Friday, March 26, 2004

Profits and ethics can go together

The Manila Times
Business Time p.B8
Friday, March 26, 2004

By Moje Ramos-Aquino
Profits and ethics can go together

All products sell HOPE or something that fulfills the customers’ fantasy. And their advertisements say so emphatically.

•Facial products and services sell hope for a beautiful and young-looking face, clean and clear skin, kissable lips, high aquiline nose and others.
•Bed linens for comfort
•Modern kitchen gadgets to save time and avoid effort
•Shoes and clothes for comfort and style
•Medicine to escape physical pain and get well
•Digital camera for clear, sharp memories
•IT systems and programs to save time and cost of labor
•Bank services for profit and security

Alexander Pope said it for us in An Essay on Man, Epistle I, 1733: “Hope springs eternal in the human breast; Man never Is, but always To be blest: The soul, uneasy and confin’d from home, Rests and expatiates in a life to come.”

So when you read or hear somebody asks: Nakatikim ka na ba ng isang taon? (Have you tasted a one-year old?)

Nakatikim ka na ba ng dalawang taon? Limang taon? 25 taon? 50 taon?, what are you hoping to get? Have you tasted a two-year old? 5 years old? 25? 50?)

I know what you are thinking of. I beg to disabuse your mind because I am referring to wines, red and white.

When I threw the question to a friend, one at a time, he eyed me with disapproval and increasing sadness. He said he is reminded of Michael Jordan. When I got to the 50-year old, he looked at me suspiciously, as in “are you asking me?” He followed it up with, “are you writing about sex?”

Hmmmmmm. No, I told him, I am extending my article on corporate social responsibility since this is the Lenten season.

A friend sent me these questions for brandy and whiskey makers and takers.

Has anyone attempted to find out if a brandy is really that many years old? Does DTI have any branding regulations for a brandy to claim that it is of a particular age, straight or blended?

Could it really be possible for a local manufacturer (bottler?) to have enough supply of very aged brandy and sell it at prices suited for the mass market?

Also, brandy is grape based. It is not malt, wheat, rye, corn or sugar cane based. Is it possible for one to secure enough grapes in the Philippines to use? How large should the cellars be to store a 15 year supply for proper ageing? How does one keep the ageing process protected from so much heat?

Does a manufacturer or bottler import it then from abroad? Australia is the closest grape grower but they make wines, not brandy.

So, is it Spain or France then? Are there import records with customs?

If imported and simply bottled, does that make the importer worthy of being so proud of his heritage? Finally, even with importation, it couldn’t be sold as cheaply as it is today.

Sorry, my friend I have no answers. But I have a reaction to the “Kinse AƱos” furor. My take on this issue is that I felt that the ad shifts the focus from the product to the prospective consumer by asking that question instead of directly offering the product. It opened itself to many interpretations like my example above. Because of this, it has become an ethical dilemma that now requires ethical judgment calls where there is no one right answer and is a no-win situation.

Destileria Limtuaco and Sinson Lascano Group could have exercised empathy or caring about the consequences of their choices as they affect others. Being concerned with the effect of their decisions (to produce the ad) have on those who have no say in the decision itself.

The problem with advertisements is that they provide a one-way communication and they are presented very briefly that leaves the message hanging and subject to all sorts of reactions other than for the audience to buy the product. They are meant to attract attention, arouse interest, create desire and stimulate action.

In this light, may I remind entrepreneurs to reflect on their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) defined by Mallen Baker, development director for Business in the Community, as about how companies manage the business processes to produce an overall positive impact on society.

The World Business Council for Sustainable Development cited reports that CSR is seen as about capacity building for sustainable livelihoods. It res­pects cultural differences and finds business opportunities in building the skills of employees, the community and the government.

The European model considers CSR as an integral part of the wealth creation process—which if managed properly should enhance the competitiveness of business and maximize the value of wealth creation to society.

Business organizations must, like Mr. Baker “show interest and concern in how their company responds to the agenda for corporate citizenship—the growing need to manage issues that affect their business reputation—and to respond to the growing needs and concerns of a range of different stakeholders.”

Everybody who heard the radio commercial and saw the billboards of Napoleon Brandy and got affected by it became a stakeholder. Radio and billboards are open to the general public. Advertisements are great tools for influencing not only the buying decision of the public, but also the values of society.

Moje Ramos Aquino, president of Paradigms & Paradoxes Corporation, believes wealth creation and ethics can co-exist. Her email address is

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