Facing an Ethical Dilemma

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Decision making is a common thing in life but upon facing an ethical dilemma we often find it difficult. However, we need to have a decision- making (DM) model that can act as a guideline in choosing a course of action and ultimately arriving at a solution. Having a dependable DM model is essential in acquiring a solution that helps us stick to our values and principles in regard to how we handle situations. The case that I have chosen to work on in this paper from the book Beyond Integrity is Case 6.3: Starbucks and Fair Coffee on pages 260-261. I will use my model to resolve the case and compare it with Dr. Buccis model in assessing the effectiveness of my model.

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Classical decision-making

A number of classical decision“making model entail the outcome of an action justifying the means, however, the virtue theory is of the view that morality of a decision surpasses the duty to do what is right (Rae & Wong, 2012). In this case, virtues are paramount in defining ones course of action that is coined in the ethics of character. In regard to case 6.3 that have chosen to work on, I will analyze it thoroughly and resolve it based on my model. In Case 6.3: Starbucks and Fair Trade Coffee, the overlying issue is the sale of Fair Trade Coffee in enhancing social responsibility. Given that Starbucks is a leading company and believed to be socially responsible it attracts demands to include fair trade coffee in its sales.

From a social responsibility point of view, the calls to promote free trade coffee makes a lot of sense in promoting fair prices for suppliers and growers of coffee in poor countries. Also, the call for free trade coffee is hinged on the fact that it enhances sustainable and environment-friendly farming practices. However, the implementation of the call for free trade coffee presents a set of new challenges. Going on with the move may force customers to pay more for the free trade coffee by the retailers passing on the costs of the free trade coffee to the customers. If a retailer chooses to absorb the high costs that could otherwise lead to high prices, such a move will reduce the retailers profits.

The stakeholders likely to be affected by the issue at hand are customers, suppliers and growers of coffee in Latin America, and the general public. For instance, if less free trade coffee is sold, poor farmers will continue to suffer in terms of low pays, however, if the call is implemented, the customers will have to pay higher prices against their readiness and willingness. The issue came about by the activist organizations mounting pressure on Starbucks to sell Fair Trade Coffee, following fair trade initiative of promoting fair prices for coffee growers and suppliers from poor countries. In this case, farmers, especially from poor countries, have a right to fair prices, but sustaining those prices is equally a challenge. Moving on with a Free Trade Coffee presents a financial challenge, where Starbucks may have to compromise its financial status through reduced profits. Altogether, striking a balance in implementing the call for Free Trade Coffee presents an ethical dilemma that may prove somehow difficult to arrive at a solution.

In resolving the above ethical dilemma, my moral reasoning will be based on the virtue theory in regard to my actions being defined by my virtues (Rae & Wong, 2012). Using the emotivism model I may advise Starbucks to have a considerable increase in the sale of Free Trade Coffee because my emotions towards Starbucks exploiting poor farmers would inform my morality decision. In my conviction, I think what I feel for the poor farmers is justifiable, even if in reality it may not be fully feasible. From a virtue model point of view, I may interrogate my feelings further and see the wise thing to do in resolving the ethical dilemma. I think the wise thing, in this case, is to consider outcomes of both choices and my responsibility in making a wise decision. By virtue of justice may tell me to champion for an increment of Free Trade Coffee to enhance fair prices for the poor coffee farmers, whereas, on the other hand, the virtue of justice may restrain me from advocating for more Free Trade Coffee because customers will be charged highly. It is important to understand it is always not possible to make a decision that may please everyone but is important to make one that promotes ones virtues (Beach & Connely, 2005).

In this regard, I will advise Starbuck to increase the sale of Free Trade Coffee in order to enhance fair prices for the poor coffee farmers, although this may call for a small sacrifice on the part of their profits and look a little bit unjust to the customers in terms of higher prices. Dr. Buccis Model for Ethical Decision-Making (ETHIC2) The ETHIC2 model by Dr. Bucci will give me a wider perspective of the situation and possible ways of resolving it. The underpinnings of my ethical point of view are fair prices for the poor farmers and also what can be perceived as just profits for Starbucks to guarantee the increased sale of Free Trade Coffee. I believe God created us equally, and in fairness, we must not treat others unfairly in a manner seemingly exploitative, with the business supposed to reveal the glory of God by doing what is right. In the book of Colossians 3: 17, the Bible says, And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. The scripture forms the foundation of my theology of business, in which business should do everything that praises God, and being fair and just, in this case, is a way of proclaiming the glory of the Lord.

The principles upon which I will make choices are consideration of impact, nonmaleficence, and fairness. The standards of behavior that will guide my on-going decisions are respect of opposite opinions, and exercising compromise when necessary. In prioritizing my values, I will start with unselfishness, integrity and followed by balance. Unselfishness, in this case, entails being considerate of others needs, integrity involves doing what is just and fair, and balance on their end is enhancing equality of involved parties. The order is developed by analyzing the situation at hand in light of the principles I have chosen to guide me in making a choice. The issue at hand is: Is it ethical to expand the sale of Free Trade Coffee at the expense of increased prices for customers and reduced profits for Starbucks? The consideration of outcomes will be critical in resolving the issue.

The possible consequences of emphasizing the increase in Free Trade Coffee to enhance fairness for the poor farmers will come at a disadvantage of the customers as well as Starbucks. My value of fairness will stand out in the laid out consequences by ensuring that it does not harm others. I advocate for balance as I try to push for fairness in that the action of seeking fairness for the poor fairness may result in unfair pricing for the customers. It is important to analyze different solutions and has an understanding of the resultant outcomes and their consequences (Rae & Wong, 2012). In this case, I will advise Starbucks to increase the Free Trade Coffee sales to a considerable point that balances the interests of the poor farmers, the customers, and Starbucks. The company should not be overwhelmed by the push to increase the sale of Free Trade Coffee to a point of it losing its competitive advantage and ultimately losing profits, but it should strike a balance on how it pursues its decision for fairness to all involved parties.

Conclusively, my model was helpful in analyzing the issue in the case and laying out the related facts such as the stakeholders affected. However, I realized that my model was inadequate in helping me think deeply compared to Dr. Buccis model. I think my values were aligned with guiding my decision. However, I realized I did not clearly defend my values in my model compared to how I did when using Dr. Buccis model.


  1. Beach, L. & Connolly, T. (2005). Psychology of Decision Making: People in Organizations, 2nd Edition. NY: SAGE Publications, Inc.
  2. Rae, Scott B. and Wong, Kenman L. (2012). Beyond Integrity, 3rd edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
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Facing An Ethical Dilemma. (2019, May 08). Retrieved January 27, 2023 , from

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