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Mattel Inc.’s Code of Conduct and Virtue Ethics


Over the last few decades, multinational companies have faced serious issues concerning exploitation of workers. Additionally, multinational companies have been accused of unethical behavior in their overseas operations. Particularly, the companies have faced issues in their management strategies. The case study examines Mattel, Inc., which has encountered several issues related to virtue ethics. Mattel, Inc. is considered the largest toy manufacturing company in the world. This paper will identify and evaluate the most important ethical issues that relate to virtue ethics. In addition, the paper will outline three virtues, which can be applied to guide the actions of Mattel, Inc. (Sethi, Veral, Shapiro & Emelianova, 2011).

Salient business ethics issues

Various business ethics issues have risen in business environment recently. The issues include unethical conduct of business by multinational companies, employers, and employees, among others. Specifically, the issues include exploitation of workers, provision of unsafe conditions of work, contamination of ground water, contamination of land resources and contamination of air. Additionally, some multinational companies undermine the government’s capability to protect their citizens. In essence, various ethical issues that relate to virtue ethics arise in business environment. This section will consider three main salient business ethics issues. Moreover, the section will analyze those issues in relation to virtue ethics. The issues to be examined include exploitation of workers, provision of unsafe working conditions and pollution of the environment (Schoenberger, 2000).

Exploitation of workers

Exploitation of workers has been a salient ethical issue for a long time. It should be noted that one cannot differentiate between items from exploited workers and items from unexploited workers. According to Australian research, more than 30 million people are exploited worldwide. Exploitation of workers is considered modern day slavery by most activists. International labor rights are common in the fact that workers should have a secure, healthy and safe employment.

In addition, the regulations require that working hours be regulated to avoid excessive work. Moreover, it is also stated that working overtime is not obligatory and is up to every person. Workers should also be free from sexual harassment, physical abuse, as well as discrimination. Furthermore, workers should be able to defend their rights, as well as talk freely. These rights are abused wholly or selectively by most employment agencies and multinational companies, among other organizations. Essentially, exploitation of workers has been a salient issue in business ethics (Schoenberger, 2000).

Unsafe working conditions

All workers are expected to work in healthy working conditions. In fact, it is the employer’s responsibility to ensure that workers perform their tasks in a safe and secure working environment. Unsafe workplace environments cause serious health and physical hazards for workers. In some cases, workers may be severely injured or even die. Unions and agencies such as OSHA take conditions of working environment seriously. Furthermore, governments also take working conditions seriously. However, some multinational companies tend to provide unsafe working conditions for their workers.

This is a salient business ethics issue, which has been rampant in most multinational companies. Workers from countries like China and India, among others, have experienced difficult working conditions over the past decades. Most multinational companies rarely follow their codes of conducts to the letter. In fact, most companies cover-up such violations to remain profitable at the expense of workers safety and health. Therefore, provision of unsafe working conditions is a salient business ethics issue (Sethi, Veral, Shapiro & Emelianova, 2011).

Pollution of the environment

Pollution of the nature is another salient issue in business ethics. Most countries contribute to pollution through industrial wastes. Pollution takes place when noxious wastes contaminate the environment. Effect of pollutants can disturb the balance in the ecosystem to promote global warming. The environment can be polluted in various ways namely noise pollution, light pollution, air pollution, soil pollution, and water pollution, among others. Radioactive contaminants also pollute the environment. Most industries produce toxic wastes, which have the ability to pollute the environment.

Unfortunately, some of the companies dispose toxic wastes on natural resources thereby poisoning the environment. Companies have international standards, which are aimed at reducing pollution of the environment. Nonetheless, most international companies tend to keep on polluting the environment to remain competitive and profitable. These companies choose cheap disposal methods to cut on their cost of production. This has led to death of aquatic life as well as illnesses to humans, among other repercussions.

Virtues that can be applied to guide the actions of Mattel, Inc.

Mattel, Inc. created Global manufacturing principles, which were aimed at promoting production efforts such as ethical business practices, environmental protection, making of quality products. The principles were also aimed at reducing discrimination and forced labor, among other concerns. Unfortunately, GMP only lasted nine years at Mattel, Inc. Some of the factors that contributed to failure of GMP included resistance from the company’s operational group, and lack of economic benefits, among others. Moreover, the company’s competitors did not suffer any sort of consequences for abandoning the regulations. Mattel also suffered from a series of product recalls which led them to abandon GMP principles (Belcher, 2014).


The virtue of justice is essential as it ensures fairness to all without considering its repercussions. Justice can be considered a form of faithfulness to the realm of reality. In this regard, justice promotes reward according to what one deserves. Moreover, justice ensures that one expresses rationality in all his/her decisions. Justice can be applied accordingly to help shape Mattel’s actions. In this way, the company will compensate its employees according to their contribution to the firm. Essentially, employees made Mattel, Inc. the largest toy making company in the world. Therefore, adopting the virtue of justice will ensure that employees are compensated accordingly. In addition, working conditions will be appropriate to reflect rationality of the company to its employees. To this effect, the virtue of justice will enable Mattel, Inc. to continue with their GMP principles beyond the nine years it actually lasted (Younkins, 2014).


Honesty is a virtue, which is closely linked to justice. The company cannot treat customers in the same manner it treats its employees or shareholders. It is imperative that the company deals with its stakeholders according to their contributions, personal merits and qualities. In this regard, the company acts honestly with its stakeholders based on their proficiency, personality, as well as ability. By adopting the virtue of honesty, Mattel, Inc. will prolong its reliance on GMP codes of conduct since it ensures protection of employee rights. In fact, honesty will allow the company to avoid improper discrimination in accordance with extraneous characteristics such as race, nationality and gender, among others. By abandoning the GMP codes, Mattel, Inc. acts dishonestly to its mission and goals. In essence, Honesty will propel the company to keep with the GMP principles (Younkins, 2014).


Integrity is another important virtue in business ethics that can help a company operate within the required ethical standards. In essence, integrity refers to the process of acting in consistence with rational principles of the business. Eventually, these actions are expected to lead to sensation and joy for both parties. Therefore, integrity of Mattel, Inc. can only be maintained when its core founding values are followed. The company reacted to business ethics concerns by creating GMP in accordance with its goals and mission. If the company had adopted integrity, it would have acted in consistence with the GMP values. Even though the company realized recalls for its products, keeping up with integrity would have helped it achieve its accomplishments to the society. In essence, integrity would have guided the company appropriately concerning its business virtue ethics (Belcher, 2014).


Mattel, Inc is considered the largest toy making company in the world. Mattel, Inc. is a multinational company with branches throughout the world’s major cities like California, among others. The company created Global Manufacturing Principles, which were aimed at guiding its operations throughout the world. However, the principles only lasted nine years. Several factors contributed to the company’s failure in implementing GMP principles for a long time. However, it should be noted that the company lacked virtues that might have helped it to continue with the principles. Virtues such as integrity, honesty and justice, among others, would have aided the company to accomplish its ethical goals.


Belcher, L. (2014). .

Schoenberger, K. (2000). .

Sethi, S., Veral, E., Shapiro, H., & Emelianova, O. (2011). Mattel, Inc.: Global Manufacturing Principles (GMP) – A life Cycle Analysis of a Company-based Code of Conduct in the Toy Industry. Journal of Business Ethics, 99(1), 483-517. Web.

Younkins, E. (2014). .

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