Ethics-Based Marketing

Green Biz

Like causing ripples in a pond, a great marketing effort (or even just a good one), will take-on a positive life and energy of its own. An ill-conceived effort though will sink like a rock, causing barely a splash.

What is ethics-based marketing?

Ethics-based Marketing put simply  — is telling an honest story. It’s also the strategic umbrella under which a variety of forward thinking marketing efforts are undertaken.

  • Ethics-based Marketing: Aveda, Patagonia, Peace Coffee and Stoneyfield use ethics-based ideas to inform everything they do.
  • Cause-based Marketing: The “Red” product series to support AIDS efforts is an example.
  • Sustainability and Strategic Marketing: Coke’s “Plant Bottle” is an example.

From production methods, business practices, and stakeholder relationships to corporate giving and vendor associations — with social media and dedicated shopping apps exploding information access, today people are easily paying attention to who is serving their needs as much as what they are being sold. More and more, consumers are demanding ethical values in the products and services they are buying, and not as an add-on selling feature.

Whether companies have already embraced the ideas behind ethics-based marketing outright or not, the landscape has changed. Companies looking to position themselves to take advantage of market share opportunities, are paying close attention to market leaders, most of whom have adopted, or are opening working to adopt, ethics-based marketing ideas and methodologies.

Up until a few years ago, you’d be hard pressed to find more than a handful of companies listing their social and environmental efforts. Now, sustainability metrics are being used as a barometer of good governance and investment worthiness, as well as product desirability at the store shelf. Not having — some — sort of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) reporting and disclosure is getting rarer by the day.

Making marketing with meaning

With the release of the Federal Trade Commission’s revised Environmental Marketing Claims Guidelines, companies that had been doing a good job of telling a solid story, will now need to put renewed focus on what and how they talk about their products or services. Companies new to working with sustainability will have to get it right from the start.

In the Minneapolis College of Art and Design’s upcoming online class, Ethics-Based Marketing, we’ll be looking hard at what it takes to tell an honest story with strength, digging deeply into strategic methodologies used by today’s market leaders, as well as investigating a variety of ways to find opportunities in rapidly maturing, and globalizing, markets where painting your effort “green” is simply not enough.

Images courtesy of

Wendy Jedlička

Wendy Jedlička (IoPP/CPP) has a strong background in design, manufacturing, business and marketing. She is an IoPP Lifetime Certified Packaging Professional and is president of Jedlička Design, a packaging design firm specializing in sustainable design and business strategies. Additionally she is co-coordinator in the U.S. for the o2 International Network for Sustainable Design. An internationally recognized speaker, Wendy writes feature articles on applied sustainability for design and business publications around the world, and is the contributing editor of two books for Wiley Publishing: Packaging Sustainability and Sustainable Graphic Design. Wendy is based in Minnesota.