Tag Archives: ethics

The World Needs a Better Toilet

In the United States we seldom think about the importance of toilets. Good hygiene and working sewage is just something that the average citizen assumes will always be there, and always work. However, this is not true for the rest of the world where hygiene is a critical health and wellness issue.

More than half of the world’s population – roughly 4.5 billion people – live without access to toilets and the safe sanitation they provide. Estimates are that globally, unsafe sanitation costs the world’s population $223 billion (yes, billion) a year in higher health care costs, lost productivity, and lost wages. It is an issue that The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is taking very seriously, pledging $200 million over the past seven years to help reinvent toilets, and pledging another $200 million more to get companies to understand the problem – and business –  of human waste.

At the Reinvented Toilet Expo, held last fall in Beijing, companies showcased new toilets that could recycle water, separate urine from other waste, and even with solar roofs. Mr. Gates told the audience that human waste contains 200 trillion rotavirus particles, 100,000 parasitic worm eggs, and other harmful organisms.

This might not be an easy subject to discuss, and a lot of bad jokes will undoubtable be told in class, but it is an issue that affects the world, and one that product innovation can help to solve.

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Discuss the business of waste, sanitation, and fixtures.
  2. What happens when sanitation is poor? What are the impacts?
  3. Show Bill Gates video: https://youtu.be/M9nRsJinHhM
  4. View Gates Foundation site: https://www.gatesfoundation.org/
  5. View Toilets for People for an example of a business: https://www.toiletsforpeople.com/
  6. Have students research other companies with a similar mission and objective.
  7. What social issues matter to the students?

Source: Wee, Sui-Lee (6 Nov. 2018). In China, Bill Gates encourages the world to build a better toilet. New York Times.

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The Worst Toys this Holiday Season

We all know that many new products will fail in the marketplace for one reason or another. Sometimes the quality is poor, or the packaging is wrong, or the price is too high. And sometimes a product fails because it can be dangerous.

Each year the non-profit organization World Against Toys Causing Harm (W.A.T.C.H.) compiles a list of the 10 “worst toys” of the year. Toys make the list when they present a hazard to children such as choking, cutting, or with one of this year’s toys, slashing.

Before crying out that “kids will be kids and anything can be dangerous,” consider that unsafe toys are a serious health issue. The numbers are scary. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission there were roughly 240,000 toy-related injuries in the U.S. in 2016. This translates to one child treated for a toy-related injury in a U.S. emergency room every three minutes. And, between January 2017 and October 2018 there were an estimated 3.5 million units of toys recalled in the U.S. and Canada.

Some of the toys on this year’s list include:

  • Black Panther Slash Claw (slashing injuries)
  • Power Rangers Super Ninja Steel Superstar Blade (blunt force and eye injuries)
  • Stomp Rocket Ultra Rocket (eye, face, and other impact injuries)
  • Cabbage Patch Kids Dance Time Doll (choking injuries)

Detailed warning labels on packaging aren’t always enough. Young, small children in particular are vulnerable, plus not all warning labels are read and followed. View the list and read the concerns.

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Discuss the topic of responsibility of a company to consumers.
  2. View the toys on the list: https://toysafety.org/
  3. Divide the students into teams. Have each team review one of the products on the list.
  4. For the product, how should the company address the issue that it is on the “worst toys” list? What should retailers do?
  5. Have students research how toys are tested.

Source: Marcelo, P. (13 November 2018). The “worst toys” for the holidays, according to safety group. Associated Press.

 

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Microchips Under My Skin

Have you ever misplaced a key card that is needed to enter work? Or maybe can’t find your rail pass? Or as an employer, can you truly track access and secure a facility in this age of technology? But, what are you willing to trade for that security and access?

Some companies and people are now taking the step of embedding access into bodies through technology. They insert a microchip under the skin; with an embedded chip, there is no risk of losing access passes, or of being robbed of an important access pass.

It might sound a little like fiction (think, ‘James Bond’), but it is now a reality for thousands of people in Sweden. The microchips are designed by the Swedish company Biohax to make life easier and more secure. Those in favor of the microchips say they are safe, but others raise concerns about privacy, health, and hacking.

The chips are the size of a grain of rice and cost an estimated $180 per chip. Using a syringe, the chips are placed into the skin between the thumb and forefinger and have the capability of transmitters. For example, the chip can enable users to open doors, start cars, contain critical medical data, transfer personal data, and more. In Sweden, the largest train company has started allowing commuters to replace tickets with the chips. There is also talk that the chips could be used to make payments in stores and restaurants.

What do you think? Want a chip under your skin?

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Discuss the buying process for organizations. Who would influence the decision-making?
  2. Show the Biohax site: https://www.biohax.tech/
  3. Show video of the product: https://youtu.be/eX1KNlI40V8
  4. What are the characteristics of the target market for this product?
  5. For Biohax microchips, have students work on the actions taken in each of the five steps.
    1. Problem recognition?
    2. Information search?
    3. Evaluative criteria?
    4. Purchase decision?
    5. Post-purchase behavior?
  6. What are key considerations in each step?
  7. Debrief the exercise.

Source: Savage, M. (22 October 2018). Thousands of Swedes are inserting microchips under their skin. All Things Considered – National Public Radio

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