Ethical issues in bottled water: Is bottled water ethical? – Abraaj Water
Abraaj water is owned by NTBC (New Technology Bottling Company) which is 100% owned
subsidiary of The securities House Company that is listed in the Kuwait Stock Exchange.
Normative Ethical theories fall under general strategies that border on moral deliberations and
general decision making. They base their orientation in the future or the past. Future orientations
lay the guidelines for current decision making while past orientation provide the means of
evaluating the present choices or decisions that have been already made. Normative ethical
theories includes its specific philosophical justification that have been carefully worked out,
compared and criticized by its own advocates as being inadequate as compared to other alternate
There are two types of categories in Normative Ethical Theories i.e. Consequentialist and non-
Consequentialist theories. Non-Consequetialists theories make decisions or evaluations mostly
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on the basis of or in connection with something else besides or in additional to the net aggregate
or the total sum of the entire consequences of choices. (Stout, 1967) Non-consequentialist
theories rarely ignore consequences. For instance, Ross’s prima facie obligations that related to
non-injury and also beneficiaries are related directly to promoting overall good consequences or
minimizing the negative ones while others like fidelity, justice and gratitude are not. (Thiroux,
Non-Consequentialist theories include virtue ethics on the creation or the expression of the basic
character traits and not the focus of the production of the highest net aggregate of the total
consequences. The other features of the non-consequentialist are rule based. Duties can be stated
or defined in terms of rules and vice versa. Theories of justice are generally endorsed by the
same principles of justice which substantially also imply directly that duties and rights can also
be defined and stated in terms of rules.
The ethical issues in bottled water range from the justification of its costs in relation to its
production processes, hygiene status and the disposal of its plastic packaging. Bottled water
results in 1.5 million tons of mass plastic wastes every year. To produce plastic, it requires about
47 million gallons of crude oil per year to manufacture the annual plastic usage worldwide.
While most water companies claim that they recycle their products packaging material the
reverse is actually true. Most of the recycled plastics are of high quality and which basically
form a small percentage of the total plastic tonnage currently being utilized for packaging
products. In short, slightly over 80% of plastic material is being thrown away. This means that
close to 1.2 million tones of plastic is building up each year across the globe. This is a potential
threat to marine life, birds and other aquatic living organisms. But the slow decay rate of the
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plastic material complicates matters as its destruction is not possible, once manufactured it
cannot be reversed or destroyed. (Casimiro, 2010)
Abraaj water, with its parent company based in Kuwait, produces and sells its products
across the globe. Its major objective is to make profits notwithstanding the harm its product
packaging material may cause or result in some generations to come.
According to Rawl’s principles of justice (1971) self interested and rational persons would
generally act behind the thin veil of ignorance and would make a choice between the two
principles of justice to generally structure the world. a) The principle of Equal liberty; every
person has a right that’s equal to the extensive liberties that are compatible with other
similar liberties that are available for all. b) Difference principle; social and economic
differences and inequalities should be basically arranged so as to 1) the greatest benefit is
achieved by the least advantaged 2) be attached to positions and offices that are open to all
conditions of equality on all opportunities available. The difference concept or principle
means that the contemporary society may engage in projects that require other persons to
be given more power or higher monetary compensation or status. However it does not
permit changes in social and economic institutions which improves the lives of those who
already have and contributes nothing to those who have nothing or to those who are
disadvantaged or worse off. For instance policies that allow huge plastic production plants
which pollute the environment for the residents while the professionals get well paid.
Bottled water is basically not very different from ordinary tap water. The huge mass of
plastic being generated exceeds the cost of improving the infrastructure in the water
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department to provide clean drinking water per household instead of spending billions of
dollars buying literally packed water from the block across the road. (Casimiro, 2010)
The use and consumption of bottled water should be discouraged and instead the
government should concentrate on improving the infrastructure that can provide safe
drinking water. Abraaj water may be good but its packaging does not justify its existence.
Casimiro, S. (2010, April 1) The evils of Bottled Water, communicated nicely. Adventure Journal.
Stout, A. K., (1967) “William David Ross.” In Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Ed. Paul Edwards.
New York: MacMillan. Vol. 7: 216-217.
Thiroux, J. (2001) Ethics: Theory and Practice. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
Velasquez, M.G. (2002) Business Ethics: Concepts and Cases. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall.