GE HEALTHCARE: A CSR DILEMMA   10
GEHEALTHCARE: A CSR DILEMMA
GE Healthcare: A CSR DilemmaIntroductionCorporatesocial responsibility and ethical behaviors are critical aspects foreffective business operations. Lack of social responsibility andunethical behaviors damages a company’s reputation which makes thefirm less appealing to all stakeholders. Therefore, corporations needto strike a balance between social responsibility and organizationsinterests in order to have an appealing face in the society. GeneralElectricity technologies found itself in this dilemma whileintroducing low cost diagnostic equipments India. This paper,presents an analysis of GE health technology struggle in maintaininga competitive market base in a market society tied between culturalinterests and human rights on the other hand. The underlying analysisseeks to understand how a corporation could maintain high businessethics, human rights and legal requirements amidst conflictingissues.
Ethicalissues: Product Misuse and Human right violation
Thegreatest ethical dilemma faced by GE technologies in marketing itslow cost diagnostic ultrasound products in markets like China andIndia were fears that the product would be misused in facilitatingsex selective female abortions. The company was doing its best topromote and respect the cultural difference that existed among thesociety in the region. In their approach of marketing and selling thediagnostic equipment, they realized that there was uncontrolled useof technology in determining the fetus sex especially in India wherediscriminatory attitudes towards women was high(TheTimes of India, 2008).Thecompany had taken professional and ethical precautions byimplementing a combination of training programs, regular auditing,sales screening, reviewing the legal contracts and sales tracking asa measure of safeguarding against product misuse these actions hadbeen well implemented before year 2004 (Jasjit, 2011). In their salesmethod of ultrasound equipments they used five stages of internalchecks in which the customers were required to have a PNDTcertificate PDNT is a proof affidavit from clinical practitionersthat the equipment would not be used for conducting fetal sexselection. Inaddition to this precautionary measure, the company labels themachines with a sticker that prohibits against using them for fetalselection. Misusing the GE diagnostic equipment for selectiveabortion would expose the company as breaching human rights andnational law which are explicit about the responsibilities ofdistributors and companies manufacturing equipments that do notpromote women feticide(TheTimes of India, 2008).In the same line, misusing the ultrasound for such illegal practiceswould undermine the company’s ability to conduct business in thecountry. However, the ultrasound diagnostic equipment is used invarious medical areas such as the gynecology, emergency medicine andobstetrics. As such, prohibiting its use and access would alsocontravene the universal human rights policy of affordable healthstandards (BLIHR, 2009).Skeptics, criticism amongstakeholders Criticismfrom social activists and NGOs was another challenge that the GEtechnologies had to face when implementing the ultrasound product inthe market. In India for instance, social activist were vocal inpushing for societal change and stringent government actions againstinfanticide and feticide. As such, since the introduction of theultrasound equipment in the market the group and another forumagainst sex discrimination were critical of the ultrasound equipmentwhich they claimed would facilitate more feticides. In2002, GEHC in India faced serious criticism from Dr. Sabu George, whoblamed the company for exacerbating the problem of women inequalityin India as well as interfering with the country’s reproductivehealth matters. In addition, they criticized the states and federalgovernment for not using stiffer measures of ensuring that GEHCequipments use adhered to the ethical and legal aspects of thesociety. GEHC did its best in exceeding legal requirement throughfull compliance with PNDT act as a way of having leverage with itscompetitors especially the Chinese who were introducing cheaperultrasound equipments this would increase their overall brandfamiliarity among the customers (BLIHR, 2009).Actionsthat GE could take to resolve Ethical issuesChangeSociety perception on actions used to mitigate risks associated withproduct misuse byWorking with governmentThemost effective way to resolve the ethical dilemmas faced in themarket was by obeying the country’s laws, respecting culturalsensitivity, advocating and supporting human rights. This could beachieved by going beyond the company’s oversight operations andcontributing through measures aimed at tackling the root of theproblem. Another important strategy that the company needed to takewas effectively cooperating with other stakeholders and thegovernment in advancing human rights while maintaining the company’scompetiveness in the market this could reduce product misuse andbuild the company product brand name as a statutory compliant tonational laws and human rights (Jasjit, 2011). PublicAwareness on human rightsGEtechnologies needed to implement good practices and policies thatwere beyond legal requirements by adapting rigorous internal controlsof stringent sales reviews against product misuse this could beenhanced through training programs for customers and sales persons,education campaigns and practicing promotional standards. Inaddition, the company needed to amend its legal contracts, auditing,screening and tracking sales regularly. Under this recommendation,the company could continue with its improvements on techniques ofverifying customers PNDT (pre-natal diagnostic techniques)certificate and labeling the machines with more warning againstproduct misuse. Similarly,the company could improve on its training for sales people on how toverify genuine customers and ensuring further equipment screening useafter sales. Another strategy that the company could have employed toaddress the ethical concerns was through posting public awarenessposters on rights of women in India and promoting education equalityprograms for women this could be achieved through engaginggovernment education officials in dialogues (TheTimes of India, 2008).ProfessionalEthics of GE Healthcare in the marketGEhealthcare embraced various professional ethics in the introductionof its low cost diagnostic medical equipment in India. As aprofessional ethic compliant, the company took stringent measures ofensuring that products were not misused in the market through acombination of training programs, amending legal contracts, auditing,screening and regular tracking of sales in line with Pre-natalDiagnostic Techniques act imposed by the government. The concept ofprofessional and applied ethics requires integrating government andsocial values in professional work. GE was instrumental inintegrating its entire manufacturing and sales standards inaccordance to governments’ regulations and society expectations(BLIHR, 2009). Inparticular, GE healthcare technologies set stringent measures againstverification of authentic clients and sales agents as a precaution ofselling the equipment to the right people and for the right purpose.As such, during its sales all customers were required to producevalid and screened PNDT certificates with an affidavit from aclinical officer against misusing the equipment for sexdiscrimination. In addition, the company provided the government withquarterly reports on whom the equipment had been sold. Furthermore,the company implemented many CSR programs promoting public awarenesson human lights, supporting education equality among young girls andadvising the government on important policies regarding women rights.GE in India also restricted sale of the ultrasound equipment tofamily planning outlets as a measure of safeguarding against misusethis is a clear indication of a company that was sincere in promotinghuman rights regardless of the social needs in the society (Jasjit,2011). Indeed,GEHC India was living the testimony of how a great company couldadvance critical human rights and successfully have a niche market.Moreover, the company has helped many in human rights aspects in manydeveloping countries by promoting and empowering women, genderequality and improving maternal health. GE health has donated andhelped many developing countries with the ultrasound technology toalleviate health crisis in areas like the south Asia earthquake andthe Indian Ocean Tsunami. Inshort, despite criticisms on GE technologies ultrasound products offacilitating selective sex discrimination, there exists strongevidence that the company implemented, followed and went beyond legalrequirements in safeguarding against product misuse. Criticalassessment indicates that, GE was more vocal in safeguarding humanrights, the social and gender equality than government, socialactivists and even the society in general(TheTimes of India, 2008).
GEHealthcare responsibility and the market culture
Theissue of gender selection and preference is a sensitive culturalissue which if not approached with measured and sober steps wouldlead GE technologies business sprawling on the floor with manycustomers and stakeholders losing credibility on their efficacy inthe market. Despite, opposing forces on all sides GEHC has for yearsbeen able to maneuver negative criticisms about its products. Inparticular, in order to maintain its continued market growth,development and enhance ethical, moral concerns, the corporationneeds to desist from taking sides either supporting the culture ofmale preference or having a strong advocacy for females. Basedon the polarized nature of the business that is laden with acultural preference for males on one side and demand for human rightsagainst feticides, GE technologies need to use the approach ofadvocating gender equality equal rights for males and female. Inthis sense, GE main responsibility would be advocating for genderequality by engaging the public, the government and the socialactivists on awareness and education on the importance of all genders(BLIHR,2009). Inaddition, the company should continue with its strict adaptation andcontrol against misuse of the ultrasoundequipment in selective sexdiscrimination. In this way, the company will balance between thecultural expectations in the society and complying with governmentand social activists demands against the misuse of ultrasoundproducts this will create company brand name by observing social andethical concerns. By enhancing and promoting human rights awarenessprograms, product screening, sales auditing, tracking and promotingeducation programs on how to use the products correctly, GE wouldachieve more in convincing skeptical stakeholders and activists onits responsibility of safeguarding human rights. Lastly, by promotinggender equality programs and engaging the public, social activistsand government on the critical status of women in the society, GEtechnology went a long way in resolving the gender preference formales in the culture (Jasjit, 2011). ConclusionsCorporatesocial responsibility and ethical behaviors are critical aspects foreffective business operations. GEHC India is a living testimony ofhow a great company could advance critical human rights, businessethics, corporate social responsibility and successfully have a nichein the market. GE healthcare embraced various professional ethics inthe introduction of its low cost diagnostic medical equipment inIndia. The company implemented many CSR programs promoting publicawareness on human lights, supporting education equality among younggirls and advising the government on important policies regarding onhow to safeguard women rights. GE was more vocal in safeguardinghuman rights, the social and gender equality than government, socialactivists and even the society in general. Overall, GEHC achievedmuch by exceeded their legal requirement in complying with PNDT actthereby having a better leverage than its competitors especially theChinese who were introducing cheaper ultrasound equipments this ledto improvement in their product brand.ReferenceJasjitSingh, 2011, ‘GE Healthcare (A): Innovating for emerging markets’,INSEAD, The Business School for the world, Internet Resource, http://www.homeworkmarket.com/sites/default/files/q1/31/07/5776a.pdf
BLIHR,2009 ‘PromotingEthical Ultrasound Use in India’Frank Mantero, Director, Corporate Citizenship Programs at GeneralElectric Company, at [email protected] InternetResource,http://files.gecompany.com/…/ge_ethical_ultrasound_use_india_casestudy.pdf
TheTimes of India, 2008. “Thegirls never born.”‘GEdoes not express an opinion on such views. The Company observes thatmany in India’s medical community and medical organizations, suchas the Indian Radiology and Imaging Association, have been vocal intheir objections to the practice of female feticide and have providedassistance to the government and education on complying with the PNDTAct to their members and others in the medical community’.See www.iria.inandwww.ijri.org.