Ethics in business has long been the subject of discussion and scrutiny. The correlation between making a profit in business while maintaining flawless integrity is something that has been studied extensively with few definitive results.
When the UN released its 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, it provided a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future. At its heart are 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are an urgent call for action by all countries in a global partnership.
This framework provides an appropriate reference point for businesses wanting to install strong ethical values into the running of their organisation. To practise ethical marketing, ethical values must already be at the core of their identity.
So before ethical marketing can be implemented, a business must already have an unwavering commitment to making a positive and meaningful impact in the world. There must be company-wide adherence to any internal regulations that reflect this intention. Then an ethical marketing plan can be created.
What is Ethical Marketing?
The term ‘ethical marketing’ refers to a set of strategies that prioritises trust, transparency and culturally sensitive marketing regulations. It demonstrates a strong commitment to honesty and justice. It is a form of marketing that promotes a brand, product, or service while adhering to ethical standards and upholding social responsibility.
Ethical marketing prioritises ethical and marketing concepts over promotional tactics. It directs marketing efforts by considering what is good and bad for the target audiences or society at large. Fairness, honesty, responsibility, and trust are all considered in every facet of an ethical campaign. A business’s marketing policies are dramatically improved through ethical marketing because it adds value to customers while also promoting environmental and social causes.
The brilliant thing about ethical marketing is that it can not only strengthen relationships with customers through common goals and values, it can also greatly amplify the public perception and approval rating of an organisation. This way, it becomes a win/win for an organisation by increasing sales and profit, while enhancing the reputation and image of the business.
Any organisation that conducts ethical marketing campaigns, evaluates their marketing activities with both their business objectives and ethical principles in mind. The proposed campaign must deliver the expected returns while adhering firmly to the values. No exceptions.
Businesses that have the courage and foresight to commit to ethical marketing principles are not only benefiting themselves but are also setting a precedent for the behavioural standards of the global marketplace. This is facilitating important societal shifts, which is enormously beneficial to the world at large.
Ethical Vs Unethical Marketing?
Ethical marketing campaigns are built on ethical principles, but there are a variety of ways in which a business may engage in unethical marketing by making false claims or having deceptive policies, or not paying attention to what is positive or damaging for the target audiences or society.
While ethical marketing boosts positive brand awareness, unethical marketing may result in the loss of consumers, a poor reputation, and litigation. Surrogate advertising, exaggeration, unverified claims, false brand comparisons, and stereotyping in advertising are just a few examples of unethical marketing.
The Benefits of Ethical Marketing
Marketing has sadly earned a bad reputation over the years and this has primarily been due to companies resorting to whatever tactics they possibly can in order to sell their products and services. But marketing itself is not inherently unethical. It can easily be conducted in accordance with ethical principles and this will result in far reaching benefits for the organisation conducting the campaign and the community receiving it.
Ethical marketing offers a number of key benefits to businesses and people as follows:
Customer loyalty Ethical marketing can boost the customer loyalty of a company by highlighting their integrity and strengthening their perceived value in the marketplace.
Greater success While unethical practices could end up costing the company money, the loyalty and appreciation generated by ethical campaigns will widen the customer base and increase sales.
Better reputation Consumers and the general public will have a much more favourable impression of companies that comply with ethical marketing practices. The organisation will be held in much higher esteem because of it.
Better society Adhering to ethical marketing practices results in better living conditions for everyone along the supply chain and this ensures a much better society for all.
Longevity Companies that conduct their business with integrity, will continue to grow their market share due to the rise in conscious consumerism, which is a growing trend that has developed as a result of global crises such as the pandemic and climate change events.
The Principles of Ethical Marketing
In the past, organisations have been focused on promoting their products and services in order to generate revenue. However, owing to growing consumer awareness, things have evolved drastically, and these adjustments are becoming more common.
Several large organisations have shut down their businesses due to unethical practices. Enron, WorldCom, and Hollinger International are three such examples and this has provided solid evidence that this type of corporate behaviour is becoming increasingly unacceptable.
There are three foundational components of ethical business practices, which are relationships, passion, and transparency. These fundamental elements are the core principles of ethical marketing.
For small enterprises, relationships and human interactions are at the heart of their mission. The same idea applies to sales, where communities who share similar values spring up around companies that are advocates for sustainability and the environment.
When a company is extremely passionate about their product or service, this is infectious and encourages consumers to join them on their mission. This passion is also useful in creating a compelling story around the brand itself, which is the most effective way to convey the message to the market.
Small businesses are not as obligated to profit-driven shareholders so they are often more eco-conscious than their corporate counterparts. Transparency is an essential ethical marketing principle because honesty breeds trust in the consumer.
Ethical Marketing Advantages
Ethics and marketing should work in tandem since they both contribute to a company’s reputation, safeguard consumers, and promote market sustainability.
It’s critical to have sound business ethics if you want not only to improve your brand image and avoid public outrage, but also to make sure that your company’s stakeholders (workers, clients, and suppliers) benefit from the ethical standards you maintain.
The advantages of following ethical marketing practices are:
One of the main advantages of adhering to business ethics is that it may help you avoid legal issues and costs. The greatest benefit of ethical marketing is to ensure that everyone who deals with your organisation is treated fairly and respectfully, which helps to build a strong brand image.
Employees are given the same opportunities, and they are treated with respect and equality. This makes the workplace a more positive and nurturing environment and ensures that the culture is positive and enjoyable.
Following ethical principles and having integrity in business practices will ensure employee retention. This is better for the long term success of the business because employee turnover can increase running costs and be disruptive to the clients.
What is Unethical Marketing?
Unethical marketing conveys the wrong impression to potential customers about your items and services. In certain cases, these procedures may lead to legal issues, but more significantly, they can endanger your brand’s reputation and even its existence.
It’s unethical to deceive or defraud consumers when conducting marketing and it’s critical to have ethical business practices in all sectors. It’s important to not underestimate consumer intelligence as people will look for hidden meanings in marketing, fine print and read reviews, and they will evaluate businesses as a result of deceptive marketing tactics.
Unethical businesses will attempt to take advantage of our goodwill by using manipulative marketing methods. The issue here is that these campaigns are built around consumer feelings of scarcity or lack, not their impact and value alignment.
The lack of corporate accountability allows unethical marketing to become even more crucial as we try to figure out which companies belong in each class.
Ethical Marketing Examples
Companies that place importance on sustainability and social issues and are behaving with integrity, use ethical marketing to strengthen their reputation and increase their impact and reach. Following are some good examples of this approach:
The fashion industry is one of the most contentious in the world. In recent years, greater attention has been paid to how and where our clothes are made, particularly as a result of disasters such as the fire that destroyed a garment manufacturing plant in Bangladesh.
In recent years, demand for ethically manufactured apparel has increased as a result of greater awareness about sweatshop labour, providing rise to dozens of companies that aim to revolutionise how we make and perceive clothes, including Everlane.
Everlane is committed to radical transparency. Not satisfied with merely informing you that their clothes are made and sold ethically; they also provide buyers with a detailed cost breakdown for each of their clothing items. This covers things like material costs, labour, transportation and logistics fees, as well as sales and use taxes.
The coffee industry directly supports the livelihoods of more than 120 million of the world’s poorest people, and few businesses are likely to be subjected to as much change as agricultural coffee production as a result of climate change. Literally half of the planet’s coffee farming land may be lost by 2050 if global warming isn’t urgently tackled.
Since its inception, Conscious Coffees has worked tirelessly to improve its production processes in order to benefit growers, farmers, and suppliers throughout South America. Similar to Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, Conscious Coffees is a B-corporation that has met all of the necessary requirements and achieved an excellent community impact score among the top 10% of B Corps.
Conscious Coffees’ primary focus is on ensuring ethical production processes and fair-trade business practices. In addition to its strong dedication to ethical production methods and fair trade commerce, the company participates in a variety of community outreach programs such as its CAFE Livelihoods Program, its commitment to the Community Cycles program and support of the Farmer-to-Farmer initiative.
Activist marketing is the term used to describe Dr. Bronner’s strategy of promoting their products. They openly express their environmental concerns on the label, which, when you think about it, is a clever way to raise environmental awareness.
They prefer to use their items and social media to advocate for a more just and long-lasting world rather than advertising with traditional marketing approaches. Their Instagram account is chock-full of pieces on issues like Black Lives Matter and stricter gun laws.
The Do’s of Ethical Marketing
Here are five important aspects ethical marketing:
Human rights and sustainability
Consumers want to know that companies are committed to sustainable practices all the way along the supply chain so it’s important to be honest about the components and origins of your products.
When you’re marketing a product or service to consumers, be absolutely clear about it—including important information about how to use it safely and effectively. Provide all the relevant information and don’t withhold anything important.
Always seek to preserve consumer rights and, as soon as possible, investigate any complaint. Customers should know that addressing concerns is a top priority for your organisation and that these concerns are acted upon swiftly.
Consumers are understandably wary about entrusting their personal information to businesses. As a result, it’s critical to emphasise the company’s dedication to consumer privacy and data protection.
Involving your customers in your sustainability practices is a great way to promote your commitment to ethical principles. One way to do this is to offer the opportunity to offset their carbon impact when checking out of your e-commerce store.
The Don’ts of Ethical Marketing
Here are some common examples of unethical marketing practices:
You’re making a false claim if you overstate the advantages of something. If you’re promising a consumer an inferior level of quality than what can be provided, you are engaged in unethical behaviour.
Making false comparisons
This is a deceptive technique in which competitors’ products or services are made to appear defective or unfavourable. It’s much better to highlight the positive advantages of what you’re offering than criticise and disparage another company’s product of service.
This entails making a pledge to produce results (e.g. reduce wrinkles or lose weight) without providing any scientific evidence to back it up. These kinds of claims are not only unethical but can even be dangerous. Greenwashing is the act of giving a false impression or providing misleading information on how a company’s goods are more ecologically beneficial.
This involves the use of preconceptions, such as depicting women as sex objects, to promote a product. The problem with this type of marketing is that it helps to sustain stereotypes. Ethical marketing doesn’t do this.
One of the most effective methods to generate interest is to get a consumer’s emotional response. However, if you elicit negative emotions such as rage, fear, or sadness in a tasteless manner, this might be interpreted as unethical. Customers want their emotions to be understood rather than played with.
The future of ethical marketing entails ongoing education, activism and commitment to the cause. We all have a part to play in ensuring that the marketplace becomes increasingly ethical in its marketing endeavours.
We must continue to transform what society will and won’t accept in terms of the way products are produced, the supply chain involved and fair trade practices. The more businesses commit to ethical practices, the more consumers will value it and reward it with their loyalty.