H.B. Fuller

The setting

H.B. Fuller was an American business with a Latin American subsidiary, which produced glue. The business found itself in a crisis involving the collateral use of its glue by homeless street children. At first, H.B. Fuller was in denial, but eventually the news media branded the children “Resistileros”, a play on the name of the glue. This forced H.B. Fuller to deal with the opportunity.

H.B. Fuller felt compelled on multiple fronts to resolve the opportunity. The Latin American governments were dealing with the same opportunity by focusing on H.B. Fuller, ignoring the extent or lack of their cause. Child advocacy groups, such as Covenant House, also blamed the same business. A competitor made a change to its glue formula that appeared to resolve the opportunity. All the factors put H.B. Fuller in a quandary by appearing to be in direct opposition with its own mission statement.

H.B. Fuller in the states …

The people/the organizations and their interests

Several people and groups had interests in the opportunity H.B. Fuller faced. To begin, the business itself had a vested interest. It had a source of income its Latin American subsidiary, albeit a small portion of its overall portfolio. The vested interest was reflected in it revenues, profit, stock price, employee base, and more. H.B. Fuller wanted a good business solution.

Beyond the business several stakeholders also had vested interests, such as …

In addition to stakeholders, the opportunity affected many constituencies. Some follow. The children simply wanted …

The dilemma

This global situation puts the company in a risk situation, but one not of its own making. While H.B. Fuller simply wants to be a good global economic presence by providing a mutually satisfying economic relationship with other countries, being branded as “Resistoleros” keeps this from happening. Now we must either prove we’re a good global citizen or lower our standards and admit we’re not.

The options and their consequences

As CEO, I actually have many options I need to consider. To begin, I can simply sit by and do nothing. However, I don’t like the probable consequences; our reputation would be irreparable damaged. But I have more to consider.

For instance, I can …. Doing this would probably result in ….

I can also …. The consequences of doing this would be ….


This collateral damage … these kids … just kids … how did their problem become so big? And with our glue! Though my company is only collaterally involved, we are the target of the publicity… I feel like I am the target! I’m confused. But now, I suppose I’m in the position to lead the cause for a solution. We didn’t create the problem, but H.B. Fuller seems to be the one to solve it … and I’m the one who faces the consequences of the problem … make that the opportunity. Am I able??  I want to be an integrity-minded global citizen.

How can I turn this into a real win-win for the kids and H.B. Fuller?

The decision

This is my decision I’ll recommend to the Board of Directors. We’ll pursue other market/product opportunities for our glue. We’ll continue selling to our current markets. And we’ll work with the local governments as follows: a) fund treatment options for the kids, and b) fund education campaigns.

Rationale for the decision

Two purposes draw me to my decision. I want conditions changed for the kids. I want the public image resulting from the collateral damage changed.

Two principles drive me to my decision. One is that I value people. The other is our company ethos, which states we are good corporate citizens. I want to broaden the thinking to highly-valued, global citizens.

Four groups of people impact my decision. The kids deserve an ethic of caring and distributive justice. The local governments need our help (i.e., ethic of caring and distributive justice, too). Stockholders deserve the best return on their investment without public humiliation. And employees deserve to see me walk the talk.


Ethical decision measures

My decision measures up to an integrity decision in many ways. My decision is in concert with my ethos (ethos check). I haven’t been in this situation before now, but will decide this way if ever in this situation again (consistency check). If I were a street child in Latin America, I hope an American business would make the decision I’m making (reciprocity check). I would feel comfortable telling everyone to make this decision; they might choose otherwise, but still I would feel comfortable (universality check). I feel certain at the end of my life I will look back and be glad I made the decision I made (legacy check).

I will be comfortable as others learn of my decision. When the news reports my decision, I won’t be embarrassed (publicity checks). I have already spoken with my family and they support my decision (trusted friend check). I believe God approves; my conscience is clear (religious check).

I made the right ethical choice. It may not be the best business decision. The best business decision may be to leave areas where the glue is abused. But the better ethical decision includes staying and changing the world.

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