In the past decade there has been a noticeable increase in the number of businesses using ethical, fair trade and eco-friendly marketing strategies to promote their products. Many companies have considered using ethical strategies and branding to help boost sales or attract consumers looking for assurances that their choice of product and service providers are in line with their personal beliefs. Here are some ways to determine if ethical or eco-friendly marketing strategies are right for your business.
Ethical Marketing Can Make You Stand Out
Prerna Chandak is the founder of Shopanthropic, a company that works with local artisans in countries including India, Nepal, Cambodia and Bangladesh to create trendy, feel-good designer products and accessories that are ethically-made, fair trade and eco-friendly. “We wanted to do something that had meaning.” explains Chandak. “Cutting a cheque to an organization is one thing, but actually being able to help create change is another.”
Shopanthropic, which began as a small project by Chandak and her mother on a trip to India, has grown to be a multi-faceted business. Chandak works with corporations in creating sustainable products that can tie into their corporate responsibility initiatives, works with non-profits to build fundraising campaigns using ethically-made products and helps artisans connect with the global community by learning to use and embrace technology as part of their businesses. Choosing to be an ethical business has been a conscious decision for Chandak. “Our strategy has helped us set ourselves apart,” she says. Shopanthropic’s unique approach has created a niche and distinguished the company from other retailers in her business space.
Ethical Marketing Can Help Build Trust
“Even if [a company] is not fully socially conscious, it’s a platform to go into your community and say ‘We support good things’,” Chandak points out. Marketers can learn from this approach and even apply it in the online space. Taking a strong and well-expressed position on ethical issues like data mining, managing users’ privacy and information and other ethical issues helps build trust with users and helps express your company’s ideals. Showing that your business uses sustainable or eco-friendly materials in its day-to-day operations or takes pride in its waste-reduction strategy also helps show your commitment to issues consumers care about. Discuss your business’s sustainability initiatives in the signature line of your emails, by displaying your LEED certification on your website, or through articles on your blog. Adopting a more sustainable model of operations can also help you save money. Eco-friendly business models like paperless offices reduce both your waste and your expenses.
Create Content and Educate Consumers
Educating potential consumers and addressing your target market in general about the ethical or eco-friendly measures your business has adopted is an important part of helping potential customers understand the value of this part of your strategy. Shopanthropic helps promote the importance of its commitment to ethical products through regular blog posts and even editorials in major publications. This is a lesson Chandak has learned while establishing Shopanthroic’s niche within in the accessories industry. “We compete with a market that’s dirt cheap. It’s very difficult sometimes when you’re dealing with consumers who may not realize the benefits of ethical products, whether they’re eco-friendly, fair trade or both.”
What is Chandak’s advice for companies thinking about moving forward with an ethical marketing strategy? “Do it. But make sure you stay committed to it.” Some organizations have decided to move ahead with ethical marketing, only to revert back to their previous approach. “This hurts the ethical sector in general because suppliers doubt the industry,” Chandak observes. The ethical community has a consistent message about the way products should be made, and consistency helps your businesses express that message and be part of that community. “Stay committed to it and voice that,” Chandak says, “Go out and talk about it. We’re all moving in the same direction.”