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Dow Chemical and the Bhopal Disaster - Case Study Example

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In 1984, a Union Carbide plant in Bhopal India suffered a devastating chemical disaster as a result of an explosion that released toxic methyl isocyanate. In exploring that incident this paper looks at the manner in which Corporate Social Responsibility was exercised in terms of responsibility as well as ethics…
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Download file to see previous pages The term Corporate Social Responsibility was first coined and developed in the latter part of the 1970s by Archie Carroll (1998, p. 2). At that time CSR referred to four areas: economic, legal, ethical as well as philanthropic (Carroll, 1998, p. 3). Going back to the roots of CSR is important in this instance as it provides the context for understanding the climate regarding this area as it applied in 1984. As a recent case (2010) was filed by the government of India against all the parties connected to that incident and associated parties as a result of acquisitions, sell-offs and other business moves during the 28 years since (The Hindu, 2010), the question of CSR with respect to Union Carbide and Dow Chemical takes on meaning. In terms of the latter, Dow Chemical, it became embroiled in this latest suit as a result of it acquiring Union Carbide in 2001, thus necessitating they be named in a suit against its (Dow’s) subsidiary. As shall be explained, Union Carbide did not act ethically in its handling of the Bhopal Incident in 1984 under a CSR environment in its evolutionary stage that nevertheless did clearly point to the areas of acting appropriately in an economic, legal, ethical and philanthropic manner. The reasons for making the above statement are contained in this examination and are briefly explained as Union Carbide electing to avoid taking responsibility through placing blame on a disenfranchised employee (Los Angeles Times, 1986). The fact the company did not have safety or security precautions precluding the alleged worker’s actions represented an ethical (Responsibility in today’s terms) breach it did not acknowledge. Regardless of the circumstances, the company is responsible for operating a secure plant. In addition, Union Carbide, as shall be shown herein, shrugged its legal and ethical implications (termed Corporate and Social today) in its handling of the cash damages. By today’s standards and international acceptance of CSR as a model of proper corporate behavior, assumption of responsibility and its role in society as a good corporate citizen, Union Carbide’s actions in the handling of the Bhopal incident was shameful. As the parent company, Dow Chemical has been caught up in an event that preceded its acquisition of Union Carbide by 17 years. This represented and represents a unique application of CSR that as indicated herein represented a legal as opposed to CSR issue for the parent company. In looking at Dow Chemical with regard to its position, and statements on CSR/Sustainability, an understanding of these terms shall be explored prior to reviewing Dow Chemical’s stance. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) represents internal self-regulation by corporations that are a part of their strategy, operations, and business models to conduct (Matten and Moon, 2005, pp. 327-328). As a concept, the term CSR came into usage in the late 1960s and early 1970s as a result of the growing recognition and use of the term stakeholder as a word as well as a concept (McWilliams and Siegel, 2001, p. 301). The preceding term (stakeholder), referring to people, communities and or organizations the corporation’s activity impacts or has an impact on (McWilliams et al, 2006, p. 3).  ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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