I am my brother’s keeper


Last semester, I took a managing for sustainability course with professor Boyd that was everything I thought it would be: ways to be environmentally friendly, corporate social responsibilities, and the whole nine yards. It was awesome and exactly what I expected from the course. What I didn’t expect, however, was the impact that a small paragraph from a textbook for that course would have on me. On page 102 of Chris Laszlo’s book, “Sustainable Value,” there was little excerpt on a cement and concrete company (probably the last thing you’d expect to be mentioned in a sustainability book, right?) called “Lafarge.” Here I was reading about how socially sensitive companies like GE were and how sustainable Patagonia was, and he comes a concrete company in the midst of them.

Lafarge had acquired land for their new factory and had the delicate task of having to relocate the 72 families that lived nearby the Bangladesh community. This could’ve gone one of two ways: horribly or wonderfully. Fortunately, Lafarge is lead by extremely socially conscious individuals that deeply believe in the responsibility they have towards the well-fare of their employees. This Deontological mindset guided the company’s dutiful actions towards the community by going beyond the basic offer of monetary compensation for the lands as they provided primary level education for the children of the families and continuous healthcare fro all. Furthermore, they partnered with local associations to provide vocational training for the adults (mostly females) that would generate them income and stability in this time of change. The results today are a fully functioning school in the community, where there was none before, that provides free books and stationaries to the children. Government-level primary education is now commonly sought out and more easily achieved as Lafagre continues to invest into the social well-being of the community that it shares a symbiotic relationship with. In their sustainability report, the company’s goals ranged anywhere from doubling the number of female senior managers from 2003 to 2008, to being able to reach 50% of employees holding shares in this  company that they invest so much of their efforts into. The encouraging stories go on and on and will be expounded upon further into the finished paper.

Volunteers make an impact at an international Building project

The reason why this company’s story is so impactful for me is because they took something as bare-bones as cement and made a company that literally cares for the education of the children and parents that aren’t even associated with their company by giving them what I would consider to be the most precious gift: education.In reading the CEO’s statements and analyzing the entirety and scope of the company’s actions, I truly believe that Deontological ethics plays a powerful role in the company’s decision-making processes. Their sense of duty to the families they impact with their presence echoes the essentials of Immanuel Kant as they treat the community as an ends unto themselves. My paper will continue to analyze the the many other socially responsible endeavors of Lafarge; using the World Cat search engine for Bucknell, I found a great source for implementing social responsibility through the lens of Deontology from a book titled “Kantian theory and human rights” by Reidar Maliks and Andreas Føllesdal. So far, it’s a perfect read for the way I want to guide my paper, but I am happy to hear any suggestions or comments otherwise. Additionally, I would like to insert Milton Freidman’s work as a commerce-minded counter balance to the arguments stated for Kantian ethics. All sources have been hyperlinked throughout the text.  Again, I’m all ears!

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3 thoughts on “I am my brother’s keeper

  1. I definitely agree that deontological ethics will be the most powerful direction for your paper. I have zero information about this organization but it might be interesting to investigate the earnings of the top executives to understand what kind of reward they are taking in.

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  2. I think this is a good beginning. I like the focus on an industry less “fringe” and overtly sustainable or moral, but rather more normal. I think perhaps it could be hard to pinpoint an exact argument you are making with this (such as, “Company social responsibility is predicated on the ethics of its leaders, not the industry it happens to be in,” or “Deontological ethics, when applied to any and every industry, will lead to finding ethical duties and responsibility to fulfill” or something). I think that basically it could go in any direction, and therefore runs the risk (as essentially all of our papers probably do) of going in a bunch of directions – too many at times. So, I would recommend reading through the article, which seems good, multiple times and taking a long look at Lafarge and dig deep with them, before you start writing. Have a solid argument based on key points, and support it thoroughly form start to finish. Feel free to modify the argument if you find you mind changed, but if you do, overhaul the paper and commit to this modified argument.

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  3. Great. I love to learn about companies I have not heard of. And why not cement? If sustainability is going to be the answer, it can’t just be about drinking premium coffee while wearing an expensive wool sweater and reading Kant on the iPhone27. It’s got to get into the DNA of market economies. Its got to be sustainability all the way down.

    An interesting question is why Lafarge can compete in this niche. Supposedly, it’s commitment to employee ownership or other choices it makes would make it unable to compete for capital relative to “normal” Friedman concrete companies who are legal and profit maximizing.

    Does their model create more value for some stakeholders? TO whom is Lafarge accountable? Or, is there some reason Friedman Concrete, Inc won’t compete in these markets?

    If you like your Kantian source, go for it. The point is to to dig into one source, not find 30 on Kant (which is easy enough).

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