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Business Ethics Assignment: Exploitation Of Labour In Woolworths’ Supply Chain


Task: Select an incident from your own business/work experience when you faced an ethical dilemma in which you were personally involved, and analyse/discuss it using the ethical frameworks you have learned in class. Please adhere to the following instructions while preparing this business ethics assignment:

Specific Expectations:
• You should choose an experience in which you were personally involved and reflect on your own behaviour rather than the behaviour of others, such as supervisors, co-workers or third parties. If you select an episode in which the behaviour of others is at the centre of the analysis, please explain why you selected it or discuss it with us first.
• Ensure that you select a true ethical dilemma—that is, a situation in which your goals, external expectations, or personal values were conflicting.
• While you will of course need to describe the incident, please keep the description of the event brief and focus your writing on the analysis of the incident. In your analysis, take a step back from your actions or thinking at the time and analyse the event using the different moral frameworks that you learned in class and in the readings. What actions might each of these different frameworks recommend in the situation? How do these correspond to what you actually did? What framework does your decision or action most closely reflect? Would you do the same thing again, or what would you change

General Requirements:
• Develop a logical flow and support your arguments/claims/themes with adequate evidence.
• Integrate relevant course materials to support your thoughts and analysis.


The chosen incident for this report on business ethics assignment related to an ethical dilemma based on my personal experience is “exploitation of labour in Woolworths’ supply chain”. The main objective of this report is to analyse the framework of an ethical dilemma that I have learned in class. In addition to that, the mentioned ethical dilemma in this report will explain the conflicts of personal values, goals, and external expectations. Overall, there will be a description of all the potential recommendations of actions that can be suggested by the different ethical frameworks learned in the class. Lastly, there will be certain scenarios where the behaviour of otherswill be at the centre of analysis along with my self-behaviour.

Analysis of the chosen workplace incident related to a personal ethical dilemma
An inquiry was launched against Woolworths based on the charges of underpaying their supply chain labours (Hatch, 2019). Woolworths is one of the most renowned global retailers based in Australia and thus by working with Woolworths, I have been able to gain valuable experience. However, I faced a tremendous ethical dilemma during the meeting with contractors of the supply chain who decided to pay the labours less. The contractors of Woolworths’ supply chain had the motive of maximizing profitability even if it is based on unethical means (Butler, 2019). As a member of the supply chain team of Woolworths, I was in the centre of such unethical practices that contradicted the labour laws of Australia. Therefore, I have chosen this incident related to my experience because it created an ethical dilemma in terms of my decision-making.

Analysis of the ethical frameworks
While I was working as a member of Woolworths’ supply chain, the head of the contractor decided to underpay the supply chain labours and this immediately created an unstable work environment as some of the supply chain employees including me faced an ethical dilemma in terms of decision-making based on whether to continue with the job. In Australia, there are legal requirements that need to be followed as a part of labour payment to which the contractor of Woolworths’ supply chain failed (Heddle & Skinner, 2018). Therefore, it was mandatory for Woolworths being such a renowned and reputed organization to indulge in consideration of the ethical frameworks associated with business ethics. The following frameworks can be effectively related to the incident that has been experienced by me in terms of Woolworths' supply chain contractors underpaying the labours by not complying with the legal statutory standards of labour rights in Australia.

The process of rationalization: Rationalization refers to the process based on which business organizations can achieve efficiency and deliver ethical business performances (Henricks, 2016). The processof rationalization as a framework would have allowed the contractor of Woolworths to find out ethical ways of reducing costs rather than indulging in unethical means of exploiting labours. This ethical framework could have also solved my ethical dilemma regarding the decision to support the contractors of Woolworths, which was massively influenced by earning a reputation by working for Woolworths even if some of their business practices are unethical. Over the years, it has been observed thatprocess rationalization tends to encompass all the activities in a business process that are undertaken to increase productivity and production. In the context of Woolworths’ exploitation of labours, the ethical framework of rationalization could have significantly helped the contractor of Woolworths’ supply chain and me in terms of making ethical decisions that would not have exploited labours by underpaying them.

Kant’s moral philosophy: According to Immanuel Kant, the most basic aim of moral philosophy is to seek out the foundation principle of “metaphysics of morals” (Anscombe, 2015). In the context of Woolworths’ employees exploiting labours, the framework of Kant’s moral philosophy would have suggested actions based on moral grounds.In addition to that, the duty-based ethics of Kant states that there are certain things that should be never done regardless of the good consequences they produce. Therefore, despite the approach of underpaying labour being profitable, it was beyond the moral principles of humanitarian grounds. According to the ethics of Kant, unethical practices cannot be justified by showing good consequences. Therefore, it has been a breach of moral and ethical principles on behalf of Woolworths as its supply chain contractors have exploited the labours by underpaying them. On the other, my ethical dilemma regarding the decision to continue working at Woolworths' supply chain despite knowing the plan of labour exploitation will be a breach of moral principles. The framework of Kant's moral philosophy could have helped me and the supply chain contractor of Woolworths to emphasize valuing every human being. The duty-based ethical systems as a part of Kant’s moral framework make it mandatory for all human beings to be treated equally under the law regardless of self-beneficial motives. In addition, the consequentialist ethical theory under Kant’s moral philosophy suggests a presence of uncertainty about the consequences that can be achieved, so it would have been wise on my part to not participate in the unethical practice of exploiting labour by underpaying them. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR): The framework of corporate social responsibility refers to the policies and practices that are undertaken by business enterprises to earn a positive reputation along with creating a positive impact on the overall business process (Newman et al., 2020). The key idea behind the implementation of CSR is based on pursuing pro-social objectives that can also lead to sustainable profits. In the context of Woolworths’ supply chain contractor exploiting the labours, the ethical framework of CSR would have potentially stopped the contractors from underpaying the labours as a part of Woolworths CSR activities. In addition to that, the framework of corporate social responsibility would have helped the cause of Woolworths it rems of maintaining its reputation as an employee-centric company, which has suffered a massive blow after the alleged charges of labour exploitation. On the other hand, the CSR framework would have helped in overcoming my ethical dilemma associated with decision-making. I could have massively benefitted from my compliance with the framework of corporate social responsibility as in the context of modern-day business practices, people feel attached to those companies that significantly participate in CSR activities. It is also a well-known fact that exploitation of anyone isbeyond the moral and ethical principles of humanity. Therefore, I could have studied the CSR of Woolworths and effectively stop participation with the contractors.

The utilitarian framework: This framework focuses on the achievement of the greatest good for the larger number of people while aiming towards making less harm or preventing a greater amount of harm to the people (Marseille & Kahn, 2019). In concern to this framework, the company would have to consider other marketing objectives in order to gain profitability. In the context of Woolworths’ supply chain contractors, this framework would have stopped them from exploiting the workers as underpayment was causing harm to the labours.This framework is one of the most persuasive approaches of ethical framework, which prioritizes the production of better outcomes, with the right action that has to be followed. Thus, the contractors based on this ethical framework could have thought about providing greater benefits to the labours rather than exploiting them. In addition to that, Woolworths could have also clarified the company’s approach in terms of maintaining employee pay standards as per the laws and does not indulge in any unethical means. On the other hand, the utilitarian framework would have helped meto consider achieving greater experience by indulging in ethical practices. I could have taken a better decision based on this framework by reporting the planning of such exploitation practices. Overall, my entire decision-making ability could have benefitted based on the implementation of this framework of an ethical dilemma.

In the end, it can be concluded that every business organization must indulge in practicing ethical and moral principles in terms of their business activities. In the mentioned incident of Woolworth’s exploiting labours based on underpayment, I faced conflict in terms of decision-making where I along with some other members of Woolworths’ supply chain team tried to oppose the contractor’s decision of underpaying the labours but was not successful due to the sheer pressure and power of the authority. Therefore, the main dilemma was related to making a decision whether to continue with our jobs or not as leaving Woolworths might have hampered my prospect of gaining relevant experience from a reputed organization. However, after analysing the framework of an ethical dilemma that I have learned in the class, it is clear that moral and ethical principles should be the first priority regardless of the consequences. ?

Anscombe, E. (2015). Kantian Ethics. Butler, B. (2019, October 30). Woolworths underpaid thousands of workers by up to $300m. The Guardian.
Hatch, P. (2019, February 13). Woolworths gives growers tighter rules after exploitation scandals. Business ethics assignment The Sydney Morning Herald; The Sydney Morning Herald.
Heddle, M.-B., & Skinner, M. (2018, December 13). Employment & labour law in Australia. Lexology. Henricks, T. S. (2016). Reason and Rationalization A Theory of Modern Play. American Journal of Play, 8(3).
Marseille, E., & Kahn, J. G. (2019). Utilitarianism and the ethical foundations of cost-effectiveness analysis in resource allocation for global health. Philosophy, Ethics, and Humanities in Medicine, 14(1).
Newman, C., Rand, J., Tarp, F., & Trifkovic, N. (2020). Corporate Social Responsibility in a Competitive Business Environment. The Journal of Development Studies, 56(8), 1–18.


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