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business, campbell's, corporation, danger, ethics, health, Indiana, indianapolis, lung, responsibility, sensient, social, starbucks, workers

The Best of Corporations…the Worst of Corporations

Not often do I find companies who are really doing things right.  I have a great disdain for most large corporations.  However, every so often I find something that makes me believe that there are really some good people at the top of some corporations.  Today I saw an article like this.  
The good news came on the heels of an article that reaffirmed how horrible some companies are.  On August 18th, the Indianapolis Star newspaper did a reporton the conditions at a local flavor manufacturing company.  The highlights of the report include workers being exposed to 400 times the recognized safe level of diacetyl, a chemical that is known to cause a life threatening lung condition.  Employees were also found to be exposed to 10 times the permissible limit of hydrogen sulfide, another chemical that can cause death.  The company was informed three years ago that its employees had abnormally high levels of lung function decline and one-third of the employees had abnormally restrictive lung function.  Instead of focusing on fixing the problems when they were informed, the company, Sensient, decided to fight back.  According to the article:
Sensient has filed at least three lawsuits against state and federal health and safety agencies to prevent them from inspecting conditions at the facility. When inspectors have gained access, the company altered its production schedule, withheld information about the chemicals it uses and intimidated its employees, according to sworn statements of IOSHA officials filed in the courts and their reports of what workers told them.
Obviously, this is an ongoing case.  I hope that, if the allegations and information are true, the company is forced to pay millions to the employees for putting them in harm’s way to make a buck.  This is the very attitude that makes people like myself detest the corporate world.  
The silver lining is in the response to the allegations.  Two huge corporations have come out to condemn Sensient (with the qualification that the allegations are true).  Starbucks and Campbell’s have both threatened to end their relationship with the company unless, and until, conditions at Sensient are confirmed to be within healthy levels.  Starbucks has already ceased any further purchases from Sensient until it conducts an investigation and “examine[s] whether the company is operating at the high ethical standards [Starbucks] expect[s] of all of [its] suppliers, including providing safe and healthy working conditions for all employees.”
The great part is that neither Starbucks nor Campbell’s used Sensient as a major supplier.  Sensient accounted for significantly less than one percent of Starbuck’s supplier budget for the year.  It is likely that their connections with Sensient would never have even been brought to light.  This decision proves that these companies are actually interested in the ethical standards of the companies from which they purchase.  Say what you want about Starbucks overpriced coffee (which I happen to love), but a company that makes the effort to condemn the treatment of workers by a minor supplier is a company that I’ll be sure to visit in the future.  


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