by Dan Courtney
I joined the glass industry in 2003 as an engineer to make a living, solve problems, and make the world just a little bit better. Over the subsequent 17 years, I worked with glass fabricators to address quality issues and help improve glass processing. Normally this was a congenial and cooperative process, but not always. More than once I’ve stood in front of a building with the owner, general contractor, glazier, and fabricator all wanting to point fingers for some issue. As a glass OEM, the only thing harder than telling one of our downstream customers that they created the problem, was telling my own company that they bore responsibility. It’s human nature to avoid the negative consequences of one’s actions, but negative consequences do happen even when everyone is acting with the best of intentions. As an engineer I had to think through the consequences of my actions, which could, in some cases, have serious effects on people and companies that I would never meet.
As a business leader the consequences of one’s decisions are more far-reaching, and in many respects, less predictable. Nevertheless, an ethical leader acknowledges their contribution to the causal chain of events and takes decisive action to mitigate any negative consequences.
This brings us to the horrific and inhumane slaughter of Ukrainians by the invading Russian army. The cause of this suffering is almost entirely the result of Vladimir Putin’s warped mind. But while Putin made the decision to invade, there are countless others that contribute and make it possible. From the generals ordering the targeting of children, to the taxpayers that unwittingly buy the bombs and bullets. And in our industry, the glass industry, there are those that pay Russian taxes and operate facilities in Russia that support the Russian economy, and ultimately support Putin’s killing machine.
No one is saying that leaders in the glass industry intended to support the war in Ukraine. In fact, it’s almost certain that their investments in the Russian economy were smart business decisions that benefited the Russian people and the global economy. But now that we know that some portion of that benefit is being diverted to cause unimaginable pain and misery, it’s up to the leaders to take responsibility for the consequences of their investments. They didn’t know – arguably couldn’t have known – that they were contributing to mass murder. But now that they know, it’s a moral imperative to take decisive action to eliminate any possible contribution, however small, to the suffering.
Some have argued that innocent Russian employees, customers, and vendors will suffer if these glass plants cease operations. Indeed, they will. But the magnitude of suffering pales in comparison to the death and destruction happening in Ukraine. Others have argued that Russia will nationalize these factories and benefit directly from their operation. Yes, Russia has threatened such a move. But prominent Russians also argue against such a move since it would destroy faith that any post-war investments would be safe from seizure. It’s also extremely unlikely that the Russian government could organize such takeovers, especially with so many other critical parts of the economy needing urgent attention.
Shutting down a glass factory isn’t easy… financially or operationally. But while Russian bombs are crushing Ukrainian children in the rubble of their own homes, anything less is unconscionable. Anything less is immoral.
-Dan Courtney is a former employee of Guardian Glass. He started with the company in 2003 and worked there until his retirement in 2020.