Marketing for people and planet
What is ethical marketing in 2023? Why is it so vital to the ongoing success of your business? NZBusiness sat down with Katherine Dewar, MD of GoodSense, for some clarity. When was the last time you asked your customers what they truly want to know about your business? Perhaps one of their questions might surprise […]
What is ethical marketing in 2023? Why is it so vital to the ongoing success of your business? NZBusiness sat down with Katherine Dewar, MD of GoodSense, for some clarity.
When was the last time you asked your customers what they truly want to know about your business? Perhaps one of their questions might surprise you. Does your business trade ethically?
Therein lies the rub. The general public, businesses you trade with, councils, even government departments increasingly want to know that the businesses they buy from, or deal with, are more than just complying with the law.
They want to know if you’re trading ethically – if you’re conscious of the impact your operations are having on people and the environment.
Katherine Dewar, ethical marketing specialist and managing director of B-Corp certified GoodSense1, reminds us that marketing is about more than just promotion; it’s also about the product or service itself – is it priced fairly, do the right people get paid, how do you ship and sell products, and how do you promote them?
Business owners must look at the social and environmental impact of all those factors – not just how much money they can make or save.
Ethical marketing is what customers demand and it is key to building a successful and enduring brand, says Katherine.
“It can feel like it’s hard, but taking small steps to improve the social or environmental ethics of how you run your business will make you feel better, your staff feel better, and it will impress your customers. It’ll make you a hero to any kids or grandkids. And often it can save you money.”
How you promote your business and products or services is key to ethical marketing, and you must consider exactly where your dollars are going.
Social media is a bit of an ethical minefield. We all know how many platforms have been utilised to destabilise society and fracture communities in recent times, and that’s bad for business.
Katherine believes email is still a powerful marketing tool and, like LinkedIn, often overlooked.
It’s important to get the permission and privacy stuff right though.
“There is so much hype and chasing after the new and shiny in marketing and much of it is hot air,” she says.
“In these tight economic times make sure your promotion spending really is growing sales and not just getting website clicks or likes for their own sake.”
Often the most useful and ethical option for society and the rest of nature (the environment) is also the best for your business, Katherine advises. “Be clear on who your core target customer is. Make sure you are being as useful as you can to current customers so they buy more from you, and focus your marketing spend on them and finding others like them.”
Myths and misconceptions
It’s not true that people are just out for the cheapest price. That’s only true of a minority, says Katherine. “Yes, people are struggling with the cost of living, but most still want the companies we buy from to be good citizens that address problems, not contribute to them,” she says.
If you want more customers, look at the social impact of what you’re doing on people (that’s staff, suppliers, the community around them) as well as on the rest of nature and the environment – think waste, pollution, working conditions, unconscious discrimination, power and fuel usage.
Another misconception is that you can get away with loose claims such as ‘eco-friendly’.
“That’s now outlawed,” explains Katherine. “You have to prove what you claim. So, get the facts and info right and then promote clearly why your product or service is better for the environment.
“And it’s better to tell a story humbly than be a blowhard.”
When it comes to touting your environmental credentials, people love specific examples and anecdotes, says Katherine. They love honesty around the impact and any harm you do, as well as clarity on any benefits and what you’re improving.
The rules overseas can be even stricter; therefore, exporters must be even more careful in what they claim, she adds. External certifications (think BioGro, Hua Parakore or Eco-Choice) can help with this as someone else is verifying your claims.
B-Corp certification, which Katherine’s GoodSense has achieved, speaks volumes about the standards of social, environmental and governance of a company.
“It makes for better business to work towards recognised standards in how you operate, and get someone else to run a ruler over things,” says Katherine.
They key is to make some initial improvements and plan for more.
“Nobody expects perfection, but we all need to be doing something.”
Meanwhile, the lowest hanging fruit when aiming to be a more ethical business is to consume less diesel or petrol, because climate change is impacting all of us.
“Being more fuel efficient is both good for business and ethical,” says Katherine.
Clarity of purpose
Cementing your business or brand with an eye-catching ethical marketing message is an excellent way of growing it. GoodSense client Catalyst Cloud, the local cloud provider that offers levels of privacy protection unmatched by the US-owned giants, found this out with its recent highly-successful campaign to promote its services and gain the attention of government tech decision-makers.
Katherine Dewar says their campaign demonstrated that an ethical point of difference to competitors makes for a very strong marketing angle.
This leads directly to her key message for business owners around ethical marketing practices.
“Do talk about how your business helps your fellow humans and the rest of nature – about every small step you’re taking to improve matters.
“Be really clear, and don’t pretend to be better than you are,” she says. “People want to see what you’re doing and they love more clarity these days.
“The old days of marketing b..shit are, frankly, over.”
The whole subject of ethical marketing for Katherine and her company is about one simple message. “Our jobs and our businesses all thrive when we line up what we believe in and what we care about, with how we’re making a buck.
“There is a lie told about how we must make a choice between the economy and the environment, and it’s just not true. What’s good for the environment is generally good for our economy and businesses too.”