What it means to be an ethical business

1 minute read

Ethical consumer spending in the UK has grown dramatically. But could you claim that your company is trading ethically in your marketing? Here’s the lowdown.

Put simply, ethical businesses apply decent values to their everyday business practices. It’s about moral duty, contribution and obligation, and it covers everything from the behaviour of individuals through to how the business conducts itself in its sales techniques, choice of suppliers and more.

Trading ethically is a big deal, but most businesses can get there through making small changes.

And when it comes to marketing ethically, the trick is to ensure that your company’s goods and services advocate not only how the customer will benefit, but also how they will contribute to a more socially responsible and environmentally conscious ethos.

Can ethical businesses be profitable?

It’s a big fat yes. Businesses with strong ethics that also earn a profit, or triple-bottom-line companies as they’re known, are on the up-and-up. And here’s why.

First, your employees will be more trusting and more engaged if you demonstrate ethical leadership. It’ll promote integrity and build trust; strong business ethics are also proven to impact employee behaviour for the better. According to the 2018 Global Business Ethics survey, employees are more likely to apply ethical reasoning when their company demonstrates why business ethics is important.

Oh, and the Ethics at Work study in 2021 by the Institute of Business Ethics revealed that 57% of employees are now in organisations with a comprehensive ethics programme, with 86% saying honesty is practiced consistently in their organisation.

More commercially aware readers will be pleased to know that trading ethically can also cut costs. Is your company paperless, for example? What are your energy and water efficiency measures? Granted, these will usually be ‘filed’ under environmental (or sustainability) considerations, but they also feed into the broader ethics of a company.

(Also, did you know that one in five retailers have dropped suppliers due to sustainability concerns? Ouch.)

And lastly, consumers are WAY more interested in purchasing with ethically responsible companies and will actively choose them over businesses who don’t express their ethics. Nielsen research found that 55% of global online shoppers are passionate about companies that make a positive social and environmental impact; in fact, these consumers will pay more for related products and services. Cha-ching.

How to implement ethical business practices

A big part of encouraging more ethical business practices comes down to your marketing strategies. Ethical marketing campaigns lead to increased sales – as they generally have a better long-term effect on ROI. Unethical practices on the other hand tend to be exposed and have a short-term effect at best.

When marketing ethically, consider the following three points.

  • Don’t sensationalise. Many consumers expect ethical trading as standard and are cautious of over-hyped smuggery. Clear, honest, authentic messaging is the way forward.
  • Generate trust. Delivering a product that’s exactly what it says on the tin will establish trust and confidence among your customers. And it will generate return customers based on loyalty to the product, company, or brand. Around 49% of consumers say they have started buying from, or increased their purchases from a company because they trust the brand. Another 33% of consumers said they have paid more because they trust the business.
  • Make a contribution. While making a profit and generating business is a priority, don’t forget that being diligent in establishing an overall sense of fairness and equity in your marketing will result in an improved customer experience. It might even contribute to a better world as a whole.

Next steps

Being an ethical business doesn’t need to be a chore. At all. You won’t have to sweat about greenwashing, and you’ll be making a tangible contribution to society. And you could start today – simply embrace transparency, be honest about your credentials and talk about your journey towards becoming a more ethical business.

If you’d like some agency input on ethical marketing practices, then get in touch today! sim@sim7creative.co.uk