How ethical is your marketing?

3 Minutes
Sara Armitage

Ethical marketing is a term that refers to the way companies market their goods or services, focusing not only on the features and benefits but also how products and practices are socially responsible and community and environmentally supportive.

Over the past few years, the importance of ethics in marketing has become much more mainstream with companies giving it a bigger share of voice in marketing plans and company policies.

According to a survey conducted by Attest in 2019, reported that over 20% of millennials in the United Kingdom strongly agreed with the statement “I buy from businesses that reflect my stance on social issues” with a further 39.8 percent slightly agreeing with this statement.

The recent Covid crisis has further highlighted awareness of ethical business practices and consumers are much more conscious of how brands can, and do, make a difference. Marketing ethics look at the bigger picture, potentially benefitting society as a whole, in the short or long term.

Most of us are aware of Fair Trade, a trading partnership that supports greater equality in international trade.  It promotes a fairer set of standards and pay for workers and farmers and higher quality, ethically produced goods for consumers.

More recently fashion brand Boo Hoo has been in the news regarding reports of poor working conditions and Covid-19 measures in clothing factories in England that supply the company. It is a ‘fast fashion’ brand targeting the younger fashion buyer and has been highly acquisitional buying out Burton, Debenhams, Dorothy Perkins, Principles and Wallis.

According to, Boo Hoo’s poor ethical rating score of 3 has brought down the score of these older, better rated brands by over half.

Ethical marketing is more of a philosophy than a strategy, it’s a way of doing things that promotes the values of the company, sharing these values with its consumers and it should be part of every aspect of the business.  Ethically minded companies will evaluate their marketing both from an economic and a moral standpoint, whether it is right, honest, transparent.

Some consumer brands we might associate with ethical marketing are Lush, The Body Shop, Just Water and Hello Fresh. Perhaps less in the news are the manufacturers and chemical companies that behave ethically by sourcing environmentally friendly components or ingredients and reducing carbon footprint where possible.  Bradford based Christeyns UK for example is very much aware of the impact its industry has on the environment and as such has introduced a new company wide initiative, Terra Firma.

The programme will consider all aspects of the business in relation to sustainability and the environment.  This includes helping customers choose more sustainable solutions which will benefit the wider community in areas across the UK and Ireland.

Ethical marketing is a long-term commitment, one that does not happen overnight and it’s about the bigger picture.  Encompassing suppliers and producers down the line, changing the way goods are provided and supporting the communities that rely on fair trade.  It’s also about treating employees with respect, helping consumers make more conscious purchasing choices and doing what’s right for the community and wider environment.