Ethical Issues of Paper Manufacturing Business

Last Updated: 17 Aug 2022
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Business ethics focuses on ethical problems or moral and ethical principles that occurs in the business environment. Currently, there is an increasing conscience of market place and there have been more demand for ethical actions and process in the business. Through new laws and public initiatives firms are experiencing pressure to change its ethics (Donaldson & Werhane, 1979).

In paper manufacturing industries, the impact on natural environment has always been ignored since harmful effects and economic costs are not clear. Paper and pulp industries have treated air, land and water as free goods that are not owned by any body. Since air, land and water have large carrying capacity the individual firms see their involvement to pollution as negligible. On the other hand if the effect of environmental pollution of all the firms is combined the effects are enormous (Hond, de Bakker & Neergaard, 2007).

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It is worth to point out that the effect of pollution does not result only from business activities but also from consumer utilization of manufactured goods. Problems of environmental pollution of manufacturing industries like paper manufacturing industries have various origins and require similar sets of varied solutions.  Since the environment is very complex and the systems interwoven, our duty in the protection of environment would extend beyond human welfare to other parts of the ecosystems.

Paper and industries produce enormous amount of waste chemicals during the process of manufacturing. The toxic substances include inorganic chemicals which are used for bleaching and pulping to slimicides. In addition polymers used for dry and wet strength and for retention are also produced. The toxic substances are then allowed to run freely into water sources and have caused a significant amount of water pollution. The toxic chemicals accumulate in water bodies and in some instances have caused contamination of the aquatic system.

Paper and pulp industries also produce air pollutants which include nitrous oxide, carbon dioxide, particulates and carbon monoxide. These pollutants contribute to ozone layer depletion, respiratory problems and global warming. Some of paper and pulp mills uses coal as the source of energy and have contributed to releases of arsenic, mercury and radioactive substances (OECD, 2008).

Making of paper requires intensive energy which has forced the industries to establish power plant. The power plants are major contributor of air pollution and cause other damages on the extraction fields of oil and coal. In addition paper making has contributed in much solid waste production especially when there are inefficiencies in the use of law materials (Sisman & Korkut, 2003). Where there are many industries that recycle paper larger quantities of solid waste are produced. The fibers used in the manufacturing of paper may only be recycled to a limited number of times and therefore low quality and broken fibers are separated and form part of solid waste. Stickies and staples, pigments, coatings, dyes and ink are also washed off and form part of solid wastes.

The solid waste produced from paper manufacturing industries is dumped in land fill and occupy large portions of land. In some areas the waste is spread on a cropland as a method of disposal and has contributed to accumulation of trace contaminants in soil. The pollutants on cropland may be washed off by running water and deposited into a nearby stream or lakes. When solid waste is burnt in an incinerator emit pollutants in to the atmosphere and cause pollution problems (Hessing & Howlett, 1997).

Manufacturing of paper has also led to wide spread deforestation of major forests for production of paper pulp. Some of the paper pulp is obtained from old and often endangered forests. Some products of paper such as paper napkins, towels, post-it pads, office papers etc are used once and thrown away. Consumption of these products contributes to loss of forest resources. Environmental degradation resulting from manufacturing and use of paper products undermine the principles of sustainable development that of intergeneration equity (Sisman & Korkut, 2003).

Approaches to environmental protection may include ecological approaches, ethical approaches, market approaches, and environment and human rights approaches. An ecosystem is a self sustaining unit that includes both abiotic and biotic factors. Dynamic changes on the ecosystems may occur due to anthropogenic activities such as those caused by paper manufacturing industries. In order to achieve positive changes in the ecosystems, there is a need for an ecological balance and solving ecological problems using ecological methods (Theobald & Mills, 1973).

Ecological approaches for the protection of environment are of two kinds i.e. holism where nature is considered as a whole single unit and studies are carried out in order to understand the interactions of its components. The other kind of ecological approach to protection of environment is reductionism. Reductionism involves studying individual components of nature and analyzing the relationship of cause and effects.

The major aim of planning and protection of ecological systems is to provide a healthy environment in which human beings can exist and also to assess and develop the ecosystems in order to increase their productivities by reducing the negative effects. Other aims include protection for aesthetic value of the ecosystems, their diversity and balance of the ecosystems since every component of the ecosystem has an intrinsic value (Hond, de Bakker & Neergaard, 2007).

Human right approach to environmental protection is not a new concept. Several international agreement have addressed this issue ands many nations have legislations and constitutions addressing the issue of environment and human rights. On the other hand it is wise to link the rights of human being with the concept of sustainable development. The right of the human being to life is difficult to realize if fundamental rights to secure land, air and water are lacking (Adebowale, 2002). Human and environmental right approach involves life quality of all people as the central idea in the process of decision making.

Environment and human right approach employs two major approaches i.e. utilizing the existing rights of human being and developing new rights. The existing human rights are often distinguished as political and civil rights and cultural, social and economic rights. Civil rights offers for political and moral order and include equality, political association and participation and right of human being to life. Civil rights are based on human rights universal declaration of 1948. On the other hand cultural, social and economic rights offer standards for well being of an individual (Adebowale, 2002).

The global agreement on cultural, social and economic rights of 1966 provides for health rights and right of each and every one to control the natural resources which they possess. Social ecology on the other hand focuses on the historical appearance of hierarchy. Social view tries to get rid of the hierarchical relationship and explores for new technologies that would harmonize the relationship of human beings and nature (Barisani, MacConaill & Tierney, 1995).

Paper and pulp industries are affected by various environmental regulations and statutes. Among the laws that have been provided by federal regulatory body “(Environmental Protection Agency EPA)” include Acts that provides for clean water and air, Act of endangered species, Act of energy policy, federal amendments that provide for control of water pollution, prevention of pollution Act, recovery and conservation of resources Act, Act of safe water for drinking, control of toxic substances Act etc.

On the other hand paper manufacturing industries often commit environmental crimes since their activities violate the laws intended to protect the health of human beings and environment. Environmental laws mostly govern quality of water and air and provides ways in which disposal of hazardous waste would take place legally. When firms violate environmental crimes they became guilty of “white collar crime”. Such violators are often hit with jail time, probation, criminal fines etc. fines are used to deter big firms from committing environmental crimes (Mesothelioma, 2008).

According to environmentalists environmental issues arises since laws and regulations providing for property rights does not adequately offer protection. In addition the law does not define fully those rights. Secondly, environmentalist suggest that laws governing individual or tort claims that offer polluters with protection from legal claims make it difficult to sustain property rights legally.

On the other hand leaders of paper manufacturing industries suggest that environmental problems sustainability and health of the environment can be provided by free market. These leaders are driven by desires to realize profits and they do not care for the health of the environment (Donaldson & Werhane, 1979).


The environmental issues are defects of market. Due to pollution caused by paper manufacturing industry the market price of papers does not reflect the actual cost incurred in producing them and therefore there is inefficient commodity distribution, increases in waste and resources misallocation. The effect of market defects to the society decline economic welfare and therefore harms the whole society. On the other hand paper products provide many benefits to the society due increasing use of these products. It is therefore necessary for global transformation of paper consumption and production towards sustainable and socially and ecologically responsible practices (Ettlie, 2006).


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Ethical Issues of Paper Manufacturing Business. (2018, Jan 17). Retrieved from

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