It’s a common question: Why should I care about ethics in my business?
You may be wondering the same thing, particularly if you’re a marketer who operates in a digital world. Ethics questions surface when a company’s actions conflict with your personal values. You may start thinking about whether or not you should work for a company that promotes gender equality, for example, or if you believe in free speech. When a company’s actions threaten the integrity of your industry, you may wonder if it’s even worth continuing your relationship.
The Role of Marketing In A Healthy Democracy
Many of us believe that marketing is responsible for some of society’s ills. We blame marketing for a vast array of problems, from climate change to poverty. We think that by limiting the amount of advertising, marketing would shrink to match our means. In other words, we think that fewer ads = less problems. We’re wrong.
Marketing is important for a healthy democracy — it helps establish trust between the government and its citizens. As citizens become more aware of their rights, companies must continue to nurture these relationships and ensure that their actions are aligned with the greater good. In this way, marketing can play a positive role in establishing a healthy democracy by creating trust and transparency between businesses and government. This, in turn, encourages active citizenship and grassroots engagement — two pillars of a thriving democracy.
Why Ethics In Marketing?
The role of marketing is constantly evolving to keep up with the times and the demands of customers. This is why you see so many different marketing strategies and approaches — we’re always looking for ways to grow, to innovate, and to remain relevant. This is great news for marketers, but it can also put us in a bit of a pickle.
Marketing is a practice that is both ethical and unethical. Sometimes we need to take a hard look at our own companies’ actions and ask ourselves questions about the ethics of what we do — is this fair trade practice? Is this the right thing to do in terms of society?
Marketers must always look for ways to do the right thing, whether or not this is actually good for business. When a brand is highly regarded for its ethics, it becomes a bit easier to market ethically. Society starts to see your company as an honest brand and customers start to trust your word more readily. This is why you’ll see many companies take an interest in ethics from an early stage, ensuring that their actions are aligned with societal and corporate ideals. It starts from the top of the company and permeates throughout its entire structure. Your company’s code of conduct and ethical standards will serve as a blueprint for your employees, guiding their daily decisions. This, in turn, creates an environment where employees are encouraged to behave ethically and responsibly. Your customers, stakeholders, and the greater good are all important to your company’s ethical standing.
Many large companies, such as Google and Facebook, have also established internal ethics committees to evaluate the ethics of different business practices. As the role of marketing evolves, it seems that the practice of ethics is evolving along with it. Just remember to do the right thing even if it’s not good for business—you’ll never know what tomorrow might bring.
The Rise Of The Conscious Consumer
Consumers have always had a say in the market—they’ve just never had the ability to make their voices heard on such a scale. The internet gives consumers a voice that was previously reserved for business leaders and media outlets. This is why we’re seeing a shift in the way businesses operate — they’re realising that the consumer is the market and the market is now in charge. Companies that realise this are leading the ethical marketing charge.
You may ask yourself, how does ethics play into the way I buy my morning coffee, or put energy drinks in my daily diet? These are all significant questions, but they can also be applied to the way we consume content, whether this is on television, online, or in-person. Television and film content is generally created through a combination of advertising and entertainment. This content is generally geared toward entertaining and eventually engaging the audience in ways that they’ll subscribe to a particular channel. While the content might not be sponsored, the advertisements generally are. This kind of content, although enjoyable, might also be considered less than ethical if an audience member feels that they’re being manipulated by the advertisements.
Consumers are also paying attention to the brands they choose. This trend manifests itself not just in boycotts, but in the way people choose to show their support for certain brands. If a consumer feels that a brand is unethical, they may choose to steer clear of it or, at the very least, use their purchasing power to encourage the brand to change its ways. This kind of power, when used collectively, is immense. If we want to truly change the way business operates, we must look to consumers for support — they’re the ones with the power to decide what’s right and wrong in the first instance.
Consumers are changing the way we think about brands. Consumers are considering the ethics of a brand before making a purchase decision and some are even bringing this topic up during negotiations. More and more people are realising that the way we behave toward animals and the environment is connected to how we should behave toward each other. This is reflected in every area of our lives, from the products we buy to the way we treat our bodies and the world around us. Our actions have consequences and if we want to be better people, we must be better citizens. The role of marketing, and indeed all of business, is to help individuals and organisations to behave ethically and responsibly — we must always remember this when creating content or carrying out business.
The future of marketing is ethical—it’s just a matter of time before people start recognising this and businesses have to adjust to fit the new paradigm. With each new generation, this time will pass and business will continue to evolve.