Case study analysis using the Utilitarian perspective

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Casestudy analysis using the Utilitarian perspective

Ethicaltheories provide frameworks that can be used to decide whethercertain actions are wrong or right. Different theories can lead todifferent conclusions regarding the wrongness or the rightness ofactions (Robertson 1). This implies that the conclusion arrived atdepends on the theory that one decides to use. In this paper, fivecases (including the Nestle and advertising, the parable of theSadhu, the Challenger disaster, one nation under Wal-Mart, and thehousing allowance) case studies will be analyzed using theutilitarian theory.


Utilitarianismis an ethical perspective that was developed by Jeremy Bentham, whowas an English philosopher, to provide the basis of assessing thewrongness or the rightness of human actions. Utilitarianisms considerthe outcome or the results of actions when determining whether thoseactions are ethically wrong or right. The theory takes account of thepossible types of consequences, including bad, good, and indifferentones (Robertson 2). The basic assumption of this theory is that anaction should be considered to be ethically right if it maximizes thehappiness of all individuals who are likely to be affected by theaction either directly or indirectly. Being the Universalistperspective, the theory of utilitarianism takes account of the nethappiness of all people, including the person who is taking theaction or making the decision. Therefore, the theory holds that thenegative outcomes of the action should be deducted when assessing therightness or the wrongness of different actions.

Thetheory of utilitarianism does not consider the nature of differentactions, but it focuses on their possible consequences and the impactthey will have on all parties concerned. This implies that theethical rightness or the wrongness of action is not based on whethercertain actions are allowed by the society (Robertson 2). An actionmay be right and wrong in different situations depending on theoutcomes that it will produce in different circumstances. Whencomparing two possible actions, the decision maker is expected to onethat will maximize the net happiness of all concerned parties, whichis achieved by subtracting all negative results from all positiveresults of a given action.

Casestudy 1: Nestle and advertising

Thecase of Nestle advertising focuses on the issue of failure of theNestle Corporation to comply with ethical standards when designingits advertising campaign for baby products. The unethical aspect ofthe advertising campaign has been attributed to the failure of theNestle Corporation to provide unbiased information to the targetpopulation. From the case study, there are three major pieces ofinformation that the Nestle Corporation failed to disclose to women,especially those in the developing world. First, bottle feedingincreases the risk death of children because of the high chances offeeding them with unclean battles and unhygienic food. This has beenassociated with the death of about 1.5 million children each year.Secondly, Nestle failed to inform women that breastfeeding should beexclusive, for the first six months of birth, which implies thatthere is no need to use feeding bottles. Lastly, breastfeeding isbetter than bottle feeding since it protects women from breast aswell as cervical cancer.

Fromthe case study, it is evident that the Nestle Corporation failed todisclose part of the crucial information in order to maximize itssales, which would in turn be expected to increase the happiness ofthe shareholders. However, the decision not inform the targetedconsumers about the negative effects of battle feeding as compared tobreast feeding reduces the well-being and the happiness of millionsof infants who became 25 times more likely to die and millions ofwomen who were subjected to the risk of suffering from cervical andbreast cancer. Therefore, the net happiness resulting from theoutcome of the advertisement campaign was less than the happinessthat infants and women would have experienced in the absence of theadvertising. To this end, the advertising was unethical.

Casestudy 2: The parable of the Sadhu

Thecase study “The parable of the Sadhu” provides a discussion ofcorporate versus individual ethical practices. Bowen McCoy uses theexample of the way that a group of people climbing Himalayas treatedthe sickly pilgrim whom they found along the way. From the casestudy, McCoy and the group of Japanese try to judge whether theyconducted themselves in ethical ways. Each of the group feels that itdid the best that it could without causing inconvenience to itsmountain climbing mission. For example, McCoy held that the NewZealand mountain climbers carried the pilgrim to below the snowlineMcCoy suggested that the group treat the pilgrim for hypothermia theSwiss climbers provided the naked pilgrim with clothing the Japaneseoffered him food and water while the sherpas carried him to the sunand pointed to him the trail that could lead to the hut.

Fromthe case study, each of the groups made a contribution towardsenhancing the well-being and the happiness of the pilgrim, which waspart of the process of complying with ethical standards. It isevident that the actions of each of the groups increase the happinessof the pilgrim to a smaller extent and maximized their happiness byensuring that their contribution towards helping the pilgrim couldnot interfere with their mountain climbing mission. The rightness orthe wrongness actions of the groups can be assessed by assessingwhich the two options, helping the pilgrim till he recovers orproceeding with the mountain climbing mission, could lead to themaximum net happiness of the parties concerned. Leaving the pilgrimunattended could result in his death and minimize the happiness ofthe pilgrim as well as the groups since they could live with theguilt. On the other hand, helping the pilgrim by foregoing themission could save his life and maximize the happiness of allparties. Under the utilitarian theory, it would be more ethical toforego the mission and save the life of the pilgrim since it couldresult in maximum net happiness and minimum harm.

Casestudy 3: More questions and alternative scenarios for the Challengerdisaster

Thiscase study provides a discussion of a disaster that involved thecrashing of the shuttle known as the Challenger. The space shuttlewas lunched and crashed in 1986, killing all the seven astronauts.The main point of argument is that the management of NASA had beeninformed that the O-ring could encounter problems in case the shuttlewas launched during a cold weather season. However, the managementignored the opinion of the team of engineers, including RogerBosjoly. Consequently, engineers who disputed the decision of themanagement experienced some conflicts that subjected them to the riskof termination.

Theethical analysis of this case focuses on the possible causes ofaction that Biosjoly could have taken and the possible outcomes.First, it can be concluded that acted ethically by taking an actionthat minimized their own happiness and that of the management in aneffort to maximize the happiness of the seven astronauts who were atthe risk of dying. Secondly, the case where Biosjoly had to publishthe matter with a TV station requires the consideration of thebalance between the anticipated happiness of the astronauts and thecompany’s reputation. Under the utilitarian theory, it would beconsidered ethical if Biosjoly reports the matter to the TV station,but only after NASA rejects the opinion of the engineers. This isbecause whistleblowers have the moral obligation of saving the livesof others, which would surpass the reputation of the company. Third,the moral obligation of Biosjoly to publish the matter with the TVstation would not depend on circumstances, if the theory ofutilitarian theory is to be considered. Biosjoly would only considerthe outcome of the decision, which includes the damage to the imageof NASA well as the risk of losing the job and the possibility ofsaving the lives of seven astronauts. Fourth, a case where themission is cancelled after Biosjoly reports the matter to the TVstation, leading to the loss of millions of dollars and thousands ofjobs on the part of Thiokol, a utilitarian would determine the nethappiness of a decision to report the issue. It would be morebeneficial to report the matter and save the lives of sevenastronauts since their lives cannot be recovered once they are lost.Employees who lose the job following Biosjoly’s decision can findjobs elsewhere, while Thiokol can venture in a different line ofbusiness or find another space company to buy its products.

Casestudy 4: One nation under Wal-Mart

Thiscase study addresses the issue of aggressive and exponential growthof Wal-Mart, the world’s largest network of retail stores. Theauthor of the case study holds that was established of a singleWal-Mart store is associated with the closure of at least two localstores. In addition, Wal-Mart is associated with poor laborpractices, where it pays its employees about 20 % lower compared tosupermarkets that are unionized. Moreover, Wal-Mart employees lackhealth insurance coverage. It has also been reported that Wal-Martemployees are still poor, which cost the government about $ 42,000 inhousing assistance, $ 108,000 for children`s health care, and $125,000 tax credits. Additionally, Wal-Mart insists to be given taxbreaks when it opens in new regions, which reduce government revenue.The primary question is whether the rapid growth of Wal-Mart portraysit as an ethical or unethical corporation.

Theethical analysis of Wal-Mart practices presents a delicate situationwhere one has to balance between the positive and negative outcomesin order to determine the net happiness. From the positive side,Wal-Mart maximizes the happiness of consumers by helping them accesscheap products. It also creates jobs for thousands of the U.S.citizens. In addition, its growth increases the wealth of theshareholders, which is the primary purpose for which it was founded.On the negative side, the establishment of Wal-Mart results in theclosure of local stores, which leads to the loss of jobs and thesource of income for emerging entrepreneurs. Moreover, the poor laborpractices (such as poor pay) reduce the capacity of Wal-Mart tomaximize the happiness of its employees. Moreover, the fact thatWal-Mart reduces government revenues minimizes the happiness of othertaxpayers and citizens who expected the government to deliverservices to them using tax revenues. From this analysis, the progressof Wal-Mart reduces the happiness of local investors, the government,suppliers, local manufacturers, the members of the public, andemployees. The progress maximizes the happiness of the shareholders,a few employees who are satisfied with the jobs offered by Wal-Martand customers who access cheap products. Therefore, the progress ofWal-Mart has no net happiness, which means that it is unethical.

Casestudy 5: The housing allowance

Thiscase study addresses the issues of lying and leading an expensivelife to safeguard the image of the company. Wilson Mutambara, aRambian employee of NewCom is expected to live in a house rented atabout $ 2,000 per month. By living in such a house, Mutambara wouldbe obeying the company’s policy that seeks to provide enable itsemployees access houses located in safe places and that reflect theimage of the company. On the other hand, Mutambara feels that he hasthe responsibility to save as much money as he can in order tosupport his relatives in educating their children. This has forcedMutambara to live in a house that barely goes for $ 300 per month,while still receiving the house allowance of $ 2,000.

Fromthis case study, Mutambara is expected to weight between thehappiness of his relatives and the image of the company before takingeither of the possible decisions. Under the utilitarian theory, thefact that Mutambara cheating the company to continue receiving $2,000 per month for house rent would not count. One would considerthe consequences of deciding to live in an expensive house or livingin a cheap house. By deciding to live in an expensive house,Mutambara would have protected the image of the company, which iscritical to its performance and growth. A decision to live in a cheaphouse has maximized the happiness of his relatives, while hurting theimage of the company. By weighing the two consequences, it would bemore ethical to protect the image of the company by living in a housethat reflects a good image of the company that provided him with ajob. Mutambara should be advised to lead a life that upholds the lifeof his employer company and look for alternative ways of helping hisrelatives. This is because damaging the image of the company mightresult in its failure in the long run, which might leave him withouta job and the means of support himself and the family members.


Thetheory of utilitarian judges the wrongness or the rightness ofactions and decisions depending on their consequences. In the case ofNestle, it was unethical to adverse baby products that increase therisk of death of millions of children. In the case of Sadhu, themountain climbers acted unethically by failing to save the life ofthe pilgrim since their decision increased the risk of his death andfor them living with the guilt. In addition, the growth of theWal-Mart leads reduces the happiness of more stakeholders than thenumber of stakeholders who are made happy by its exponential growth.Moreover, Mutambara, the employee of NewCom acted unethically bytaking a decision that could damage the image of his employer’scompany and reduce its long-term performance.


McCoy,H. Afterencountering a dying pilgrim on a climbing trip in the Himalayas, abusinessman ponders the differences between individual and corporateethics.Watertown, MA: Harvard Business Review, 1997. Print.

Ragg,C. Nestleand advertising: An ethical analysis.n.d. Print.

Robertson,M. and Walter, G. “A critical reflection on utilitarianism as thebasis for psychiatric ethics”. Journalof Ethics in Mental Health,2 (1), 1-4.