This paper will argue that the accord should be signed according to the utilitarian model. The moral rights model argues that decisions should be made to protect fundamental rights of stakeholders and do no harm (Casali 2011, 489). The poor working conditions in Bangladesh violate the concept that workers, who are stakeholders (Phillips 1997, 52-53), have a right to safety (Byrne 2011, 499; Gavai 2010, 13). Inaction will harm workers by failing to improve conditions, which is the purpose of the accord. Under this model, the accord should be signed to protect workers’ rights.
The social justice model argues that benefits and harms should be distributed fairly among all stakeholders (Waddell, Jones and George 2011, 148). The accord will improve working conditions for workers. However, improvements are costly (Ahmed and Peerlings 2009). The increased costs reduce profit and potentially harm shareholders. As such, under the justice model the accord should not be signed as it benefits one group and harms another. Under classical utilitarianism, the goal is to increase the good or happiness for the largest group (Jones and Phelps 2013, 354).
However, the modern interpretation is increasingly moving towards a strategic model aiming to improve profitability (Yim and Fock 2013, 282, 293-294). Companies using Bangladeshi factories and operating in Australia need to take consumer ethics into account. As Australia is a low power distance country with consumers that will less easily accept unethical behaviour (Hofstede 1980; Swaidan 2012, 206), under the enlightened self-interest model of CSR, improving ethical standards by signing the accord will improve profits (Duska 2007, 9).
According to utilitarianism, the accord can increase good for workers, shareholders and customers, therefore it should be signed. The Bangladesh workers’ rights problem can be examined from multiple ethical standpoints, including moral rights, social justice and utilitarianism. Under moral rights and utilitarian models the accord should be signed, whereas under social justice it should not. This paper argues that based on the utilitarian model of ethics, the accord should be signed by any company using Bangladeshi factories.