Yesterday, on my Business Ethics Blog, I published a short blog entry about an ethical dilemma faced by a coffee shop.
The dilemma — and disagreement between co-owners — was whether to offer the standard range of sweeteners and whiteners with their coffees, or whether to impose a vision of what counts as healthy additions for coffee. Oversimplifying: should they offer artificial sweeteners or not?
It’s a real-life case. And it sounds like a small matter, but with the recent politicization of and moralizing about food, the question not surprisingly became a bone of contention for the people involved.
My argument is essentially this:
1) The evidence is thin for any health advantage for “real” sugar. In fact, “real” sugar is known to be unhealthy, whereas for artificial sweeteners the question is still up in the air.
2) The quantities involved are tiny, so relax.
3) If it’s even a close call, go for consumer autonomy — the freedom to choose.
That’s not to say that a coffee shop can’t make “all natural” a part of its branding, and choose condiments accordingly. It’s just that no one should confuse that with making a clear-cut ethical decision.