Responsibility and Wisdom from my Mother and Spider-Man

As a child grows up, they are often taught by their parents to be responsible for their actions and to fess up to the mistakes they make. My mother’s personal favorite piece of wisdom concerning this topic was “Your sins will find you out.”  Even though most everyone is taught this valuable lesson, it seems that corporations and those that lead them do not seem to take these lessons into effect.

Take the Perrier water scandal of 1989 for instance. This water, which was marketed to be “naturally sparkling” because it was bottled from a spring in the south of France, held a fairly good portion of the U.S. bottled water market. Of course, this was until a North Carolina lab discovered large amounts of beneziene in the water. Benezine, a harmful and poisonous solvent, was found at about 4 times the amount allowed. As these stories seem to always go, the story does not end there. At first, the company, Source Perrier, claimed the incident was isolated to one bottling area. The company said an employee cleaned some bottling equipment with a solution containing this chemical. After this, the company recalled 70 million bottles of this sparkling water. To make matter a little more complicated, the company claimed the crisis was caused by employees not cleaning charcoal filters correctly. Once again, the company chaned its story one last time and stated that benzene is naturally found in carbon dioxide, which made the company finally confess to the fact that the carbon dioxide was used to make the water fizz and not the spring from France. The U.S. FDA required the company to remove “Naturally Sparkling” from all bottles. After all of this, sales in the United States dropped by large amounts and in the late 90’s when bottled water became “in-style” Perrier had less of the market than it had before 1989.

Would being responsive to the issues been better or would taking resposiblity for its actions been the wiser choice? I actually feel a combination of both would actually have been best. First of all, if the company had been responsive about the truth of the “sparkling” feature of the water, then the impact might have actually been less. The company could have taken the responsive approach by monitoring its processes and bottling practices closer. This action might have taken away the entire issue. In addition, if the company had taken responsibility for the issue and started with the truth, then the problem would have lessened because it might have actually been an isolated event. Basically, if they had listened to mother’s advice and started with the truth and continued with it, then the company might not have suffered as much financially and in its market shares.

In today’s business climate, it no longer seems enough for companies to just take responsibility for actions that cause issues and problems. It seems necessary for the organization to take it one extra step and be responsive to not only the operations of the company but also taking notice of smaller issues before they become a full-blown crisis.

I leave with this thought, since companies have the power to influence what we buy they hold a lot of power. In the words of Spider-Man from the movie Spider-Man, “With great power comes great responsibility.”

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4 Comments »

  1. kaf0423 Said:

    Great post, Allison! I loved your references to what your mom has always told you about taking responsibility for your actions. (I remember that from my diaper days too). The quote from “Spider-Man” greatly reflects the concept of our blog assignment. When an organization puts themselves out there as a “powerhouse,” they have the responsibility to not take on more than it can handle. You did a great job on this blog post. 🙂 I enjoyed reading it.

  2. bah0127 Said:

    Funny you mentioned bottled water as the subject of your blog. I recently found out that Ozarka Natural Spring Water (which I would assume was bottled in the Ozarka Mountains in Arkansas) is actually bottled in other places. The label doesn’t say it comes straight from the source (filtered of course) but I always had the impression the water came from Arkansas. I think companies finds way to tweak their statements to mislead the public. I feel they aren’t as transparent as they should be, and therefore not being as socially responsible as they could be.

  3. Hi Allison! Okay, first of all, I grew up hearing that same line as well. “Your sins will find you out,” seems to be a popular scare tactic among parents of our generation (and probably of our parents’ generations as well.) Second of all, I enjoyed reading your post. The Perrier water scandal is a great example of companies “washing” their products. Way to go, friend! 🙂

  4. Samra Bufkins Said:

    Betsy–Ozarka “drinking water” is actually local tap water with most of the chemicals filtered out. That was a big scandal a few years ago. You can buy a filter for your tap and drink the same thing and save money!


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