Soda Stream is a manufacturer of Home Carbonation Systems and is based out of Israel. It prides itself on employing "more than 1000 people, with over 30 nationalities represented" ("About SodaStream"). SodaStream has recently come under fire about one of their manufacturing plants, in particular, the plant in West Bank, a settlement in Israel. The plant in West Bank employs both Israelis and Palestinians and pays both the Israeli wage which is significantly higher than the wages paid by Palestinian businesses. It is reported that more than 500 Palestinians earn more than 10 times the wages earned by in Palestinian employment (Alster). The political Palestinian-Israeli conflict has led to disputes over the land in Israel. Many do not believe that the Israeli-owned SodaStream should have a plant in a settlement that is in Palestinian territory. Others believe that "Palestinians should not be working for SodaStream or any other businesses operating in Israel's settlements, which is considered illegal under international law" (Strickland).
The SodaStream company has been criticized by Oxfam, an international charity and advocacy group. "'Oxfam believes that businesses, such as SodaStream, that operate in settlements further the ongoing poverty and denial of rights of the Palestinian communities that [Oxfam] works to support'" (Alster). Scarlett Johansson, a supporter of SodaStream has stepped down from her position as a global ambassador for Oxfam International. Although Johansson has become a spokesperson for SodaStream, she is not the only stakeholder that is affected by the controversy associated with SodaStream, Palestinian employees are also greatly affected.
This blog will cover four ethical theories in relation to the Soda Stream controversy
IndividualismMichael Friedman's Theory of Individualism states that "the only goal of business is profit, so the only obligation that the business person has is to maximize profit for the owner pr the stockholders (Salazar). Taking only this theory into account, the SodaStream company is not behaving in the best manner for the sake of the owners and stockholders. The subsequent boycott of the SodaStream products has not resulted in the maximization of profits which does not abide by the rules of Individualism. However, the objections to Individualism relate more to SodaStream's blatant concentration on creating peace between Palestinians and Israelis. Stakeholders in the company extend further than just the owners and investors. R. Edward Freeman believes that "[businesses] need to consider [their] obligations to those who are affected by business decisions" (Salazar). This appears to be what SodaStream is doing with its choice to not move the West Bank plant in order to appease politicians and those who are still in favor of essentially segregating Israelis and Palestinians. Taking profits into consideration, SodaStream has found itself in a situation that could affect profits no matter what choice is made about the location of the West Bank plant. If the company chooses to move the plant, many Palestinian workers will no longer have jobs which would in turn anger Pro-Palestinian groups. The opposite occurs if the Israeli company moves to a Palestinian area. Pro-Israeli groups will be angered.Either side could spark more boycotts or alternatively spark more investors. Both of these actions affect profits, but SodaStream is determined to keep the current West Bank location with its mixture of Israeli and Palestinian workers as a means of promoting peace between the people.
The Kantian theory believes that "people should be treated as ends and not as means" (DesJardins 38). One can view SodaStream's Palestinian workers as being used as ends and not as means due to the fact that the Israeli company has hired them and is paying them more than Palestinian wages. Others may believe that SodaStream is exploiting Palestinian workers due to the fact that there are very few work opportunities in Palestinian businesses (AlJazeera). Depending on where one is Pro-Israeli or Pro-Palestinian, accounts about SodaStream vary. Many news outlets, however, report on happy Palestinian SodaStream employees who report that their working conditions are "the best there are" (Jeffay). It does appear that SodaStream is using both their Israeli and Palestinian workers as a means instead of an end when it comes to societal roles and not in terms of business production. SodaStream CEO told the Jewish Daily Forward that "[SodaStream] will not throw [their] employees under the bus to promote anyone's political agenda" (Alster). In a way by being involved in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict to attempt to bring peace between the two people, SodaStream is indeed using their employees to push the political agenda of peace between Palestinians and Israelis.
|Prayer at the West Bank SodaStream Plant|
Utilitarianism is an ethical tradition that directs us to make decisions based on the overall consequences of our acts (DesJardins 24). The theory states that happiness is essentially the only thing that is of real value. Keeping this in mind, SodaStream is attempting to create a peaceful environment for both Israelis and Palestinians. Scarlett Johansson, the celebrity spokesperson for SodaStream, stated that the company supports Israelis and Palestinians "working alongside each other receiving equal pay, equal benefits, and equal rights" (Alster). The West Bank plant even provides a mosque and a synagogue to accommodate the religions of the employees. The company is also promoting happiness for employees because the West Bank plant provides improved wages locally in an area where work is not available. Although the location of the West Bank plant is ruffling feathers of those wanting the area to be a Palestinian territory and those who do not approve of the mixing of Palestinians and Israelis the company is standing by its decision to stay in the area and promoting peace between the two people. The boycott of the Israeli SodaStream would affect many workers. The company is attempting to teach others in the region that a peaceful co-existence between Palestinians and Israelis is possible. The long-term decision should be to continue keeping the plant in its current location. By not conceding to those who consider the plant to be illegal, the company is still focusing on pushing the agenda of peace between the people instead of joining a fight over land that began centuries ago.
The virtue theory consists of four basic virtues: courage, honesty, temperance/self-control, and justice/ fairness (Salazar). In the case of SodaStream, the company does exhibit each of these characteristics in some form. SodaStream and Scarlett Johansson displayed courage by going against societal norms and supporting a peaceful co-existence between Palestinians and Israelis. Employees of the West Bank SodaStream plant also show courage by working in an environment that may not be accepted by their peers and/or their families. The company exhibited honesty by providing equal opportunities for both Israeli and Palestinian employees despite the conflict in the area. The employees display the justice virtue by working hard to produce SodaStream products as well as working hard to accept one another after years of conditioning of ill will from the territory conflict. The SodaStream company also shows justice because despite the controversy the company is still continuing to strive for peace and an end to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Temperance is shown by SodaStream because the company accepts that there will not be an easy overnight fix to the conflict, but the company still want to do it its part in aiding to the end of the conflict.
"About SodaStream." SodaStream.com. SodaStream, n.d. Web. 12 Feb. 2014. <http://www.sodastream.com/aboutsodastream>.
Alster, Paul. "SodaStream Ignores Anti-Israeli Critics to Quench Palestinian Thirst for Jobs." Fox News. FOX News Network, 31 Jan. 2014. Web. 13 Feb. 2014. <http://www.foxnews.com/world/2014/01/31/sodastream-ignores-anti-israeli-critics-to-quench-palestinian-thirst-for-jobs/>.
DesJardins, Joseph R. An Introduction to Business Ethics. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill/Irwin, 2014. Print.
Jeffay, Nathan. "Palestinian Workers Praise SodaStream - and Scarlett Johansson." Haaretz.com. Haaretz News, 2 Feb. 2014. Web. 13 Feb. 2014. <http://www.haaretz.com/news/features/1.571948>.
Powerpoint Presentations by Heather Salazar
Strickland, Patrick. "SodaStream Controversy Continues to Bubble." - Features. AlJazeera, 11 Feb. 2014. Web. 12 Feb. 2014. <http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2014/02/sodastream-controversy-continues-bubble-2014210133448473994.html>.