Hb Fuller in Honduras Term Paper

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HB Fuller


H.B. Fuller in Honduras

Fuller is a leading specialty chemical manufacturer that employs approximately 3,700 people in 31 countries. It mainly manufactures its adhesive, sealant, paint and other specialty chemical products reach customers in nearly 100 nations. In the first quarter of 2007 H.B. Fuller reorganized its operational structure to strengthen local execution of global business strategies. The company now operates under four geographic regions -- North America, Latin America, Europe, and Asia Pacific. Now in its website there is a section that reads "Global Reach. Local Impact." The section goes on to say that the company is a leader in supporting the communities in which we do business and that they "we strive to identify needs, commit resources, and serve as a catalyst for positive change" (H.B. Fuller, 2007). However in the 1990's, H.B. Fuller had gained a nefarious reputation in many Latin American countries for producing products, one in particular: Resistol, has particularly addictive and destructive qualities for the children of these countries.

Resistol is a very common glue for shoes and is made with toluene. Toluene is the component of the glue that create an addictive high that many children across a wide range of strata have come to crave (Vasquez, ****). In fact, the common name for those addicted to the product is Resistoleros.

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Toluene has a peculiar effect on humans; it goes straight to the frontal lobes, the "switchboard" of the brain, and to the areas that control emotions. There, it can turn off the brain's connection to reality, neutralizing stress, pain, fear, and memory. In a word, it's the perfect drug for street kids. (Bauerlein, 1993)

Many solvents and glues certainly have addictive qualities, but the manufacturer does not have to disclose that on the Material Safety Data sheets (MSDS) or use that information as a declaimer. Furthermore, the Material Safety Data Sheet for Toluene clearly states the following:

Term Paper on Hb Fuller in Honduras Assignment

Chronic Potential Health Effects: Inhalation and Ingestion: Prolonged or repeated exposure via inhalation may cause central nervous system and cardiovascular symptoms similar to that of acute inhalation and ingestion as well liver damage/failure, kidney damage/failure (with hematuria, proteinuria, oliguria, renal tubular acidosis), brain damage, weight loss, blood (pigmentedor nucleated red blood cells, changes in white blood cell count), bone marrow changes, electrolyte imbalances (Hypokalemia, Hypophostatemia), severe, muscle weakness and Rhabdomyolysis.Skin: Repeated or prolonged skin contact may cause defatting dermatitis. (Material Safety, 2007)

Shouldn't these be ample warning? Or does the company have a greater responsibility in the use or more specifically, the misuse of its product. Taking this from a purely business standpoint, H.B. Fuller did not need to make any changes or adjustments to its product in light of the addictive quality and apparent misuse by children. It clearly stated the warnings on the MSDS and these warnings are also abbreviated on the glue bottles in very small print. That was all that was required by law and all the H.B. Fuller needed to comply with. Furthermore, while in the purest sense H.B. Fuller was certainly not responsible for the initial misuse and addiction of Resistol by the Children oh Honduras and other countries. In a sense that would be like saying that the owners of an automobile manufacturing company are responsible for the fatalities in highway deaths. There is no direct causal connection, although both scenarios produce death and injury, the are not directly related to the misuse of a product that is intended for other purposes. The intention the manufacturer had in producing the product is completely different than the potential misuse of the product.

There is also some merit to the rationale that the impoverished economic condition and poor social conditions of the country are certainly a causation factor in many similar situations of abuse and harm. The poorer the people the more their drive for survival may make them thieves for a loaf of bread or more. In order to live under such condition abuses of over the counter drugs and alcohol may certainly arise, and neither of those is being banned anytime soon and their causal connections are more readily documented. So yes, in the purest sense social conditions may be more responsible than the manufacturer of Resistol for the problem than Resistol itself alone.

However, as time goes on and more and evidence mounts as to the danger of the use of Resistol by children, another moral imperative comes to mind. Whether it was your intention or not, the use and abuse have now been documented. If companies produced a product that years down the road was realized as a threat to the environment, the product would eventually be banned or put into limited in use, such as DDT and other similar carcinogenic chemicals. But in this case what William McDonough termed a "monstrous hybrid" (McDonough,******) came to rear its ugly head. This hybrid is a combination of two syndromes, that of the guardian (the government) and that of commerce (the corporation). The two should always be kept separate and distinct in order counterbalance each other, but when they mix and blend their responsibilities, legislation is undone that might prevent distribution of a potential hazardous product. Such is the case here with H.B. Fuller:

In response to the urging of Honduran social workers, the legislature of Honduras in March 1989 passed Decree 36-89 which banned importing or manufacturing solvent-based adhesives that did not contain mustard-seed oil. However, the general manager and other executives from the local H.B. Fuller subsidiary lobbied the government to have the law revoked. "Possibly," observers noted, "because it might reduce the glue's effectiveness, possibly because the smell would be irritating to legitimate users." competitor, Testors, did choose to add mustard seed oil to the glue, which gave it a much less attractive quality to those who would sniff it. Furthermore:

Testors reported that the use of mustard-seed oil had virtually eliminated abuse of its glues and that it had never had reports of any kind of injury deriving from the addition of the oil from users nor from employees in its plants. (Vasquez, ******)

In 1999, when H.B. Fuller finally did respond to the issue they chose to blame their Gautemalan subsidiary for the problem with the glue in an attempt to distance themselves from the issue. They claimed that they were not directly responsible for harming or killing anyone. The inference being that their subsidiary was responsible for it. Anyone who knows about corporations will tell you that there is always responsibility between any two such entities. What one does the other certainly knows about and either approves or disproves of. While there is a certain amount of protection under the law, the moral and ethical cannons certainly should come into play.

While they may want to blame their subsidiary for any potential problems, which is OK, they still have to take a certain amount or responsibility for accepting their profits from such ventures.

Well, they did try to address the issue as a moral and ethical company doing business in another country:

They urged that instead of requiring additives, the government should attempt to control distribution of the glue by prohibiting its sale to children, and should educate street kids on the dangers of inhaling it. In November 1989, a Hoduran government commission recommended that the new law be scrapped and that the government should concentrate on controlling distribution of the glue and providing education on the dangers of inhaling glue. (Vasquez, ****)

Another case in which the monster hybrid rears its head.

Morally speaking, H.B. Fuller is certainly guilty of the Voltaire Fallacy (Simon, ****), trying to use an unreasonable point of comparison in order to make a point. By deflecting the issue bask to the government, a poor government that certainly needs their business, it has given itself a safe harbor in which to work at the expense of the children of the country. They even go so far as to say that by supplying the shoe glue they are keeping all the little shoe shopkeepers in business and boosting the economy of the country. So here is a poor country with great shoes and hundreds of children developing a plethora of neurological disorders. Makes perfect sense.

The most unfortunate thing is that in order for the company to take action it had to be an issue of bad publicity and not the safety of children. By visibly helping the government with information handouts, H.B. fuller had hit on a PR bonanza.

Not only had the company averted what started to look like an avalanche of negative stories (Inside Edition and the Wall Street Journal both followed up on the Dateline segment, prompted in turn by a story in the Progressive) -- it actually improved its public image through the glue story. (Bauerlein, 1993)

Finally in 1995 the company changed the chemical mixture of the glue substituting cyclohexane for toluene, probably because toluene was becoming more restrictive ecologically. They also raised their prices so that children… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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