods’ commitment to socially responsible decision making (Whole Foods Website).  In the food production industry it is rare to see a company pass up an opportunity to make more money, even if the decision does create negative consequences for other stakeholders.  Whole Foods, however, decided to forgo this opportunity in the interest of doing what was right.  The video below is from the Whole Foods website and explains in detail the reasoning behind their decision to eliminate red rated fish from their stores.

Whole Foods takes pride in everything they sell.  The use of humane and sustainable business practices is what sets them apart from other grocers.  Every single one of their business policies was created with stakeholder well being in mind.  This is a drastic departure from the traditional attitude commonly found in the food industry. It is this concern for  stakeholders rights, as opposed to making the most revenue, that guides their decision making processes and results in the many societal benefits that their business practices provide.  These benefits include a cleaner environment, humane treatment of all living beings, and overall stakeholder health.  All of their actions as a business can be considered ethical based on the utilitarian view of ethics.  The reason for this is because of the consistently positive net benefits that arise as consequences of their business decisions.  Every decision Whole Foods makes must benefit their customers without causing harm to any additional external stakeholders.  The Whole Foods sustainable business model is revolutionary and signifies a revolutionary shift in the way we look at food.

Cited Sources:

  1. “ – Organic FAQ.” – Organic FAQ. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Apr. 2013.
  2. Wolf, Anne M., and Graham A. Colditz. “Current Estimates of the Economic Cost of Obesity in the United States.” Obesity 6.2 (2012): n. pag. Print.
  3. “Whole Foods Market.” – Home Page.  N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Apr. 2013.
  4. “Fortune 500 2009: Top Performers.” CNNMoney. Cable News Network, n.d. Web. 08 Apr. 2013.
  5. “13 Banned Foods Still Allowed in the U.S.” Shape Magazine. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Apr. 2013.
  6. Stone, Gene, and Pamela Popper. Forks over Knives: The Plant-based Way to Health. New York: Experiment, 2011. Print.
  7. Pollan, Michael. The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals. New York: Penguin, 2006. Print.
  8. Food, INC. Dir. Robert Kenner. Perf. Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser. Magnolia Pictures, 2009. DVD.
  9. Escape Fire. Dir. Matthew Heineman and Susan Froemke. Lionsgate, 2012.
  10. Treviño, Linda Klebe., and Katherine A. Nelson. Managing Business Ethics. New York: Wiley, 2006. Print.
  11. Photo: “Welcome to Raw for Beauty.” Blog. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Apr. 2013.
  12. Youtube Video:


Blue Ribbon Winner: IKEA


“Extra! Extra! Read all about it!” The latest “big story” plasters across newspaper headlines and internet homepages on a daily basis. The media loves to deliver a good scandal, and the public becomes engrossed in every detail. The nature of the scandal and the danger it produces dictate the reaction and outrage; media and consumers vehemently distress over news of food safety issues. The USDA issued over sixty-three nation-wide food recalls in the year 2009, which appears to be about an average number of yearly recalls in the last decade[i] (Figure 1). In the early months of 2013, international companies, such as IKEA, issued several food recalls as DNA tests detected horsemeat in beef and pork products, and high levels of bacteria normally found in feces, in select desserts. Although safety officials and retailers issue these food recalls, the contamination and mislabeling usually occurs elsewhere within the supply chain. Retailers, suppliers, regulators, and consumers each have duties and responsibilities to each other to ensure quality control and safety of food products.

Furniture to Food

Ingvar Kamprad founded IKEA as revolutionary company in Sweden in 1943 on the basis of meeting needs at reduced prices. Original products sold include pens, wallets, picture frames, table runners, watches, jewelry, and nylon stockings. IKEA introduced furniture in 1948 and the line grew through the 1950s as showrooms and IKEA stores opened throughout Sweden. The first IKEA Restaurant opened in 1960 and accompanied the growth of IKEA stores worldwide. Today, IKEA Restaurants play an essential role in welcoming customers into IKEA stores and providing a relaxing atmosphere with a budget-friendly menu. The Swedish food market within IKEA stores provides customers with the opportunity to prepare pre-packaged foods from frozen meatballs to coffee, in their own homes.

Not Horsing Around

On January 15, 2013, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) announced that it found horse DNA in beef products sold in Ireland and the UK. Major retailers pulled product from the suppliers named in investigation from their shelves and the UK’s Food Standards Agency (FSA) stated, “In addition to the widespread testing we are doing, we’ve instructed the industry to urgently carry out its own tests on processed beef products to see whether horsemeat is present.”[ii] The Swedish National Food Agency set out to perform DNA testing across Sweden to crack down on suspected mislabeling of horsemeat,[iii] but it was Czech Republic authorities that first detected horsemeat in IKEA’s frozen meatballs produced by the Swedish company, Familjen Dafgard. IKEA withdrew the meatballs from the affected markets across Europe at the end of February, just two weeks after the company’s own tests did not detect horse DNA.[iv]

According to a press release addressing the horsemeat adulteration, “IKEA Group is committed to serving and selling high quality food that is safe, healthy and produced with care for the environment. ‘The trust of our customers is of outmost importance for us’, says Anders Lennartsson, IKEA Food Services AB. ‘We do not tolerate any other ingredients than the ones stipulated in our recipes or product specifications’.”[v] IKEA reissued this statement a few weeks later when high levels of coliform bacteria were found in a shipment of Almond chocolate and butterscotch cakes to China. In answering concerns about this instance of contamination, IKEA proclaimed, “All tests show that our cakes live up to the highest safety and quality standards. There are no harmful bacteria found in any of the tests, including cakes from the batch that was destroyed by Chinese customs” over and over again.[vi] At the end of March, Belgian authorities found pork present in IKEA’s elk lasagna; the company issued a sales stop and offered a refund for the mislabeled product. Though this adulteration did not pose any health risks, IKEA has taken a position that does not tolerate “any other ingredients than the ones stipulated in our recipes or specifications” in its food products.[vii]

Ethical Supply Chain Management

The series of food adulteration, contamination, and mislabeling issues sparked public scrutiny of suppliers in the food industry. In the wake of past mad cow disease outbreaks, European nations implemented stringent labeling regulations on fresh meat. “Since 2011, labels on unprocessed beef sold in Europe have been required to identify where a cow was born, raised and slaughtered; most countries now want this requirement extended to processed beef.”[viii] This is the only mandatory traceability system currently enforced throughout a complete food chain; traceability of all other foods is essentially voluntary and not well regulated, though a few countries have introduced broad requirements.[ix] Companies have wide latitude in making ethical decisions regarding food supply issues and the complexity of these supply chains leaves opportunities for unscrupulous activity.

IKEA revolutionized supply chain management in the furniture industry with its flat-pack business model. The company realized the savings that flat-pack shipping provided over traditional furniture manufacturing methods and built its warehouse stores around that concept.

IKEA also passes along savings to customers by substituting wood composite materials for true wood and other higher cost materials, whenever possible. From a deontological perspective, if substituting lower cost goods for higher cost goods in order to save the consumer money is a universal maxim, then the horsemeat adulteration cases are actually ethical. On the other hand, suppliers purposely deceiving downstream companies like IKEA are in violation of Kant’s “respect for persons” principle.[x] If mislabeling meat content was adopted as a universal maxim, the categories of meat types would break down, and all meat would become “mystery meat” as a result of unethical practices. “The trust of our customers and co-workers is of utmost importance to us. In light of the horsemeat concerns in the food industry, it is clear that IKEA Group, despite high standards, has failed to live up to our customers’ expectations. We take this very seriously and are now making changes to further strengthening traceability throughout the entire food value chain”, says Edward Mohr, Global IKEA Food Manager.[xi] In response to the contamination issues IKEA has faced, the company seeks to bring the complexities of the food supply chain more in line with its vertically integrated furniture supply chain:

As an immediate measure, we have, together with a quality assurance company (SGS), developed a set of requirements for minced meat products. These requirements include;
• Limited number of suppliers of meat.
• Traceability back to the abattoirs.
• No meat purchased through traders.
• DNA analyses are made on both incoming raw material and on the final product. Only products showing no traces of horsemeat DNA are shipped to IKEA stores.
The requirements are valid for all minced meat products, global as well as local.
We are also developing a comprehensive standard with requirements on traceability, slaughter, deboning and processing of meat products. The standard is developed together with a quality assurance company, SGS, and is expected to be ready before the end of April 2013. The standard will be implemented during the next six months. Announced and unannounced audits together with tests and documentation will secure compliance. Our goal is traceability all the way back to the farms.[xii]

These actions can be seen as having “purity of motive” Bowie discusses, as IKEA wishes to eliminate risk to consumers and regain their trust through more stringent regulation. Rather than continue to use the lowest cost suppliers with a strict focus on the bottom line, IKEA can actually enhance its profits by simplifying and/or vertically integrating its supply chain and respecting the humanity of all of its stakeholders.

To further demonstrate IKEA’s ethical standards of supply chain management, consider the company’s focus on sustainability. The flat-pack shipping method allows more goods to be shipped in fewer trips, and the minimalist design means less material is used in fabrication, resulting in lower emissions and transportation costs. “The entire IKEA process aims at creating products that leave minimum impact on the environment,” including the company’s signature recycled honeycomb panel design.[xiii] In regard to the horsemeat scandal and recovering the recalled product referenced in Figure 1, IKEA is trying to “find a sustainable solution for the sales stopped meatballs that may contain horsemeat. There is no health risk associated with eating the meatballs. We are in dialogue with the relevant authorities to explore possibilities to take care of the sales stopped meatballs in a responsible way, in accordance with legal demands…. Landfill is not an option.”[xiv] IKEA was able to come out of this controversy with its reputation intact due to transparent addressing of ethical issues with suppliers and consumers, and a plan to improve food safety in the future.

Figure 1
Figure 1

[i] “Taking Harmful Foods Off the Shelf.” MCT Graphic Services. 2010. Global Issues In Context. Web. 8 Apr. 2013.

[ii] Food Standards Agency. FSA Statement on Horse Meat InvestigationFood Standards Agency. N.p., 8 Feb. 2013. Web. 7 Apr. 2013. <;.

[iii] “Sweden to DNA Test Meat Products Nationwide.” The Local: Sweden Edition. N.p., 12 Feb. 2013. Web. 7 Apr. 2013. <;.

[iv] Higgins, Andrew, and Stephen Castle. “Ikea Recalls Meatballs After Detection Of Horse Meat.” New York Times 26 Feb. 2013: A4(L). Global Issues In Context. Web. 8 Apr. 2013.

[v] IKEA. IKEA Stores Resume Sales of Wiener SausagesIKEA. N.p., 6 Mar. 2013. Web. 7 Apr. 2013. <;.

[vi] IKEA. Bacteria in IKEA Almond Cake: Products Not Sold the UK and Ireland Stores. IKEA. N.p., 22 Mar. 2013. Web. 7 Apr. 2013. <;.

[vii] IKEA. Statement regarding Recent Media Coverage on Our Elk LasagneIKEA. N.p., 6 Apr. 2013. Web. 7 Apr. 2013. <;.

[viii] Higgins, Andrew, and Stephen Castle. “Ikea Recalls Meatballs After Detection Of Horse Meat.” New York Times 26 Feb. 2013: A4(L). Global Issues In Context. Web. 8 Apr. 2013.

[ix] A. Regattieri, M. Gamberi, R. Manzini, Traceability of food products: General framework and experimental evidence, Journal of Food Engineering, Volume 81, Issue 2, July 2007, Pages 347-356. <;

[x] Frederick, Robert, ed. A companion to business ethics. Vol. 17. Wiley-Blackwell, 2008.

[xi] IKEA. Sales Start of Newly Produced MeatballsIKEA. N.p., 23 Mar. 2013. Web. 7 Apr. 2013. <;.

[xii] Ibid.

[xiii] VanGilder, Suzanne. “Manufacturing IKEA Style.” Surface & Panel. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Apr. 2013. <;.

[xiv] IKEA. Sales Start of Newly Produced MeatballsIKEA. N.p., 23 Mar. 2013. Web. 7 Apr. 2013. <;.

Paying NCAA Student-Athletes: A Simple Answer Amidst Complicated Rules

          The NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) helps student-athletes across America compete in sports while earning four-year college degrees.  It unifies more than 450,000 young men and women whom are dispersed throughout more than 1,200 institutions, divided into 3 different divisions.[1]  Through the use of athletic scholarships, academic standards, drug testing, and many other components, the NCAA keeps a level playing field for competition.  When rules are broken, penalties are incurred.  When titles are won, rewards are received.  Since its formation in 1910, the NCAA has been an important and respected association across the country.  The one component of the NCAA that needs to be changed, however, is paying its student-athletes.  I will argue why they deserve to be paid, how to go about paying them, and the ethical philosophies that support it.

     Each year, a 68-team NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament begins in mid-March and culminates with the Final Four in one of the country’s biggest cities, leaving heartbreak and Cinderella stories at each of its smaller, regional sites along the way.  I was fortunate to experience the madness of this year’s Final Four in Atlanta firsthand, and if there’s one thing I learned from my experience, it’s that the NCAA makes a lot of money.  The ticket I received for the games was in Section 349 (as you can see below, in orange) of the Georgia Dome, and its face value was $95.  One of the people with me sold his unused ticket after the first game for $100.  Walking away, a man in a Michigan jacket sighed as he said, “I would have given you $200 for that!” A few hundred steps later, we both sold our ticket stubs for $20.  But the money doesn’t stop at ticket sales.  Two years ago, the NCAA agreed to a 13-year, $10.8 billion deal with CBS/Turner Sports for coverage of the NCAA Tournament.[2]  March Madness lives up to its name.

My view

My view


^ I was right here

     So, where does all this money go?  Administrators, staff, event coordinators and the like all get paid.  Perhaps the biggest sources of payment, however, are the coaches.  University of Louisville’s Head Coach Rick Pitino’s bonus for winning the National Championship is $425,000; that’s roughly 70 percent of what Louisville’s university President James Ramsey is getting this year.[3]  Not to mention Pitino’s measly base salary of $5.7 million on top of that bonus.  Mark Yost, author of Var$ity Green, a behind the scenes look at culture and corruption in college athletics, further describes the massive amounts of money some college coaches are earning.  “Duke’s Coach K has a fifteen-year, $6 million sponsorship contract with Nike, (74)” he writes.  These types of deals aren’t uncommon in the big-time coaching world, either.  On average, only about 25 percent of their full compensation comes in the form of a salary.  “The rest comes from television and apparel contracts, endorsements, and other side deals,” says Yost. (115)

     How can one justify paying these coaches such large amounts of money and not the players?  The one place the money does not go, after all, is to the student-athletes that played a large part in creating it.  The easy explanation as to why this doesn’t happen would be because it’s not fair.  As ESPN writer and TV personality Michael Wilbon describes, “because so many athletic departments run at a deficit, it’s difficult to make the case that schools should pay regular salaries to athletes.”  With that being said, Wilbon doesn’t believe in paying college athletes evenly.  “I’m interested in seeing the people who produce the revenue share a teeny, tiny slice of it,” he says.  In most cases, this would include players on men’s basketball and football teams.  However, if other teams such as UCONN women’s basketball or Bucknell lacrosse are profitable, they deserve to be paid.  The teams that aren’t profitable don’t.  “You know what that’s called?” Wilbon asks.  “Capitalism.  Not everything is equal, not everything is fair.”

     Yost describes in his book, “The whole operation…[is] designed to hide the real business that the NCAA and their participating schools are engaged in: extortion” (159-160).  The simple truth is that these student-athletes provide their minds and bodies for the generation of billions of dollars.  “According to the most recent studies,” Yost points out, “the MRP (Marginal Revenue Product) of a draft-quality player ranges from about $263,000 for women’s basketball to $495,000 for college football and $1.4 million for men’s college basketball” (166).  Basically, that’s how much money a school makes off of these young men and women.  And they don’t get paid anything in return.

     Non-athlete college students aren’t restricted from earning money by an organization like the NCAA.  “If a music student goes out in the summer and earns 50 grand, who objects?” Wilbon asks.  “The student-musician is no less a college student because he struck a lucrative deal.”  As long as these deals are done with proper morals and intentions – which I will discuss later – what separates them?  Both required hard work and deserved to be rewarded.  However, the NCAA strictly prohibits student-athletes from being paid.  Below is an excerpt from its Summary of Regulations for Division I:

You are not eligible for participation in a sport if you have ever:

(1)       Taken pay, or the promise of pay, for competing in that sport.

            [Bylaw 12.1.2]

(4)    Used your athletics skill for pay in any form in that sport.

            [Bylaws 12.1.2 and]

These rules need to be changed; here is how it can be done.

     Roughly two years ago, the NCAA and its new president, Mark Emmert, agreed on a new rule which allowed Division I schools to pay their student-athletes $2,000 stipends.  The purpose of these stipends were to increase the value of the scholarships, which some studies estimate falls on average about $3,500 short of the full cost of attending college annually.[4]  Essentially, the stipend was a form of payment to the players, but Emmert viewed it differently.  “If we move toward a pay-for-play model — if we were to convert our student athletes to employees of the university — that would be the death of college athletics,” he said.  Below I will propose how to make paying NCAA student-athletes work, hopefully without killing college athletics.

NCAA President Mark Emmert

     Firstly, the NCAA will have to stand firm when schools with little to no money complain that they can’t pay their players.  Those newly approved $2,000 stipends lasted less than a month back in late 2011, when more than 125 college athletic directors protested because they simply couldn’t afford them.  Weeks later, the NCAA decided to suspend the stipends all together, which only made the matter worse because some high school players had already signed papers to receive the money.  As Michael Wilbon mentioned earlier, the process won’t be fair for everyone.

     Secondly, players must be allowed to sell whatever they have earned while playing.  The NCAA currently forbids this type of action, and several cases of players selling jerseys in exchange for tattoos, for example, have resulted in multi-game suspensions.  Not only have they rightfully earned the right to sell these things that were given to them, but the selling process will also be a learning experience.  “If somebody is willing to give A.J. Green $750 or $1,000 or even $2,500 for his Georgia Bulldogs jersey, fine, good,” Wilbon argues.  “If one of his teammates, a tackle, can fetch only $50 for his jersey, then it’ll be a good marketing lesson for both of them.”

     Finally, players must only be paid for the work they put in at their respective sport.  Paying student-athletes money to sit around and skip practice is wrong.  In fact, once schools begin to pay players, I believe they will hold them to a higher standard than ever before.  Emmert, the President of the NCAA, argues that paying student-athletes will corrupt college sports.  “Why would you even want them to be students?” he asks.  “Why would you care about their graduation rates?”  I compare the situation to an NBA team that fines one of its players for missing practice.  Although the player missing that practice may hurt the team in the long run, a $25,000 fine means a less expense on that player’s salary in the short run.  Basically what I’m trying to say is that the NBA team would waste no time fining the player.  I believe that as a result, schools will hold their student-athletes to even higher standards because they are essentially taking money from the school.

     There are obviously many other components that would need to be added to my simplistic plan to make it work.  I do think, though, that through these three main components, a framework could begin to develop.  There would be nothing wrong with a high school recruit basing his/her college decision on which school paid them the most money.  It’s no different than basing your decision on which school has the nicer arena or business school.

     From a popular ethical philosopher’s point of view, paying revenue-generating student-athletes would be right and just because it means they did something worth being paid.  Robert Nozick, author of Anarchy, State and Utopia, conveniently uses Wilt Chamberlain as an example to explain his theory.  He describes a scenario in which, due to a clause in Chamberlain’s contract, fans that attend his games each drop a quarter in a jar on top of the normal cost of admission.  These fans enjoy watching his games and are happy to pay.  Nozick then asks, if Chamberlain receives $250,000 from one million fans putting a quarter into his jar over the course of the season, is this distribution just?  “Each of these persons chose to give the twenty-five cents of their money to Chamberlain,” he states (207). It’s no different for college student-athletes: if people pay to watch them play, they deserve some of the money.

Wilt the Stilt saying, “GIVE ME YOUR QUARTERS!” And also, “I just scored 100 points.”

     At a more organizational level, Peter French, author of Ethics and College Sports, utilizes the viewpoints of several different ethical theorists to assess the meaning of “amateurism” according to the NCAA.  For instance, citing authors Robert Butcher and Angela Schneider of Doping in Sport: Global Ethical Issues, “amateurism should be thought of as a motivation and not in terms of the absence or presence of monetary element” (22).  In other words, you can still be an amateur and get paid for what you do – contrary to what the NCAA states.  This is where the philosophy gets difficult, though, because now we are analyzing the motivation that these people have within themselves.  French agrees that these matters are complicated.  “How is a coach or an athletic director or the NCAA or anyone to determine with any degree of certitude that any particular college athletes is motivated to participate in a sport for the love of the game rather than for the external goods that participation may offer him or her?” (23)

     The complicated questions that not only French asks, but also countless others involved in the NCAA, don’t need complicated answers.  I’m not arguing on behalf of student-athletes that have stolen equipment from the locker room to sell, nor am I for the ones that excel in their sport but don’t go to class.  I’m arguing for the student-athletes that work hard in the classroom and at their sport to generate revenue for their school.  The NCAA doesn’t need any more complicated rules on top of what it already has.  The answer is simple: pay them.  They deserve it.

[1] “NCAA student-athlete participation hits 450,000”

[2] Michael Wilbon, ESPN. “College athletes deserve to be paid”

[3] Curtis Eichelberger, Bloomberg News.

[4] Joe Nocera, The New York Times. “Let’s Start Paying College Athletes”

Additional Works Cited

French, Peter.   Ethics and College Sports.  Roman and Littlefield, 2004.

Nozick, Robert.  Anarchy, State and Utopia.  Basic Books, 1974.

Summary of NCAA Regulations – NCAA Division I


Yost, Mark.  Var$ity Green.  Stanford University Press, 2010.

Wegmans: Raising the Bar


Wegmans Food Markets has revolutionized the term “grocery store”. Gone are the days when most grocery stores look and feel the same. Although Wegmans was founded in 1916, it seems that Wegmans has really just started taking off since 1993 when the first of many stores were opened outside of New York state.  This business that started as a fruit and vegetable cart has evolved into a mega-store, and it now sets the standard for pleasant shopping and dining experiences. Wegmans is one of the largest privately held companies in the United States and has raised the industry standards through its phenomenal product quality, plethora of options, top notch prepared food, and impeccable customer service.  Since its launch, this family-owned grocery chain has been a model for ethical business operations while earning impressive profits.  The company has balanced the importance of these two and has become a seemingly model company for how to go about doing business.


In 1916, John Wegman opened a fruit and vegetable cart and called it the Rochester Fruit & Vegetable Company.  Since that time, Wegmans has been a first-mover in many instances.  By 1931, Wegmans stores include meats, produce, groceries, dairy, and baked goods.  The next year, Wegmans becomes the first grocery store to introduce refrigerated display windows and vaporized water sprays to keep produce products fresh.  Less than a decade later, Wegmans is the first store to offer frozen foods to consumers.  After that, the East Rochester Wegmans store is one of the first to utilize laser scanning to read codes printed on products.  Starting in 1979, Wegmans creates it own brand to sell in stores, usually for cheaper than the brand names consumers recognize.  Starting in the 1980s, Wegmans became increasingly innovative in its programming: Wegmans created a scholarship program, work-scholarship connection, shoppers club electronic discount program, strive for five program, and “Food You Feel Good About” program.  It appears that all of the hard work pays off.  As of 2013, Wegmans has been recognized as Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” sixteen times, and Wegmans has been in the top five of that list for nine of those years.  That’s not all.  Wegmans also was recently ranked number one in a Consumer Reports survey on the country’s favorite grocery chains. (Perman 1) Last, but certainly not least, Wegmans has been recognized as one of the “World’s Most Ethical Companies” by Ethisphere Institute.  Clearly, Wegmans is doing something right.


Company Values

Ever since founding the grocery chain, the Wegmans family has believed, “[…] that good people, working toward a common goal, can accomplish anything they set out to do,” (Wegmans Company Overview). Day after day, Wegmans employees strive to live up to the company motto: “Every Day You Get Our Best”.  What sets Wegmans apart from its competitors and other companies in general is how much they care about people and the community.  Wegmans is a phenomenal example of a stakeholder-focused company.  Its top priorities are its customers and employees, not just making money.  It seems that this family-owned grocery company views its employees and customers as parts of its extended family and treats them all that way.  Since its founding, Wegmans has created many departments to satisfy just about any customers’ needs.  These departments include: Market Cafes, Ready-to-Cook meals, Bakery, Patisserie, Deli & Cheese Shop, Nature’s Marketplace, Food from Around the World, Pharmacy, Complements, Floral Shop, Greeting Cards, Gift Shop, Cosmetics, Bath and Body, Wkids Fun Centers.  While many of these are staples at other grocery stores, Wegmans has gone the extra mile with its selection in those departments and has raised the bar with unique ones like Patisserie (a French pastry shop) and Wkids Fun Centers (babysitting children ages 3-8 while parents get shopping done).  Customer service at Wegmans is also clearly a well-known edge the company has on the industry.  I read all about the attentive employees and “nearly telepathic level of customer service” in many articles I came across. (Wegmans Company Overview)  As I looked into this exemplary customer service, I found Wegmans’ very own Youtube Channel.  On this channel were many interesting videos that featured its own employees who discussed their Wegmans working experience.  The first video I watched was called “Wegmans Company Culture”.  In this video, store manager Kevin Lang said, “If you are very good at taking care of employees and are concerned about their well being not only at work but at home, and you’re concerned about how much they know about what they are doing at work, how much they enjoy coming to work, they’re going to take that and they’re going to turn that around and be concerned about how they serve customers.” Here’s a company that truly understands the importance of employee morale.


In another video, “Making a Difference—A Wegmans Who We Are Value”, Susan McAndrews explains that she is so happy to “work for a company that absolutely supports what [she wants] to do and also gives [her] the resources that [she needs] to do that and do that efficiently.”  Kevin Young explains, in another video, “Caring—A Wegmans Who We Are Value”, that Wegmans supported his goal of going back to school for a bachelor’s degree and allowed him to have a flexible working schedule while doing so.  Wegmans offers its employees great benefits and even an employee scholarship program.   The company also helps its employees learn about their own departments outside of the stores. “It sends butchers to Colorado, Uruguay and Argentina to learn about beef. It sends deli managers to Wisconsin, Italy, Germany and France to learn about cheese,” (Rhode 1).  Since the program was launched in 1984, Wegmans has covered more than $85 million in tuition expenses. (Wegmans Company Overview). Finally, Marie Panara describes one of the highlights of her work experience in the video, “High Standards—A Wegmans Who We Are Value”.

615 WegmanFamily2

One day at work, Danny Wegman was walking through the store and talking to customers and employees alike; he came over to Panara, shook her hand, and said that he is so happy she is with the company.   This brief interaction between Danny Wegman and Maria Panara is a great example of Kant’s theory in action.  “Always treat the humanity in a person as an end, and never as a means merely,” (Bowie 4).  By making each member of the Wegmans team feel special and wanted, the employees are happy to come to work and help customers with anything they need.  There’s probably no better moment than hearing one of the founders of the company tell you how happy he is to have you working with him.

Over the years, Wegmans has become increasingly well-known for its charitable donations and community service initiatives.  In 2012, Wegmans donated 16 million pounds of food to food banks in the US.  As stated on its company overview page, Wegmans focuses its “commitment to the community” in five areas:

  • Food for the needy
  • Strengthening neighborhoods
  • Helping young people succeed
  • Healthy eating and activity
  • Support for the United Way as an effective way to fund programs that make a difference.

(Wegmans Company Overview)

After reading about Wegmans’ business practices and its care for people and the community, I started thinking about Donaldson and Hartman.  In Hartman’s article, “Donaldson on Rights and Corporate Obligations”, he explains Donaldson’s three duties that every company should fulfill.

“1. The duty to avoid depriving people of their rights

2. The duty to help protect people from such deprivation

3. The duty to aid those who are deprived” (Hartmann 163).

Later, Hartmann adds his own “fourth duty” to the list, “avoiding helping to deprive”. (Hartman 165).

As I stated previously, Wegmans focuses on the people first.  I think the second, third, and fourth duties are most applicable to Wegmans’ case.  Each year, Wegmans helps millions of people by providing food to people who are starving.  The company also provides millions of dollars in scholarship funds to those that can’t afford a college education.  Also, Wegmans created the Work-Scholarship Connection in Rochester, NY to help at-risk children.  The purpose of this program is to decrease the dropout rate in the district and teach the 2,300 middle school and high school participants the skills to work.

The Wegmans Love Affair

As I was researching, I often thought about the simple question, “What do people love so much about Wegmans?”  I tried to ignore my love of Wegmans in reasoning through this.  I was extremely excited when I came across a press release from 2004 entitled “Love Letters to Wegmans”.  Fun fact: approximately 5,800 people took the time to send a love letter to Wegmans, and the press release included quotes from a selection of these.  I read on to find out why people loved Wegmans and came across a variety of reasons including product selection, store aesthetics, top-notch produce, great service and staff, low prices, the olive bar, the sushi bar, signs for hearing impaired people at ordering counters, encouraging customers to cook and try new things, and making a chore into a pleasant experience.  Not only did I find “love letters to Wegmans”, but I also found other articles with love in the title.  One was entitled, “A Love Affair with Wegmans Begins”, written by someone after being swept off his or her feet after a first-time Wegmans shopping experience (Anderson).  In another article, “Brand Love for Wegmans: Nice Beat, You Can Dance to It”, Cindy Perman described the scene outside the first Massachusetts store just before opening.  She explains that there were approximately 2000 people in line by 7:00 am, and while people were waiting, a “Wegmans: The Musical” was born. “The musical is about two brothers: One’s a manager at Wegmans and the other works a manager at Acme Food Store. The one who works at Acme sends a spy to sabotage the Wegmans store. The spy winds up falling in love with Wegmans — and a Wegmans employee! Hilarity ensues,” (Perman 1).

Wegmans: Do They Ever Mess Up?

After learning about all of the things that Wegmans does right, you are probably wondering if I found a crisis or piece of negative press in my research.  It took a while to find, but I finally came across something.  In February 2013, Wegmans issued two massive recalls on its flour and wheat products.  Thankfully, the problem was discovered relatively quickly.  The wheat products (hot dog buns, hamburger buns, sandwich bread, and pita) were sold between February 1st and February 15th, and the recall was announced on February 16th.  The flour recall was made after just about two months of sales, but there were no injuries or illnesses reported as a result of the product.  How were these problems handled?  Customers could return products to stores for full refunds.  Of all the issues a company could face, this is not the biggest deal in the world.  On top of that, Wegmans tackled the issue head on by recognizing the issue, announcing the recall, and giving its customers all refunds.  I was pretty happy that this is the only “issue” that I could find.  Clearly, Wegmans is doing something right.  Scratch that.  Wegmans is doing many things right.


Just last year, Wegmans received about 5200 requests to build a store in various communities along with 7,600 other letters from customers simply explaining how much they love shopping at Wegmans for various personal reasons.  Since 1916, the company has had quite a journey, and it is now known as one of the most ethical companies in the United States and one of the best places to work.  As Neil Stern wrote in a 1994 Wall Street Journal cover story about Wegmans,  “We consider them the best chain in the country, maybe in the world” (Wegmans Company Overview). As a loyal fan, I would never dispute this.


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Bowie, Norman.  “A Kantian Approach to Business Ethics”. 3 April 2013.

Company Overview. Wegmans, n.d. Web. 3 Apr. 2013. <;.

DeCanio, Lisa. “”I Love Wegmans” – Reactions to the Grocery Giant’s First Massachusetts Store Opening [Storify].” BostInno. N.p., 17 Oct. 2011. Web. 07 Apr. 2013. <;.

Hartman, Edwin.  “Donaldson on Rights and Corporate Obligations”. 3 April 2013.

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Natale, Jo, and Jennifer Mitchell. “Wegmans Food Markets, Inc. Named to Ethisphere’s 2012 World’s Most Ethical Companies List.” Wegmans. N.p., 16 Mar. 2012. Web. 20 Mar. 2013. <;.

Natale, Jo, Theresa Jackson, and Evelyn Carter. “15th Consecutive Year: FORTUNE Places Wegmans on ‘100 Best Companies to Work For’ List, Ranking #4.” Wegmans, 19 Jan. 2012. Web. 3 Apr. 2013. <;.

Natale, Jo. “Love Letters to Wegmans.” Wegmans, 16 July 2004. Web. 3 Apr. 2013. <;.

Perman, Cindy. “Brand Love for Wegmans: Nice Beat, You Can Dance to It.” CNBC, 4 May 2012. Web. 03 Apr. 2013. <;.

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