Johnson & Johnson has been a trustworthy company for many years. They pride themselves on keeping people healthy at every age and stage of life. However, their credibility was questioned after an enormous number of consumers reported that their talcum-based baby powder caused ovarian cancer. This issue caused negative publicity for the company and added a long-term damage on the brand. After decades of Johnson & Johnson falsely misleading consumers and the FDA about the impact of asbestos-contaminated talc on public health, thousands of affected consumers are seeking justice after developing cancer.
Ethical theories would analyze Johnson & Johnson’s actions in diverse ways. An Individualist would say that Johnson & Johnson did not maximize profits for the business within the law because they failed to inform the public and their stakeholders about the scientific findings of their baby powder. A Utilitarian would say that Johnson & Johnson is unethical because of the consequences of their mistakes. They knew that talcum caused cancer and posed as a risk to the consumers, but they continued to sell the product anyways. A Kantian would view Johnson & Johnson as unethical because they manipulated their consumers for many years. By selling their talcum-based powder without proper safety protocol, they were evidently implementing bad will. Under the Virtue Theory, Johnson & Johnson is considered unethical because they exhibited many bad character traits. Proving that they do not care about the safety and health of their consumers. Johnson & Johnson needs to focus its resources on testing their product, reestablishing their values, and monitoring product safety in order to portray empathy for the consumers. Above all, Johnson & Johnson needs to have open relationships with consumers and stakeholders for the sake of reinstating their brand and ensuring good ethics.
Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder Showing Talc as an Ingredient
An FDA determination that a product is safe doesn’t usually preclude litigation alleging otherwise. Between 2016 and 2018, five different juries in St. Louis returned verdicts totaling almost $5 billion. More-recent talcum-powder lawsuits have invoked a new theory of harm. Asbestos, once ubiquitous in-home insulation, has been definitively linked to the lung cancer mesothelioma – leading asbestos litigation to become the largest and longest-running mass tort in the U.S. Despite longstanding efforts by Johnson & Johnson and other manufacturers to eliminate asbestos entirely from consumer products, a small number of tests over the past five decades have detected some asbestos in talcum powder samples. As a result, asbestos lawyers have Johnson & Johnson as their latest deep-pocketed corporate defendant as other lawsuits bankrupted all the actual asbestos manufacturers long ago.
He recommended to senior staff in 1971 that the company “upgrade” its quality control of talc. Two years later, another executive said the company should no longer assume that its talc mines were asbestos-free. The powder, he said, sometimes contained materials that “might be classified as asbestos fiber.” Johnson & Johnson then demanded that the government block unfavorable findings from being made public. The company continuously defends the safety of its baby powder, saying that “it has never contained asbestos and that the claims are based on junk science.” Johnson & Johnson says that the lawyers in the cases have “cherry-picked” the memos, and that they instead conveniently show the company’s focus on safety. Several lab tests, some conducted in the past few years by plaintiffs’ lawyers, have found evidence of asbestos in talc. The link between asbestos and ovarian cancer was first reported in 1958, and in 2011, the International Agency for Research on Cancer said it was a cause. Johnson & Johnson’s efforts to mitigate the debate over its baby powder continue today. The company has sought to have documents used in court sealed, hired lawyers known for their work in crisis management and created a website to extol talc’s safety.
Talc: Magnesium Silicate
Researchers use two main types of studies to try to figure out if a substance or its exposure causes cancer: lab studies and studies in people. In most cases neither type of study provides enough evidence on its own, so researchers usually look at both lab-based and human studies when trying to figure out if something causes cancer. It has been suggested that talcum powder might cause cancer in the ovaries if the powder particles were to travel through the vagina, uterus, and fallopian tubes to the ovary. One of the problems with studying this issue is that ovarian cancer isn’t common.
Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower product
In August 2017, a plaintiff was awarded $417 million by a California jury after claiming her use of Johnson & Johnson products for decades caused her ovarian cancer. In May 2017, a jury in Missouri awarded an individual $110 million in both compensatory and punitive damages. In October 2016, a Missouri jury awarded an individual $70 million in damages after she developed ovarian cancer from using Johnson & Johnson’s talc powder. In one of the first ovarian cancer verdicts against Johnson & Johnson back in February 2016, a Missouri jury awarded a late plaintiff’s family $72 million after the plaintiff passed away from cancer she claimed she developed after using their talc powder. After decades of Johnson & Johnson falsely misleading consumers and the FDA about the impact of asbestos-contaminated talc on public health, thousands of affected consumers are seeking justice after developing cancer.
· Honesty - in a company is as valuable as honesty in a person. It is important to be able to have trust and respect in a company that you deal with. It creates a positive atmosphere for all.
· Compassion - we understand what others are going through, we empathize with them, and we show them that we love and care for them. We selflessly want to do things to help them.
· Integrity - We uphold the highest standards of integrity in all of our actions. It promotes a professional culture in which individuals can depend on one another and treat each other with respect. We have no tolerance for politics, hidden agendas or passive-aggressive behavior.
· Customer Safety - Every effort will be made to ensure the safety of our Customers and team members. If an unsafe condition is noticed it is each and every team member’s responsibility to see it is resolved. We strive to exceed the expectations of our customers by anticipating, understanding and responding appropriately to their needs.
When a company states their mission and values, they need to not only state it but also prove that they will implement these changes. As one might say, actions speak louder than words. Therefore, Johnson & Johnson must put new systems in place to ensure their company will grow again. First, they should be in constant contact with the FDA ensuring that their products do not contain any ingredients that may cause another issue. Second, they need to hire someone who will monitor this communication with the FDA. Almost like a “checks and balances” type of system to oversee product safety. Lastly, they should implement a department that effectively collects data and suggestions from consumers or stakeholders. This is another way to ensure that everyone has a voice and place in the decisions of product safety. With these new policies, hiring of new employees will help the company flourish.
All things considered, Johnson & Johnson should look into remarketing their products due to the ethical difficulty they faced. This can be done through creating a new logo or new bottles the products are sold in. Although this may cost a lot, my plan will promote business profits and productivity. By implementing a new mission statement, values, policies, and marketing, Johnson & Johnson can reinstate their brand and ensure good ethics. Again, proving that their actions speak louder than words.
Copland, James R. “Opinion | Johnson & Johnson Takes a Powder.” The Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones & Company, 22 May 2020, www.wsj.com/articles/johnson-johnson-takes-a-
John. “Johnson & Johnson Mission Statement 2020: Johnson & Johnson Mission & Vision Analysis.” Mission Statement Academy, 11 June 2020, mission-statement.com/johnson-johnson/.
“Johnson & Johnson Position on Stakeholder Engagement.” 2020. PDF File.
“Johnson & Johnson Talcum Powder Litigation Continues to Grow.” Sullivan Papain Block McGrath Coffinas & Cannavo, P.C., www.triallaw1.com/johnson-johnson-talcum-powder-litigation-continues-to-grow/.
Loftus, Peter. “Missouri Court Cuts Talc-Powder Verdict Against J&J to $2.1 Billion.” The Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones & Company, 23 June 2020, www.wsj.com/articles/issouri-court-cuts-talc-powder-verdict-against-j-j-11592935876.
Rabin, Roni Caryn, and Tiffany Hsu. “Johnson & Johnson Feared Baby Powder’s Possible Asbestos Link for Years.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 15 Dec. 2018, www.nytimes.com/2018/12/14/business/baby-powder-asbestos-johnson-johnson.html?searchResultPosition=3.
Salazar, Heather. The Business Ethics Case Manual. n.d.
“Talcum Powder and Cancer.” American Cancer Society, www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-causes/talcum-powder-and-cancer.html.