Prior to the 1978 US ban on nonessential production of CFCs, what strategies did DuPont's management use to respond to the ozone controversy? What were the social costs and risks associated with...

Prior to the 1978 US ban on nonessential production of CFCs, what strategies did DuPont's management use to respond to the ozone controversy?

What were the social costs and risks associated with DuPont's strategies and the populations that bore these costs and risks?

What were the social benefits derived from these strategies, and what groups derived these benefits? 

Did the social benefits outweigh the social costs and risks?

How would one evaluate the moral quality of DuPont's strategies after 1978 in terms of (a) the utilitarian costs and benefits associated with those strategies as compared to other alternative strategies, (b) the moral rights of the various parties affected, and (c) the just or unjust way in which benefits and burdens were distributed among various populations by these strategies?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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As we are limited in space, below are a few ideas and resources to help get you started.

Prior to the 1978 US ban on nonessential use of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), DuPont did a great deal to both prevent its company from financially collapsing and to support environmental research and policy development. A ban on CFC production would have created economic disaster for DuPont as well as for the global market, so responding to the ban needed to be approached carefully.

One strategy DuPont undertook was to initiate a research program sponsored by the Chemical Manufacturers Association (CMA) in order to gain more "factual evidence to [either] sustain or dismiss the theory" that CFCs depleted the ozone layer (Maxwell & Briscoe, 1997, "There's Money in the Air: The CFC Ban and DuPont's Regulatory Strategy," p. 277-278). DuPont invested $3 to $5 million on such research and promised to reduce production of CFCs if CFCs were conclusively scientifically proven hazardous; as it stood, DuPont argued that there was not yet enough evidence to justify such an economically-crippling change.

Another strategy DuPont undertook was trying to persuade Congress to postpone the initiation of any policies to regulate the production of CFCs until more scientific proof could be obtained.

DuPont also spent a great deal on a public relations campaign to argue the point that there was not enough scientific evidence to prove that major restrictions should be applied to the production of CFCs, restrictions that would drastically impair both US and global economy. Regardless, even in 1975, DuPont's public campaign was unsuccessful , the year in which a "federal interagency task force recommended steps to restrict the use of CFCs if a National Academy of Sciences study were to confirm the task force's assessment" that CFCs posed a significant threat to the ozone (p. 278).

Another strategy DuPont undertook was to work with Congress on other environmental legislation. For example, Irving Shapiro, DuPont's chairman and chief executive officer, worked with Congress and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on drafting the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976, a law which required corporations to test new chemicals, at the corporations' own expense, before releasing them on the market.  

In addition, When other companies, like Johnson Wax, announced they would be phasing out the use of CFCs, DuPont next strategized that there was now a need to find replacements for CFCs, otherwise the company would suffer substantial financial loss. DuPont began funding research into finding alternatives for CFCs. However, finding alternatives proved to be problematic because any alternatives that were being successfully developed were either "too toxic or too costly," a problem DuPont later led the market in overcoming when in the 1980s it was conclusively scientifically proven that there was a definite link between "chlorinated compounds and ozone loss" (p. 279; p. 282).  Regardless, sadly, when in the 1970s it was discovered that the ozone had only been depleted by 2% to 4% and not 10% to 15% as previously concluded, DuPont stopped funding research into alternatives to CFCs. Nonetheless, DuPont continued to support other environmental legislation, and when in the 1980s more conclusive scientific evidence was found, DuPont led the way to completely changing the market over to alternatives and pushed for government intervention to help drive the market.

Hence, in the 1970s, prior to the 1978 US ban on nonessential production of CFCs, DuPont strategized ways to both save itself financially and to support the environment by funding more scientific research, promising to cut back on the production of CFCs if CFCs were conclusively scientifically proven to be hazardous, supporting environmental legislation, funding research into alternatives to CFCs, and publicly hesitating to take drastic action until conclusive proof was obtained. DuPont's strategies both successfully saved the economy plus made the company look like the good guy in its support of the environment.

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