How a Reduction in Food Waste Can Save the Planet

“Currently, more than 48 million Americans live in households that struggle to get enough to eat, while the amount of food thrown out in the United States every year is enough to fill the Rose Bowl to its brim. Redistributing only 2 percent of food waste would end hunger in the United States.”

-Jonathan Bloom


American society is currently plagued by the idea that it is necessary to offer oversized portions of food. I first became aware of the alarming issues that coincide with food waste in America during my time as a member of the Bucknell Dining Sustainability Club. As Sustainability Ambassadors, we are tasked with the job of trying to make Bucknell dining more environmentally friendly. We encourage dining services to work with the local food producers and have them offer more organic options to students. We have been responsible for changes such as the switch to a tray-less cafeteria, and recently, this year, have been working with Jonathon Bloom, the author of American Wasteland. Last semester, he gave a speech to the student body about the problems of food waste, and together with our club, we performed a waste audit in the cafeteria. We collected 93 pounds of food waste during a 2-hour collection period, and just last week collected 55 pounds for our second follow-up waste audit. Bloom was there to educate students about these issues and spoke about disturbing statistics such as the estimate that 25% of all the food Americans bring into their homes, goes to waste.

bucknell food waste

Food waste is a problem for 3 main reasons: ethics, the environment, and economics. The ethical issue is the injustice that so many people in this country are going hungry while such a large proportion of food is going to waste. The environmental dilemma behind this waste concerns all of the natural resources that are intensively used in food production. Large amounts of water and gas are wasted when we have produced large amounts of food that will never be eaten. Finally, economics is the last main reason that we need to be worried about food waste. A significant expense is incurred by agricultural producers, consumers, restaurants, and stores on foods that end up in the landfill.

Now, the next question is what we can do to solve this problem. Personally, as consumers we have a few options to make a lasting impact. We can focus on smart shopping by planning meals and making lists about what we actually need to purchase. We can limit our portion sizes and increase our knowledge of food. We can also volunteer at food recovery programs that redistribute extra food to people in need. In addition, Bloom often challenges the people he meets to buy 25% less food than usual at their next trip to the grocery store. On a larger scale, Bloom suggests that the best way to prevent food waste is to ban organic waste from being accepted at landfills. He says that this would make people think twice about how much food they are buying and would promote better ways of using food purchases. This ban tactic has successfully been implemented in other countries, as well. To save the world we need to put a conscious effort into what we consume. The reduction of food waste can ultimately protect the environment, fight hunger, and save money.

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. <;.

Patagonia: Taking Corporate Responsibility to the Next Level

After I read a number of class examples about unethical clothing companies, I wondered if there were clothing companies in today’s society that genuinely care about the environment and the future instead of short-term profits. There is so much news lately about businesses cutting corners and using immoral business practices because they are profit driven. I did find, though, that there are a handful of companies that actually care about their employees, customers, environment, and products. After much research, I eventually stumbled upon the clothing company called Patagonia. I owned a sweatshirt from the company, but I never knew much about it. I was intrigued with the company because of its mission statement and the low environmental impact it makes without sacrificing the high quality of its products. After all of this, I wondered if the company could even turn a profit.

Originally founded in 1973 by Yvon Chouinard, Patagonia is a privately owned company based in Ventura, California (Chouinard). Chouinard started the company in the back of his pickup truck by selling hand-forged mountain climbing gear (Chouinard). He combined his love for the outdoors, business, and the environment in order to create Patagonia. The company now “designs, develops, and markets clothing and gear for a wide range of outdoor sports, travel, and everyday wear (Chouinard).” Their products are currently sold in the 88 wholly owned retail outlets and other retail stores the company has teamed up with throughout the world (Associated Press). This growing company has doubled its revenues and tripled its profits since 2008 while running an advertising campaign to encourage customers to buy less (Associated Press). Patagonia is a pioneer corporation in today’s society because it values social responsibility and sustainability instead of profit margin. Management does not have to focus so tightly on the bottom line because it does not need to please shareholders. This unique company culture started with the founder and top management sticking to their values instead of compromising to increase their profit margin.

A truly ethical company starts from the commitment of the top managers. What sets Chouinard apart from the typical CEOs of multinational corporations is that he started Patagonia with the mindset of an environmentalist. He loves the outdoor and grew up with a passion for rock climbing and surfing (Chouinard). He never wanted to work in the corporate world, but he saw that his business could be an important resource for environmental activism. He set out to make high standards for ethical practices “in order to create the best quality products with the least environmental impact (Chouinard).” Chouinard is not afraid to decrease the company’s profit margin if the company is switching to a more sustainable practice that will benefit the company and the environment in the long term. The company’s mission statement best portrays Chouinard’s founding principles. The mission statement is to “build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, and use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis (Patagonia site).” Patagonia also has a specific code of ethics to make sure that the company “promotes fair labor practices and safe working conditions throughout their supply chain (Holmes).”

Yvon Chouinard wanted to create an environment that fosters the well being of employees in order to further enrich the company. Employees receive handsome salaries, parental and health benefits, maternity and paternity leave, paid internships with non profit environmental groups, surfing breaks, employee discounts and much more (Associated Press). At the main office in Ventura, workers even receive on-site day care and school for children ranging in age from 8 weeks to 14 years. Chouinard thinks that the day care center is “ a profit because it keeps five to ten people a year from having to quit (Chouinard).” Employees are very loyal to the company because they also love the corporate culture and mission. As a result of the overwhelming employee satisfaction, the company’s employee turnover is in the single digits compared to other apparel retailers who commonly see turnover of over 100% annually (Associated Press). The company also has a specific workplace code of conduct that “states what is ethical and acceptable in regards to a variety of topics both inside and outside the workplace.” This code of ethics helps to create an environment where workers are appreciated and work very hard at the same time.

Patagonia’s sustainability is portrayed the best through their supply chain management. Yvon Chouinard wanted to create a company that did not sacrifice environmental impact for high quality. Even though Patagonia does not make any of their products, the company is committed to working with factories that share their same values. However, Patagonia is not a perfect company. Like most clothing companies, Patagonia got caught up in outsourcing to new factories when they were rapidly expanding that they knew nothing about except the very cheap price. But what separates Patagonia from most other companies is how they responded to the problem. The company quickly hired a manager of social responsibility and a third party auditor to visit and review every single factory the company works (Chouinard). The customers are fully informed about every step of the clothing process. The company created a life cycle product study called “Footprint Chronicles” (Holmes). This allows customers to trace a product from design to development, manufacturing, production and transportation of the product (Holmes). Patagonia also discloses a list of its entire suppliers, which is very rare especially in the clothing industry (Holmes). The company is not required to disclose all of this information to its customers, but management felt like they have a duty to its customers to keep them informed about all of the company processes.

One sizable cost that Patagonia endured in order to make their supply chain more green was to convert to organic cotton in order to make less of an environmental impact. Patagonia is headquartered in California, but the lack of an organic cotton industry in the state did not stop Chouinard from making the decision to switch to the material in 1996 (Holmes). When a lot of employees starting getting sick, the CEO ordered an environmental assessment on the material to see what was causing the problem. The results of the environmental assessment showed that the regular cotton was the largest source of conventional pollution (Holmes). According to Rob Bondurant, the VP of marketing at Patagonia, management came to the conclusion that they would “rather go out of business than continue to use conventional cotton (Holmes).” That is a very bold stance that is not regularly taken by businesses in the clothing industry today. The corporation saw all of the negative impacts that cotton pollution had on the local water supply and wildlife so change was imminent. In order to develop an organic cotton industry in California, management had to convince farmers and spinners to go organic and agreed to subsidize them (Holmes). The company took many new risks associated with supply and performance by converting to organic cotton including a low profit margin for many months. These risks were justified according to Setnicka, the CFO, because the company is more concerned with the environment than having the company grow rapidly. According to Setnicka, “we sort of look at growth in this company the way we look at a life cycle. If any one component grows too much or too fast, it throws the system out of balance (Holmes).” This is a unique perspective to approach growth in a business because usually top management is only concerned with growing the company and the stock price as quickly as possible to reap the extra benefits. Surprisingly all of the risks paid all. Most of the customers agreed to pay the premium so Patagonia could afford to use organic cotton because customers really liked the concept (Holmes). This example shows that a company can act ethically while still earning a significant profit and keeping a loyal, strong customer base.

Probably the biggest company initiative towards helping the environment is through a program it co-founded called 1% for the Plant. The company started this program in 1995 and has contributed over $33 million and counting (Holmes). Patagonia donates 1% of their total sales to environmental organizations worldwide every year (Holmes). This program reflects Patagonia’s commitment to the environment and sustainability. Giving this one percent of total sales was not seen as a philanthropy in the eyes of management. It is viewed as part of the cost of doing business in order to try to balance the impact the company has on the natural systems (Chouinard). Since the program was growing too quickly and could no longer be managed by the company, it turned into a non-profit organization. Today the organization has a membership of over 1,000 companies.

Thanks to Patagonia’s mission statement and code of ethics, the company has not had to deal with any major controversy or critics. Probably the biggest criticism of the company is the cost of the products. Using environmentally safer material causes the retail prices of the products to be more expensive. Patagonia realizes that it produces are for the upper middle class. The CEO, Casey Sheahan, also realizes that consumers are very willing to pay a couple more dollars because they know that Patagonia inflicted less damage on the environment while making the product than their competitor clothing makers (Associated Press).

To examine how ethically the company really is, I will refer to Norman Bowie’s work called A Kantian Approach to Business Ethics. Bowie states that, “Kant’s ethics is an ethics of duty rather than an ethics of consequences (Bowie 4). The ethical person is the person who acts from the right intentions (Bowie 4).” Long before much of corporate America embraced “green business,” Patagonia was creating clothes from recycled soda bottles and installing solar panels at its corporate headquarters (Gardiner). Chouinard felt a duty to create durable, long-lasting products and be environmentally responsible at the same time. He did not do it for the awards or the recognition; he did it for the right intentions. To examine Kant’s argument, Bowie examined and applied the three formulations of the categorical imperative to business ethics.

The first formulation is “act only on the maxims which you can will to be universal laws of nature (Bowie 4).” A world in which every corporation acted socially responsible and focused on long term sustainability would be logically coherent. If a maxim of being socially responsible was universalized, managers would be required to focus on the impact of their business ventures on the environment. Even though managers would adjust their mindset to be focused environmentally, they would still be focused on making a profit. So the two maxims together are not self-contradicting. They can exist together because people are acting ethically and business practices are possible. The second formulation is “always treat the humanity in a person as an end, and never as a means merely (Bowie 7).” Patagonia treats its employees exceptionally well by going above and beyond the standard amount of employee benefits. The company does not use other people to satisfy or further their own interests or profits (Bowie 7). Patagonia even makes sure that the factories it outsources its labor to treats its workers just through third party auditors. Patagonia is very transparent and believes that its customers and employees should have the opportunity to know all of the important information of the company. The company give all employees the opportunity to attend monthly meetings with executives in which they review the financial statements and customers are given the entire list of suppliers Patagonia works with (Chouinard). The last categorical imperative is “so act if you were a member of an ideal kingdom of ends in which you were both subject and sovereign at the same time (Bowie 10).” Patagonia does a lot of planning before implementing a rule or process to make sure that the impact is very minimal for the environment and that the corporate culture is not negatively affected. The switch to organic cotton is a great example of this. Patagonia discovered that its employees were getting sick from the pollution of the cotton and the cotton had a major effect on the environment. As a result, management quickly took action and ultimately changed from regular to organic cotton. Also, Yvon Chouinard believed that since the company was so profitability because of the environment then the company had a duty to give one percent of its total revenue to environmental organizations every year. By looking at Patagonia through a Kantian approach, I can conclude that the company is definitely an ethical corporation as is passes the three categorical imperatives with flying colors. The company goes above the industry standards to make sure every aspect of its business structure is socially responsible.

The ethical analysis of Patagonia can also be looked at in the view of Deontology, which is very similar to Kantianism. Edwin Micewski and Cermelita Troy wrote Business Ethics: Deontological Revisted (Micewski). These authors wrote an extension of Kant’s second categorical imperative that says that the ends never justify the means. According to these two authors, “the deontological approach states that the ends of any action can never justify the use of any or all means (Micewski).” Micewski and Troy state that the “real test of our code of ethic conduct is whether we are willing to do the right thing even when it is not exclusively in our self-interest (Micewski).” This is the main principle of Patagonia. The executives realize that they have to make a profit in order to stay in business, but they incur major costs in order to lessen the impact on the environment and help the future of the environment. The company even ran an advertising campaign on Black Friday that advised consumers not to buy their product with the hope of cutting down on consumerism. This advertisement was not benefiting them in anyway, it was actually hurting their profits. The company did not care because they wanted to help stop the epidemic of the public over consuming. Patagonia is dedicated to helping the environment and the future even at the cost to their profits.

Patagonia is not the perfect company and it occasionally makes mistakes that do affect the environment and the public. Although, Patagonia is an ethical company overall whose level of corporate responsibility and sustainability should be imitated by other major companies. Chouinard’s unique management style has attracted big time corporations, such as Walmart, to partner with Patagonia since they see a major benefit in becoming more socially responsibility. Patagonia is an unique company that is morally driven to better the future of the environment instead of the future of their profits.


Associated Press. “Keeping Employees Happy : Sportswear Firm Beefs Up Benefits to Boost Worker Contentment.” Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times, n.d. Web. 06 Apr. 2013.

Bowie, Norman E. “A Kantian Approach to Business Ethics.” (n.d.): n. pag. Print.

Case Western Reserve University. “Patagonia Founder Yvon Chouinard to Receive Inamori Ethics Prize.” NewsWise. N.p., 18 Feb. 2013. Web. 06 Apr. 2013. < ethics-prize>.

Chouinard, Yvon. Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman. New York: Penguin, 2005. Print.

Gardiner, Lisa. “Patagonia and Corporate Responsibility.” Mark Kula Center for Applied Ethics. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Apr. 2013. <;.

Henneman, Todd. “Patagonia Fills Payroll With People Who Are Passionate.” Workforce. N.p., 07 Nov. 2011. Web. 06 Apr. 2013. < with-people-who-are-passionate>.

Micewski, Edwin R., and Carmelita Troy. “Business Ethics – Deontologically Revisited.” Journal of Business Ethics 72.1 (2007): 17-25. Print.

Steveson, Seth. “Patagonia’s Founder Is America’s Most Unlikely Guru.” The Wall Street Journal. N.p., 26 Apr. 2012. Web. 6 Apr. 2013. <;.

NGOs in Sustainable Development

I attended the seminar regarding the prospective curriculum for the new “Management: Sustainability” major. I had expressed both at the panel and in class that I felt NGOs should be one of the central focuses of the curriculum, allow me to clarify in this weeks blog post by pulling from my written material and resources.

As I learned in my class taught by Professor Martin last year, sustainable development is a difficult term to define. Sustainable development is, in simplest terms, the act of sustaining development; thus, we must truly understand development before we attempt to make it sustainable. Development is anchored in the existence, and co-existence, of the Public Sector, the Private Sector, and the Non-Profit Sector (NGOs). The Non-Profit Sector is perhaps the most elusive and undervalued of the three sectors. It serves the function of indentifying the many things that the Private Sector could potentially profit from, and identifying the many things that the Public Sector could do a better job at.

To quote one of the readings we had, Jude Howell and Jenny Pearce, of Civil Society and Development, believe, “The non-profit sector operates as a sphere of economic activities that generates outputs in the form of schools, universities, hospitals, clinics, and soup kitchens. These in turn provide employment and income and add to the gross national product.” The Non-Profit Sector deals with the issues that are left untouched by the Public Sector and the Private Sector. Once the Non-Profit Sector identifies and alleviates some of the issues in society, the Private Sector enables profit to be made out of issues. The creation of the soup kitchen offers both the public good from civil society but it also employs the servers, the custodial staff, and the chefs, hence pouring profit and dollars into the Private Sector. The creation of the soup kitchen points to some detriments in society that the Public Sector might want to address. If the soup kitchen becomes of enough public interest then the Public Sector might very well begin spending its energy and time toward fixing the societal problem.

Development often arises out of the Non-Profit Sector and finds a more efficient and effective setting in the Public or Private Sectors, respectively. We do not live in a Utopian society, which means civil society will always have a place in the world. As long as there are problems, demands, what-have-you there will be NGOs attempting to make heads or tails of the situation. Development begins in the Non-Profit realm, which is why I believe the new Managing for Sustainability Majors must become well versed in NGOs.

Sustainability & Bucknell

This past week I attended the 10am symposium that spoke about sustainability and how it applies to Bucknell University. The session was moderated by Peter Wilshusen and included talks by Alf Siewers, David Kristjanson-Gural, and Jamie Hendy. Each professor spoke on varying areas of sustainability—including what they are most passionate about within the area, what sustainability means to them, and how it applies to our campus community. They provided varying definitions of sustainability, they spoke of the future, and of possible solutions to the environmental issues that plague us today.

Alf Siewers was the first faculty member to speak. The main idea of his talk was that we should not take our environment for granted, and emphasized that idea that we need to try to find meaning in our lives outside of technological communication. For instance, he gave the example of watching the sunset over the Bucknell academic quad. He stated, “When you watch the sunset on the academic quad over the Appalachian Mountains, do you stop and appreciate what you are seeing? Or do you find yourself looking down at your cell phone?”  He repeatedly referred to sustainability as “a story”.

 Professor Kristjanson-Gural spoke next. He spoke from two different perspectives—first social justice and then economic. He demonstrated how social justice and sustainability are interrelated, but separate as well. He noted that it is possible to have a just system that is unsustainable, and a sustainable system that is unjust. He also said a very controversial statement saying that capitalism is intrinsically unsustainable because it creates uneven distribution of wealth. I see his point, but I do not think that I can support ending capitalism.

Finally, Professor Hendy spoke from a management perspective. As she also teaches Business, Government and Society, it came as no surprise that most of her talk could directly tie back into our class discussions. Her message was clear—that it is entirely up to our generation to pave the way for change, to make the world a better place, and to try to save our environment. I absolutely loved when she brought up Patagonia as an example of a company that is truly doing things the right way from a sustainability standpoint. They exemplify social responsibility and are truly paving the way for the future of sustainable clothing.

I am very pleased that I attended this symposium. What I enjoyed the most was hearing each individual professor’s unique perspective on sustainability, and seeing how the issue of sustainability is important across all fields of study. I was disappointed that they did not talk more about what we as Bucknell students can do, and how the issue of sustainability is affecting our campus. I would have liked to hear more on that topic. Overall, I thought it was great. Definitely worth waking up early to go see it!!