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From Plasticizer in Food Crisis to Corporate Social Responsibility

Qiu Li Hui
Translated by Florence Tan

In May 2011, a tsunami of scandals erupted in the Taiwan food industry. Plasticizers were added into food additives as clouding agent. The range of food products that was impacted was staggering. This additive was added into many of the food products in the market. This problem occurred not only with small food factories and vendors, but even well-known companies, state-owned enterprises, and even products that have passed the government’s Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) certification.
In this incident, we saw the Department of Health engaging in inter-departmental efforts to test, inspect and amend the laws (such as increased fines and criminal liability), and striving hard to prevent the public from getting poisoned.
But will these practices really put a stop to contaminated foods? I saw an article in the newspaper written by Huang Shi Zhou[pinyin], a Ph.D student in the Department of Law and Policy, Institute of Public health at the National Yang Ming University. He queried, “What if some manufacturers specially produce one lot of non-contaminated products just for testing purpose?”

The editorial of Lianhe Wanbao also mentioned that

“Taiwanese has a high incidence of cancer. This is definitely closely related to the things we eat, from pesticide residues, antibiotics, to food additives. How much poison do we consume each day? If this case remains as an investigation project, then we are heading the wrong direction.”

I strongly agree with the views of the author. However, in the larger environment, there are too many factors affecting health. Recently, there were some construction works near our area. One day, I smelled strong paint odor. After a check, I found that in order to save costs, the workers were spraying the paint instead of using a brush to paint. The large amount of pollution generated from the fumes has harmful effects on the environment and people’s personal health. I felt sad, what can we do? When I woke up the next morning, I had a strong intuition. I walked to the bookshelf, took out the first magazine I touched, and turned the pages. It was the article “Ethical Enterprises That Benefit The World” by Dr. Chiu-Nan Lai that specially introduced Dr. Mitchell May’s principles. (note 1)

Dr. May shared his business experience in managing the Synergy Company:

“I operated Synergy Company based on ethics. I define ethics as responsibility towards unlimited forms of life.  This is the principle I use in making every business decision.  I consider running a business as my spiritual practice. Of course, other people need not do so.  But everyone should at least have morality, honesty and goodwill. This does not mean giving up our common sense and judgement, or the results of spiritual practices – compassion and a calm mind.  All these attributes should be used in business. Doing business is not about being taken advantage of.  If any of business partners are dishonest, I will stop dealing with them, because we want honesty in our counterpart, and we deal with them honestly.  Just like when we do not want others to contaminate water, then we must not pollute the water.

Many enterprises do not have goodwill because they just care about making money and gaining power.  They will get money and power, but they will not get merits, love, health, and peace of mind which are inner treasures. Operating a morally-responsible business is relatively difficult because we need to consider all aspects. Working hours are longer and more difficult, but our employees find the jobs meaningful and reflect their aspirations and therefore are very committed. It is hard to understand why people do not help others alleviate their sufferings when they have the ability to do so. Socially responsible enterprises have the potential and are profitable. Our company’s growth is higher than the industry average, even though we donate a high proportion of our profits, and our cost of organic or natural ingredients is 2 to 5 times the average (generally, the cost of organic ingredients is only 25% more). We use the best natural ingredients as if they were for the consumption of our own families.

If businesses only think of their own benefits, they are like parasites – in the end, both the hosts and parasites will die. Fortunately, some people have begun to realize this, and businesses have begun to consider the environmental and social impacts of their actions. Knowing an enterprise is like knowing a person. You need time.  More and more people want to run a socially responsible business.  If there are two very similar products, they are willing to spend more money to support this ethical company, because this will benefit the world rather than destroy the world.  Anything that has value requires hard work.  My rewards are blessings and joy.

The temptations in businesses are large, and in itself a deep philosophical practice. Management must hire people with love and morality to work for them, and it is best to have a teacher close by to remind them. The CEO’s job is to be vigilant, and when hiring people, observe whether they have an honest job record, and whether they have a sense of responsibility and take pride in their own work. This is the foundation of spiritual life. A person’s action is more important. At the end of a day’s hard work, I know with a clean conscience that I have benefited this world.”

Lapis Magazine (May 2008) extracted an interview report by the Nutrition Business Journal (December 2007) with Dr Mitchell May, “Honouring a Champion:  Dr Mitchell May, Synergy Company – Awards for Organic Excellence and Sustainability”:
“The Synergy Company and Synergy Production Laboratories are 100% wind-powered. Synergy Production Laboratories grow, develop and manufacture over 250 certified-organic raw materials. All of Synergy’s products and formulas have been organic from day one, free of any additives and made with only “truly natural” compounds – even the cotton used in the bottles is 100% certified-organic.  Additionally, due to the environmental impact, the Synergy Company and Synergy Production Laboratories have also been at the forefront of environmentally-friendly practices.  Synergy invested in and committed its founding to the use of soy ink (to eliminate lead and other toxic compounds) and was the first company to use Ecoform, a biodegradable packaging material.”

Dr. May said, “We have a very, very stringent program and policy to ensure that what is happening is in compliance with what our ecological and social responsible positions are.”

According to my understanding, the ingredients used in Dr. May’s products are full of life force, colours and light. With specialised technologies, these energies are retained in the manufacturing process.  That explains why my family and friends feedback with gratitude after consuming the products; they feel really fortunate because these supplements have brought huge positive effects on their health.  I always enjoy these products; especially when I am unwell, I feel their effects keenly.

In everything we do, first consider how our action bring benefits to others, taking others’ interests as more important than our own interests. If every enterprise and everyone takes Dr. May’s approach, we have hope of turning around the current self-serving business practices that is almost impossible to prevent and stop.

When each of us and every enterprise awakens, it is possible for us to resume and enjoy the fresh air, pure water, natural sweet and high energy fruits and vegetables, and the wide range of nutritious and energised food that our forefathers once enjoyed. Only then are we enjoying the holistic wellness of man and the Earth.


  1. Ethical Enterprises That Benefit The World” – English version in July 2004 issue of Lapis Newsletter or online at https://lapislazulilight.com/Founder/Index_Lapis_News_From_Founder_Article_16.html

This article is originally published in Chinese in Lapis Magazine (Aug 2008) and is now accessible online at: http://www.lapislazuli.org/TradCh/magazine/201108/20110809.html