Too often ethics are seen only in the context of the ubiquitous green policies, community programmes and CSR report. And while these are ethical issues, it is often the smaller actions of an organisation that speak ethical volumes.
Consider the measurements that ethical indexes such as the Swiss Covalence Ethical Quotation System and Ethisphere.com use to rate companies: consumer communication, dealing with complaints, distribution and marketing. Because it is the everyday implementation of these areas that show a brand to be walking the talk… or not…
Is it ethical if an airline charges obligatory extras that the consumer is only made aware of when they’re half way through the purchasing process?
Is it ethical that a food label can carry unsubstantiated health claims, or nutritional information for “portion” sizes that do not equate to likely product consumption - the 200ml kids smoothie label that cites a 100ml portion and the King size chocolate bar or soft drink that cites a portion as being half the product.
Is it ethical for a restaurant or hotel to claim it is “family friendly” when the catering and the pricing is anything but?
Ethics can be widely and unconsciously disregarded in the smallest of ways. But the accumulative effect of these apparently minor misdemeanours can be far reaching.
Today’s consumers want to feel good about the choices they make. They may have roomier purses but they also have time to consider how they spend their reduced disposable income. And it is not so much the price but the value and values that that price and the product infer that concerns consumers.
So brands that want to engage with today’s consumers need to get their values in order and their ethics in line.