Minicast: Social & Ethical Responsibility in Marketing
Updated: Jul 7, 2022
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When Tracy was in third grade in California, she started a club, a Save the Earth club. She bought stickers with little messages on reducing, reusing and recycling, and wrote a newsletter about saving the planet. She sent the newsletter to her cousin, and forced her brother to participate. She harped on recycling to her parents, and they started to recycle that year, and have been ever since.
Since that time, a lot has changed. Tracy still dreams of saving the planet, but her desires for ethical and social responsibility extend into the work that she does. As does Chad's work. When talking about the way to mesh marketing with Earth Week, Chad suggested the topic.
Ethical responsibility in business is the idea that businesses should be stewards of the work that they do - balancing profit-making with activities benefiting the greater good - either locally or globally. In marketing, this responsibility focuses business efforts on attracting customers who desire to make a positive difference with purchases, or to participate in a cause that benefits the transaction. There are numerous examples of companies who have adopted socially responsible elements into their business strategies. These offer the consumer a way to help while receiving beneficial services and products.
Think of Toms. Patagonia. Bombas. Each of these companies has a mission that goes beyond selling a product. In each case, these companies give back, as they make a profit. They do it so well, their business models are continuously copied.
Feels good, right?
These principles and standards of ethical responsibility help define acceptable practices within marketing strategies. The values that are deemed important are often set forth by stakeholders, including the consumer, governmental regulations, private-interest groups, industry, and the organization itself. The idea again, being to continue to make profits, while giving back. One example is when we see companies utilizing social causes tied to a product, as seen with Patagonia's missions.
Three areas of social responsibility are community relations, consumerism, and the natural environment. One example of this is through 'green marketing.' This is referring to the development, promotion, distribution, and pricing of products that do not harm the environment. Consider a company who has moved away from plastic wrap in packaging as an example. This promotes the natural environment as a socially responsible marketing method.
Next, let's talk about consumerism. These are the efforts of independent individuals, groups, and organizations to protect the rights of consumers. People expect to have the right to information, safety, choice, and the right to be heard. This concept protects the consumer via practices of transparency within a company, while giving the consumer a voice through a method such as writing reviews.
Lastly, community relations. How a company handles a bad review, a suggestion from consumers, or even tricky political and social issues says a lot about the social responsibility of a company. Recently, we were discussing at the VWC, companies such as REI and Patagonia who have taken vocal, proactive social stances concerning social issues. Compare this to company's that have never taken a stance on any social issue. We had many discussions on the navigation of when and where to speak out, or not speak out on social and ethical matters.
Wherever your company stands, whatever the product/service you provide, you as a business owner have a choice when it comes to ethics. Perhaps it is less messy to stay out of larger social issues. We get it, our country has been really loud lately in these matters. But, as you choose the issues related to consumerism, community relations, and natural resources, consider that the small issues that make a large impact for your consumer and the future of our Mother Earth.