Since the late 1960's, laws reducing pollution and improving quality standards to protect public health have been established. Even though we know more about reducing and controlling hazardous waste today than we did in the past, America still produces 700,000 tons of hazardous waste every day. Much of the waste material comes from manufacturers. Certain hazardous material wastes are more harmful than others. Today, we have laws and regulations to control hazardous waste production and disposal. Environmental management remains the single most expensive area of government's regulation of the business community.
Over the next decade, industry will spend several hundred billions of dollars on pollution control. According to the opinion of the research organization, Yankelovich, Skelly and White, the control of toxic and hazardous chemicals "ranks first" on the public's list of where the government's regulation of industry is needed. In our environmental/ethical exercise, we are presented with the same basic issue as mentioned above. The Vice President (VP) of Production is asking the company's environmental consultant for advice on how to dump various toxic production wastes into a holding pond on the company's property.
The Assistant to the VP overhears their conversation and is faced with an ethical dilemma on how to handle this information. An overview from the perspective of the VP's Assistant indicating responsible corporate ethics is provided below, as well as the number of breaches associated with this decision, the possible legal ramifications and the courses of action to take regarding the ethical dilemma if the mishandling of hazardous waste is acted upon. Breaches of Ethics by the Parties
An ethic is a collection of morals that govern the way we act as individuals and a society. An environmental ethic determines the way one acts, or believes they should act and interact with the living and non-living things around them. There are five main breaches of ethics which were identified in review of this exercise. 1. The decision to dump various toxic production wastes into a holding pond on the company's property is unethical because of the threats from toxic substances to human and animal welfare and is an example of corporate irresponsibility.
Anyone or anything that comes into contact with this toxic waste may be unaware of the potential dangers it presents. 2. It is unethical behavior for the VP to even consider asking for advice on dumping toxic production wastes because the company has an obligation to conduct its daily business activities with the highest degree of integrity. Even contemplating this action draws into question the company's lack of business integrity, corporate responsibility and poor judgment in decision-making. 3.
The decision is also unethical because it could result in unnecessary human suffering, environmental damage, and premature death to living animals and vegetation. 4. The decision is a clear breach of ethics towards the shareholders of this company. The VP is considering a decision on behalf of the company, its shareholders, and employees that will affect future company earnings and community goodwill. The company itself would be liable for any future litigation. 5. In providing illegal advice to the company, the environmental consultant will exhibit a breach in ethics.
The environmental consultant is employed by the company to provide advice and guidance to the management team regarding the proper use and disposal of wastes, not to give advice on how to dump harmful wastes into the holding pond. Legal Ramifications – Civil and Criminal In 1976, Congress enacted the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to meet the special environmental problems posed by the use of toxic chemicals (http//www. epa. gov). The primary purpose of the TSCA is to force an early evaluation of suspect chemicals before they become economically important.
The EPA collects information under TCSA sections that require manufacturers and distributors to report to the EPA any information they possess that indicates a chemical substance presents a substantial risk of injury to health or to the environment. Therefore, if we choose to dump toxic chemicals into the company's holding pond, rather than take steps to prevent this contamination, we are taking the risk of exposing company employees to toxic waste, as well as intentionally violating the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) requirements.
This could result in employees of the company being subject to civil and criminal fines and imprisonment. Congress amended the Solid Waste Disposal Act by drafting the Resource Conversation and Recovery Act (RCRA) also in 1976. This act was an effort to ensure companies properly handled and disposed of hazardous and toxic waste using strict guidelines. Under the RCRA, companies that generated hazardous types of wastes have two primary obligations (Reed, Shedd, Moorehead and Corley 2002):
Determine whether its waste would qualify as hazardous under RCRA To see that such wastes are properly transported to a disposal facility that has an EPA permit or license for proper disposal. This law also gives the EPA investigator rights to enforce record keeping requirements and assess penalties for failure to comply with its strict provisions. Penalties include criminal fines and imprisonment. Between the years of 1983 and 1990, criminal charges were levied against 253 individuals and corporations under the RCRA.