BRI-1003A At this point your fabric supplier began working on an alternative

2-BRI-1003AAt this point your fabric supplier began working on an alternative to the new technologythat utilized the same new agent but addressed the environmental problems associated with it.After a year the supplier had developed a viable and effective technology that virtuallyeliminated the most serious environmental impact of the chemical – the toxic wastewatergenerated during manufacturing. You did not officially commit to purchasing the finalproduct at this point, but you did not express any misgivings. Historically your company andthe supplier had worked as informal partners when developing new products; your companywould provide input on the innovations it most needed, the supplier would design theproduct, and the company would buy the product under a temporary exclusivity agreementwhen it was launched. Based on the partnership you shared, the supplier perceived yourcompany’s attitude as unspoken support and expected you to purchase the final product;consequently it proceeded with testing.Now testing is nearly finished and the company must decide whether to commit topurchasing fabric that includes the supplier’s new technology. You therefore ask keyfunctional departments to give opinions on whether the company should move ahead with theproduct.The company’s Environmental Assessment Department provides an equivocal report,noting its continued concerns. While the most severe environmental issue has beenaddressed, little is known about the long-term environmental problems and health issues thatmay be caused by the chemical. It has been effectively removed from wastewater generatedduring the manufacturing process, but wastewater will also be generated when customerslaunder the garments repeatedly. Small amounts of the chemical will wash off garmentsduring cleaning, flowing to local wastewater treatment plants or waterways; the impact thechemical may have on these man-made and natural systems is uncertain. Currently thecompany is particularly supportive of river and stream preservation in its well-publicizedenvironmental grant giving programs, and even relatively minor pollution caused by yourproduct could be seen as hypocrisy in the eyes of both customers and employees. TheEnvironmental Assessment Department also points to public health concerns involving thechemical; it is an important anti-microbial and some medical professionals fear that over-usemay accelerate the evolution of resistant bacteria before an adequate alternative can bedeveloped.1 However, minimal research exists to support either of these threats, and the newtechnology includes only small amounts of the chemical.The Marketing Department emphasizes the following and urges you to commit to thetechnology: Including an anti-odor treatment in your product line will eliminate a clearweakness in the company’s marketing campaign, as you will be able to match the claims ofcompetitors regarding the odor-fighting properties of your products. Though it is difficult to1Bacterial resistance develops when an anti-bacterial agent is not completely effective. If the agent is used heavily,all bacteria are gradually killed except for those with mutations that cause immunity. As these mutant bacteriabecome the only living specimens, they multiply to create a full-size population of bacteria resistant to the agent. Atthis point scientists must search for a new anti-bacterial agent that can kill the resistant bacteria.-3-BRI-1003Aquantify the risk of non-adoption, the department estimates that the company risks one to twopercent of its market share in this product by offering no anti-odor treatment.The Purchasing Department immediately gives its approval as well. The supplier hasdeveloped the technology with the understanding that you would purchase it, and backing outcould damage an important business relationship.Finally, the departments in favor of adopting the new technology point out that thechemical’s environmental impact is a dramatic improvement over any of the other anti-odortechnologies in the market, and continued research may lead to further improvements. As oneemployee remarked, “If we continually make decisions that sacrifice company profits for thesake of the environment, eventually there will be no company left to carry out anenvironmental mission.”Should you purchase fabric with the new technology? Clearly identify the costs andbenefits you see with buying the new technology and with rejecting it. Describe the course ofaction you would take and why.EndnoteiEpstein, Marc J. “You’ve got a great environmental strategy—now what?” Business Horizons. 1996. 39:5. 53-59

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