Chevron, Environmentalists, Hoaxes, and the Ethics of Dialogue

Chevron, the oil giant, rolled out a new ad campaign this week. It announced that Chevron agrees with critics and environmentally concerned Americans that it has critical responsibilities, such as reinvesting profits into socially responsible projects, seeking renewable energy sources, and taking extra steps to protect the environment. “We hear what people say about oil companies – that they should develop renewables, support communities, create jobs and protect the environment – and the fact is, we agree,” says Rhonda Zygocki, Chevron’s vice president of Policy, Government and Public Affairs, in the company’s press release. “This campaign demonstrates our values as a company and the greater value we provide in meeting the world’s demand for energy.  There is a lot of common ground on energy issues if we take the time to find it.” Continue reading

Why Lawyers Should Work “For Good”

Pro bono legal work (short for pro bono publico, or “for the public good”) is when lawyers take on cases free of charge. Some lawyers—and you know who you are!—would say that the primary reason to take on pro bono cases is that membership in the Bar requires it. That’s compliance, however, driven by non-ethical considerations, not ethics. There are excellent reasons to work pro bono that have nothing to do with being able to check off mandatory hours, and everything to do with the crucial roles lawyers have a duty to fulfill in a free society.

Georgia attorney Dawn Levine compiled this list of  “The Top Eight Reasons to Take Pro Bono Cases;” I recommend the whole article. Her list, however, should be posted on the walls of every attorney’s office. It represents the best aspirations of an unfairly maligned profession. Here it is… Continue reading

Dubious Ethics Studies, Part II

There are good reasons to be skeptical of all studies purporting to analyze what people think according to how they fit into common ideological categories. In 2003, a study purported to portray conservatism as a kind of mental disorder. In 2008, another series of studies was packaged to make the case that liberals were compassionate in words only, that when it came to putting one’s money where one’s conscience was, it was those mean old conservatives who opened their wallets. Now comes a study called “Do Green Products Make Us Better People?”published in the latest edition of the “Journal of Psychological Science.” Its authors, Canadian psychologists Nina Mazar and Chen-Bo Zhong, did a series of experiments comparing the behavior of patrons of “green” products and the conduct of the less environmentally correct. Continue reading

Black Barbie, Walmart, and Pricing Ethics

Social commentators, business analysts and ethicists are tying themselves into logical and philosophical knots trying to explain exactly what is so wrong in 2010 with Walmart cutting the price of its black Barbie doll, which has not been selling well at its current price, while leaving the price of its white Barbie, which has been selling, almost twice as high. Continue reading