More than ever, brands are striving to be ethical and socially responsible. It’s proven to be a competitive edge to have a voice in social issues, with more companies aiming for certifications and awards to demonstrate their ethics.
Although it’s great that more businesses prioritise ethics, many companies result in being misleading with their strategies. It’s important to look at the difference between actually doing good as a company, and goodwashing. In this article we break down what goodwashing is, and why you should invest in ethical practices.
Why it’s beneficial to involve ethics in your brand
Sharing important messages within your marketing can help your employability rating. Make your employees proud to work there, and inspire potential candidates to seek a role in your business. Although many factors are important for good employability, having a company that demonstrates compassion is important.
Plus, involving yourself in important causes will open doors to more audiences. According to a study from OpenText, nine out of ten customers prefer shopping from businesses that use ethical practices. Certifications like B Corp are highly valued, and consumers are more likely to avoid businesses that go against their own personal values.
Tony’s Chocolonely is a popular brand that defines itself through its values, even the Head of Marketing Nicola Matthews saying “We only exist to achieve this mission”. The chocolate brand clearly defines their one goal is for the cocoa industry to be slave-free. From their uneven chocolate squares representing inequality to their clear mission statement, Tony’s Chocolonely have highlighted they are progressive and actively seeking change.
What is goodwashing?
Although voicing your ethics in a brand appears to have a positive reaction, promoting your ethical practices can come across as just a marketing ploy. This is called “goodwashing”.
Similar to greenwashing (when companies promote themselves as eco-friendly but still continue actions that are bad for the planet) goodwashing is a more broader term. This is often found in brands hopping on a bandwagon of a recent cause, and misleads their audience to think they are helping. This can have the opposite effect it intends, with consumers that are passionate about the issues turning away from the company, and so the words come across as empty and can damage the trust between brand and customer.
How can you avoid goodwashing?
Make sure to find ways to be genuinely ethical in order to back up your messages. Whether this is a portion of your profits going to charity, or using recyclable materials in your products, ensure you are doing all you can to prove your business supports your chosen cause.
It’s also important to fact check and thoroughly research before you are vocal and active about a cause, so you can avoid spreading false information. Research the cause you are supporting and consult experts to check your marketing is what you intend. Continuity is also important, to demonstrate you continuously care about the issue.
A great example of a company being actively involved is Timpson, whose CEO uses a ‘culture of kindness’ in their business strategy. From pet bereavement days to a weekly morale survey, the company puts a large focus on the mental health of the employees. The CEO is also known for visiting prisons to find recruits, and has since hired about 600 ex-offenders.
Ultimately, striving to be ethical in your brand is a great company quality. If you’re being proactive and honest in your marketing, you’re on the right track. Not only does it bring a positive association with the company, it’s a great opportunity to unlock new audiences. The best part is of course actively trying to support ethical causes, and knowing you are doing your part to help the world.