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Dow Chemical and Agent Orange in Vietnami

Cedric Dawkins Ph.D. (California State Polytechnic University - Pomona)

Publication date: 1 May 2008


This case examines the ethical issues raised when businesses contract for the military during time of war. Dow Chemical Company was a military contractor during the Vietnam War and the primary producer of Agent Orange - a defoliant used to clear vegetation. Agent Orange has been linked to a number of serious medical conditions in war veterans and Vietnamese civilians. In 2004, Vietnamese citizens filed suit against Dow for illnesses they believe were caused by exposure to Agent Orange. Dow thought the issue should have been addressed through political and social policy, while Vietnamese citizens and U.S. Vietnam war veterans believed Dow was ethically responsible. As the case moved through the U.S. judicial system, some of Dow's investors grew uncomfortable with how it was handled. Dow CEO Andrew Liveris was left to wonder what his company could have done differently and what they could learn from the Agent Orange episode that might prevent similar problems in the future. This incident appeared to be a relatively distinct case, but in July of 2007 it was reported that the number of private contract employees in Iraq exceeded that of U.S. military personnel. Consequently, it is likely that companies and their stakeholders will have to address similar issues.


Dawkins, C. (2008), "Dow Chemical and Agent Orange in Vietnami", , Vol. 4 No. 2, pp. 153-165.



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Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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