Snow Brand Milk Products (A): Assessing the Possibility for Revitalization


Ethics and Business Law

Date of this version


Document Type



international business, Japan, ethics, health, public relations, food manufacturing, leadership, ethical issues, contaminated product, corporate responsibility, unmei kyodotai, public relations, stakeholder engagement, crisis management, turnaround




This three-case series, set in Japan, explores corporate responsibility and brand rebuilding in the face of a serious crisis. Suitable for MBA, executive education, and undergraduate students, it depicts a consumer advocate's decision-making process as she considers whether to help a company restore its badly tarnished reputation. In spring 2002, leading consumer activist Nobuko Hiwasa was invited to join the Japanese company Snow Brand Milk Products' board of directors. The CEO wanted her to assist in SBM's revitalization efforts, which were being implemented in the wake of two recent scandals—contaminated milk and beef mislabeling—that had almost brought down the venerable company. Hiwasa had to decide whether to take on this Herculean task. Was the company sincere in wanting to reform and revitalize? Would she be accepted as an equal among the board members, and would her views and suggestions be given serious consideration? Was the request publicity-driven? How would fellow consumer advocates view her if she accepted the position? This case details the history of Snow Brand Milk Products and the missteps and scandals that plagued it in the 1990s and the early part of the decade that followed.



Published in

Journal of Business Ethics Education

Citation/Other Information

Mead, J., Wolfe, R. W., Saito, A., & Koehn, D. (2010). Snow Brand Milk Products (A): Assessing the Possibility for Revitalization. Journal of Business Ethics Education, 7, 103-116. https://doi.org/10.5840/jbee201077