The Ethics of Making a Profit During a Pandemic

By Grit Daily Staff Grit Daily Staff has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team
Published on April 22, 2020

The global pandemic that is the coronavirus is likely to lead to a deep depression, as governments around the world try to prevent millions of jobs from being lost. But for those companies still profiting during COVID-19, is it truly ethical to be making that money?

It’s not a time to worry about making a buck

Some sectors have been hit much worse than others. For example, many airlines are now relying on bailouts in order to stay afloat with their planes grounded because of the pandemic.

Not everyone is struggling for money due to the pandemic, though. Certain industries are booming due to seeing unprecedented demand, with supermarkets reporting massive increases in the amount of food they are selling on a weekly basis.

This is not just down to panic-buying and stockpiling. People are at home a lot more than normal, so they are consuming extra food and using up other household items faster than usual.

Many supermarkets have opted to donate money to charitable causes that are fighting the coronavirus crisis in order to avoid accusations of profiteering. After all, there are lots of ethical questions involved in making a profit during a pandemic.

How Hoarding Hand Sanitizer Backfired for One American Family

Some people saw the coronavirus crisis as a business opportunity to make some money and provide for their families during a difficult financial situation.

Amazon sellers Matt and Noah Colvin, a pair of brothers from Tennessee, decided to start buying hand sanitizer after the first coronavirus death in the United States was announced. America’s death count is now standing at well over 25,000 and it continues to grow quickly.

The Colvin brothers bought all the hand sanitizer that was on sale at their local stores then started driving further afield to clear the shelves. They began to list the bottles on Amazon, selling them for up to $70 each, many multiples higher than they had paid for the products.

However, the move backfired in stunning fashion. Amazon started to pull listings for items like hand sanitizer, face masks and wipes in response to the growing coronavirus crisis. Ethically, the company wanted to ensure people were not profiteering as a result of the pandemic.

Consequently, the brothers were left with 17,700 hand sanitizer bottles they were unable to sell. They gave a widely criticised interview to the New York Times in which they complained about their predicament, but they later decided to start giving the products away to good causes.

Many other sellers – who used Facebook and Telegram groups to get rid of hand sanitizer bottles – were left in a similar situation. But were they ethically wrong to try to make money?

Gambling Moving Online During COVID-19

The gambling industry has long been questioned by certain quarters for what is occasionally perceived to be a lack of ethics. After all, the profits of the sector tend to rely on some bettors becoming addicted to gambling and losing their cash.

Across America, land-based casinos have been forced to close their doors because of their pandemic. Las Vegas has become a ghost town, with hundreds of thousands of workers in Nevada at risk of losing their jobs in the gambling industry due to the crisis.

Closing casinos has not stopped people from gambling, however. Isolation has been a boon for most casino sites that operate online. Many of them have seen a rise in the number of people signing up to play games like roulette and blackjack. It is not out of the question that many land-based casinos will be shut for good with people getting used to gambling online instead.

Government support is available to land-based casinos that have had to close due to COVID-19. But this has been a controversial move with some people suggesting taxpayers’ money should not be used to prop up this particular industry, despite the millions of jobs it supports.

Which Other Companies Are Profiting During COVID-19?

Some businesses are finding their sales have gone up to a large degree through little more than luck – being in the right place at the right time.

Citrix, for example, is a company selling remote–working technology. It has seen its stocks rise in value by more than a quarter in the past few weeks. Video calling apps like Zoom, which previously had little to no public profile, have rocketed in usage due to lockdown conditions.

Some companies operate in multiple sectors that have enjoyed rising demand of late. Cleaning firm Clorox not only makes around 50 per cent of the wipes used in America, it produces packaged foods as well. Clorox stocks have risen higher than at any point in almost 50 years.

But with more than 15 million Americans having filed for unemployment benefits since the start of COVID-19, it is clear the pandemic is going to have a huge impact on the economy.

Whether it is ethical to be making large profits at this testing time is open to debate.

By Grit Daily Staff Grit Daily Staff has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team

Journalist verified by Muck Rack verified

Grit Daily News is the premier startup news hub. It is the top news source on Millennial and Gen Z startups — from fashion, tech, influencers, entrepreneurship, and funding. Based in New York, our team is global and brings with it over 400 years of combined reporting experience.

Read more

More GD News