Consumers are increasingly guided by their own set of values when deciding what to buy. Studies from recent years show that 40% of adults in the UK choose brands that have environmentally sustainable practices or values, and 37% choose brands that have ethical practices or values (Deloitte, 2022). Brands that do not align with these values risk losing customers, while those who embrace ethical marketing principles and prioritise sustainability, transparency, and social responsibility can benefit from increased customer loyalty, trust, and profits.
My aim is to introduce you to the topic of ethical marketing and give you some guidance on how your small business can start implementing it. Before we begin, I’d like to assure you that I know that marketing is often an overwhelming part of your business. The sound of adding something else to it all may be scary! But that’s exactly what I try to help with in my work: finding simple, straight-forward ways to do marketing in a better way for people and our planet. Less overwhelm, more purpose.
What is Ethical Marketing?
Ethical marketing is about considering the broader impact of your business on society and our planet. In practice, it involves avoiding deceptive tactics, false advertising, and manipulative strategies. By implementing methods that protect the environment, support social causes, and that are ethical and transparent, you can make a positive impact on the world while also attracting customers who value these principles.
It’s not about putting purpose before profit. Rather, it's about embedding purpose and conscious thinking in every aspect of business and marketing. Some examples of ethical marketing practices include using sustainable materials in product packaging, being transparent about the sourcing and production of products, and supporting social causes that align with the business's values.
I believe ethical marketing can also mean different things to different businesses. The key is to start with the basis that you want to do better for your customers and the environment. Then, the areas where your marketing could become more ethical will naturally stand out, highlighting where work may need to be done.
Why Ethical Marketing Can Boost Sales & Reputation
Ethical marketing can be a wonderful way for small businesses to build a loyal customer base and create a positive reputation in the community. By being honest and transparent with your messaging, you can build trust with your customers, which leads to better customer satisfaction. And we all know that happy customers tend to stick around and refer others, which can result in more sales and profits for your business.
Ethical marketing practices can also help small businesses like yours stand out from your competitors in a crowded marketplace. Customers who value ethics and social responsibility are more likely to choose a business that prioritises those qualities, which can lead to increased sales and a great reputation in the community.
Lastly, ethical marketing can have a big impact on employee retention. When employees feel like their company is operating ethically and making a positive impact, they tend to feel more proud and committed to their work. This can result in lower turnover rates and a strong team culture. Plus, businesses that prioritise ethics are more likely to attract like-minded employees, which can create a warm and productive work environment.
How Can Small Businesses Make an Impact?
Small businesses have an immense power when it comes to ethical marketing. While the suggestions below may seem complicated at first, they don’t all need to be worked on at the same time. Start with your core values and decide what feels the most important in your business right now. Audit where you stand on each of the different topics, and work your way through them over time. If you are finding it difficult, getting a specialised consultant to guide you through it all could be helpful.
So here are some ways to maximise the impact through your communication strategy:
1. Use Clear and Honest Language
Help your audience understand the jargon and complex details about your products or services, and the impact they have on people and the planet. This means avoiding any greenwashing or misleading claims that exaggerate the sustainability or ethical aspects.
2. Take Your Customer Data Protection and Privacy Seriously
This may mean regularly auditing how you store data and how compliant you are with data privacy laws (such as GDPR), as well as clearly communicating about your actions with your clients.
3. Make Your Content Accessible and Diverse
This means checking if your website, email and social media content is easy to navigate and accessible for people with disabilities, and making sure that it is inclusive and representative of different backgrounds and cultures where it is relevant.
4. Be Mindful About Your Psychosocial Impact
Reflect on the psychosocial impact of your marketing campaigns on consumers. Do they contribute to healthy, positive changes and behaviours? Or do they instead encourage harmful actions or thinking? This could be investigated through market research, such as polls, surveys and interviews with your target audience.
5. Highlight Ethical and Sustainable Practices
Shout out about the great things that you do for society and our environment. Set the example by sharing your values, achievements, and ongoing efforts to make a positive impact through social media, blog posts, or newsletters.
6. Educate and Engage Customers
While you may feel like you’re a small fish in a big pond, don’t underestimate the power you have to influence your clients’ choices and behaviour. Businesses like yours can educate and engage customers on sustainability and ethical issues. This can be done by creating content that informs and inspires your audience to make better choices through educational videos, blog posts, or social media posts.
7. Collaborate with Like-Minded Brands and Creators
Amplify your message and make a bigger impact by pairing up with like-minded brands and creators. This can be done through partnerships, influencer campaigns, or events that promote shared values and goals.
To sum it up…
Ethical marketing can have a significant impact on a small business. It can help build a loyal
customer base, create a positive reputation in the community, and increase employee retention. It is about considering the broader impact of your business on society and the planet by avoiding deceptive tactics, false advertising, and manipulative strategies. While the different suggested steps may seem complicated at first, you can start crafting your ethical marketing strategy by focusing on your core values, and gradually working your way through each of the topics over time.
Remember: ethical marketing is NOT about putting purpose before profit, but about embedding purpose and conscious thinking into every aspect of the business and marketing, contributing to the creation of a better future for people and our planet.
Alexandra Asanache founded DigitallyAlex in 2020, offering ethical and responsible marketing consultancy to businesses that do good for people and the planet. With a background in tourism and foreign languages, Alex brings a unique perspective to her work, helping clients navigate the complexities of their marketing strategies.
She believes in truthful, transparent, and authentic marketing practices and aims to contribute positively to a fairer marketing industry.
DigitallyAlex offers a range of services tailored to businesses at different stages of their journey, including audits, one-off and ongoing consulting packages, and bespoke social media management.
Based in St Albans, UK, Alex works with businesses locally and internationally, and her fluency in at least five languages allows her to communicate with clients from diverse backgrounds. When not at her desk, she enjoys nature walks, board games, pizza-making, passion projects, and naps.