The Utilitarian ethics and its impact on supply chain

Modified: 1st Jan 2015
Wordcount: 2608 words

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Utilitarian ethics is considered as a theory which is considered significant in the perfect competitive business world. This theory emerged from the customer expectancy where they expect greatest happiness. According to (2010) this theory is based on the principle-“the greatest good for the greatest number”. The pioneer of the utilitarianism theory was Jeremy Bentham. He lived from 1748-1832 and was brought up in a very intellectual family. The utilitarianism could be classified in three types. Without following any specific rule, if it deals with the consequences of individual acts, then it is nominated as ‘Act Utilitarianism’. ‘Rule utilitarianism’ allows specific rule to be followed and preference Utilitarianism says that one should act in a way that the person involved prefer unless the preference is outweighed by others. On the other hand, Utilitarianism also defined negatively. Negative utilitarianism requires us to promote the least amount of evil or harm, or to prevent the greatest amount of suffering for the greatest number of people.

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The key words – the greatest good for greatest number, in broader view reflects the consideration of sustainability of business resources in long term rather than short term profitability. In terms of supporting the supply chain, the utilitarian ethics keep or accelerate the flow of supply chain in long term and in this interest the immediate situation should be less evaluated than long term. As the requirement of this assignment, the study is going to present a comprehensive structure of using the utilitarian ethics in respect of supply chain of vegetable retailers. Retailers and other food sector companies to test and develop innovative business models, together with their supply chain partners, that will bring new and higher volumes of food products from Africa to the UK, at the same time delivering improved livelihoods for African producers (FRICH, 2010).

Supply chain and its effectiveness with the use of Utilitarian ethics:

Supply chain is a system that is responsible to reach the goods from farm to customer minimizing the waste and maximizing the assurance of availability of goods in the shelve for customer. Supply chains underlie value chain because, without them, no producer has the ability to give customer what they want, when and where they want, at the price they want. Producers compete with each other only through their supply chains, and no degree of improvement at the producer’s end can make up for the deficiencies in a supply chain which reduce the producer’s ability to compete (Business, 2010).

The term vegetable supply chain is smooth normally in season. Thus, the behavior of supply chain management authority normally could be different with the supply chain partner as the availability of goods. In this case, utilitarian ethics suggest that the authority to judge the partners significantly in both times, in season and out of season. According to FRICH (2010) UK supermarkets have successfully developed African horticulture to meet year round demand for fresh fruit and vegetables, most produce is sourced from a few countries only and farmers find it hard to meet buyers’ exacting standards. Farther obstacles to these farmers can arise from concerns over food miles, environmental conservation, labor standards and food safety. Giving African farmers greater access for their food exports help reduce poverty and increase rural incomes, so the fund is designed to support projects that bring African farmers and their workers including poor small holder in their food supply chain. Therefore, it is very specific from the acts of FRICH that, the practice of utilitarian ethics helps the people involved in vegetable supply chain in terms of their basic needs, improve the economic development that assure the flow of vegetable even in out of season.

Not only supply chain partner become satisfied with the proper practice of utilitarian ethics but also the consumer, the god of a business become benefitted from this use which attract them to be loyal to the retailer. The benefitted supply chain partner influence the consumer directly. This is easy to realize that if the farmers become satisfied and can maintain the product with assurance of export and continue the flow of supply, then adequate supply of goods is visible in the shelve of retailers and consumer become happy to them.

According to Accenture (2010), the challenge of supply chain is increasing day by day because of tremendous competition. It found out five preconditions of supply chain according to the mode of consumer’s choice. They are on-shelf availability, faster replacement- smaller quantities and changing customer requirement.

In terms of on-shelf availability, supply chain has to maintain good relation with the farmers as though they are dedicated to the organization’s fluctuating demand by customer. Excellent retail supply chain management revolves around understanding and balancing three key dimensions of availability, inventory and cost. Managing this trade-off sufficiently can result in supply chains that improve business through assurance the availability of goods for consumers’ satisfaction.

Practice of Utilitarian ethics by consumer group and its impact on supply chain:

It is not deniable that there are also some challenges to maintain the utilitarian ethics which increase the cost of supply chain. However, according to the principle of this ethics – greatest good for greatest people should be maintained first because customers’ satisfaction is the primary goal of a business. As vegetable is a fundamental domain of customers’ demand and it is consumed every day, they are to demand it. Thus, in broader view, the ethics practice cost apparently may be perceived increased, the assurance of sufficient vegetable supply should be counted first. The use of utilitarian ethics in supply chain can provide adequate supply of vegetable.

In terms of fresh vegetable supply, use of utilitarian ethics also helps maintaining the freshness of vegetable. If the supply chain authority can maintain the relation with the farmers in compromise aspect in season, then they will supply in out of season. If the labour working in farms get security of their job in out of season, then their dedication to farms become increased and farms can assure the importers the supply of vegetable according to demand. This practice also can minimize the waste of good.

In the case of organic vegetable, the use of this ethics is more fruitful. Organic vegetable is produced in such a way that there is no use of chemical and pesticides. Vegetable is certified as organic by specific body of national government. The demand is increasing in the world is increasing gradually. In UK, the yearly increasing rate of organic food is around 30% which fluctuates according to the economic flow (FIRTH, C and SCHMUTZ, U,. 2004). If supply chain management evaluates the farmer, the supply chain partner, then the assurance of organic food will be more sustainable and organization can be able to present to the organic customers the organic vegetable.

After carefully evaluation the correlation between the utilitarian ethics and its impacts on supply chain of vegetable retailers, it could be mentioned that in this perfect competitive market utilitarian ethics has a great impact to survival for a vegetable retailer. It satisfies the supply chain partner, their (farmers) internal and external stakeholders and overall sustainability of the farms can decrease the waste of goods, assure the supply in dull season and can decrease the major cost of supply chain management of organizations.

Merits of Utilitarian ethics and critical analysis in food miles:

In respect of extending the discussion of consideration of utilitarian ethics in terms of vegetable supply chain, author of this study intends to mention the food miles. Food miles is the idea that emerged from the travel of food from farms to dining table which indeed, says the environmental impact that happens in this travel time. Half of the vegetables and 95% of fruits are imported to UK from overseas countries. This food and vegetables arrive by air and water and truck. In the consideration of environmental impact, water, plane and road transport give off CO2 in different scale. In order to maintain the supply chain regarding business prospect, retailers have to use plane in vast cases. The food comes from overseas gives off 11% of the total CO2 emission from UK food transport where air-freighted travel produces 177 times more greenhouse gases than shipping. Though there is some national bodies and protest groups to watch the mode of using transport, the use of utilitarian ethics will be more effective to reduce this emission and environmental harm. In this case, the merit of this ethics could be utilized in some aspects.

Firstly, Utilitarianism cannot be faulted on its morals as it clearly seeks the happiness and fairness for the majority, which has always been an important consideration in the works of government and other major powers, as well as in everyone’s everyday life. If the supply chain authority of the food retailers shows and maintain the happiness and fairness as the part of following utilitarian ethics, then they will be interested to use water way to import food rather than air considering the green house effect.

On the contrary, there is another argument is that – using the shipping needs requires long time refrigerator, it also produce CO2. However that is very lower than plane. Another thing is that, the retailers are interested to maintain shorter life of food form farms to plate in order to present it to the consumer fresh and regarding the food and safety, they prefer quick travel than the slower.

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Secondly, Utilitarian ethics considers the consequences of all actions, which is key in building a civilised society. If people were not aware of consequences then there would be no deterrent to commit crime. Here awareness is the key point of using this ethics. As it has been mentioned that the food travel in UK emits 11% of CO2, the retailers could be interested to minimize the emission of greenhouse gases by influencing their self-motivation. In this case, they can be encouraged to produce vegetables and fruits in home.

Though, some people argue that locally grown and organic food can be kept chilled for months which require energy because of maintain the supply chain out of season. In one hand, this chillers keeps the food fresh, on the other hand it act as culprit for our global warming. However, it is undeniable that home grown is better than using air. If the awareness could be build up, then newly sophisticated mechanism of reducing the CO2 emission may also innovated by supply chain expert.

Finally, It encourages a democratic approach to decision making, and dangerous minorities are not allowed to dominate. Therefore, author can mention here again the organic food grown in home based cultivation. It food transport is responsible for 25% of the kilometres clocked up by HGVs on the congested roads in UK. Supermarkets have national distribution systems, so even food grown near a particular branch may have travelled by lorry to a central depot and back to its place of origin.

This idea should be emphasised to implement to the food producers, then quarter of 25% emission could be reduced.

This is also not beyond the controversialist because the congested road is not fully sufficient to avoid roads accident. It is perceived that in traffic jam the lorry has to wait on the road for a long time and that is why this lorry has to maintain chillers regarding food and safety issue. However, massive awareness and encouragement can increase this lorry user in democratic majority.

Practice of ethics of virtue in supply chain:

Virtue ethics is currently one of three major approaches in normative ethics. It may, initially, be identified as the one that emphasizes the virtues, or moral character, in contrast to the approach which emphasizes duties or rules (deontology) or that which emphasizes the consequences of actions (consequentialism). Suppose it is obvious that someone in need should be helped. A utilitarian will point to the fact that the consequences of doing so will maximize well-being, a deontologist to the fact that, in doing so the agent will be acting in accordance with a moral rule such as “Do unto others as you would be done by” and a virtue ethicist to the fact that helping the person would be charitable or benevolent (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2007). To some extent, ethics of virtue could be mentioned as that- the practice of normal ethical sense regarding the situation.

In terms of vegetable retail supply chain, there are some primary things come to the account firstly. Maintaining the freshness of vegetable and food and safety are commercially an objective. Beyond the rules and regulation and consequences, the ethics of virtue will be more perfect in comparison. In addition, the evaluation of supply chain partners, more specifically the farmers should be dealt with utilitarian ethics, however the practice of ethics of virtue will be more effective to maintain the supply chain in the out of season. Practice of ethics of virtue, is indeed propelled from the moral ethics.

Moreover, in terms of environmental issue, the use of virtual ethics will be fruitful to save this global warming. Virtual ethics is consequently related to the moral behavior to the globe. Thus, which sort of transport should be used to reduce CO2 emission regarding the situation like customers’ demand, scarcity of goods in shelves, assurance of availability of supply and so forth will be decided by proper use of ethics of virtue.


In conclusion, it is to say that utilitarian ethics is considerably correlated to the business world. In respect of commercial goal, the supply chain management is the most expensive domains of business organization because the retention of customer, customer loyalty and flow of increasing sale depends on this section. Therefore, ultimately the farmers become significant to the retailers as they are the source of goods. For satisfy them, the price level, assurance of selling goods, and proper communication with them should be emphasized. Thus, use of utilitarian ethics is important to make them satisfied.

In the case of global environmental issue, utilitarian ethical behavior also is must. Because of food miles concept, the emission of CO2 could be minimized as their supply chain dealings. If the supply chain management is used to maintain targeting less use of air way, then the global warming will be reduced. Using utilitarian ethics and ethics of virtue, the retailers will be motivated to produce home grown vegetable nearest to the distribution centre.

In terms of organic food, supply chain partner should be motivated to maintain the characteristics of cultivation of organic food grains. As the demand of organic food is increasing day by day, the dependency on farmers is also increasing. Consequently, the retailers should encourage them to maintain the virtue of organic food growing through supply chain management.


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