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In The 21st Century Can Brands Get Away With Unethical Values?

2017 was a roller coaster of a year, mostly one that filled with never-ending plunges. We had and still have Trump, several devastating hurricanes and more. In a time when social media means everyone’s opinion is heard, brands come under excruciating scrutiny. They are judged whether they make a difference or not. And whilst many brands have been vocal about their values, ethics and political alignment, some prefer to remain decidedly quiet and neutral by default.

Does boosting ethical policies pay off both financially and with customer loyalty or is it just as lucrative to stay silent?


The Heroes

Brands have become increasingly and openly supportive of social and political movements like gay marriage, supporting refugees and increasing diversity. Brands like Starbucks, Uber and Facebook have been vocal about their values and opinions, making use of their platforms to share their message and encouraging their community to do the same.  Think Facebook’s profile frames, Ben & Jerry's same-sex ice-cream tubs in Australia and Spotify who created a #BlackLivesMatter playlist.

Although brand love is very important, all brands are businesses first which means for some, profit is king. And what’s important to analyse is whether having ethical and vocalised values affects this bottom line. 


The Villains

In 2016, Sports Direct, a British sportswear retailer was revealed to be severely underpaying and mistreating their employees. The Independent reported that in some locations, staff were made to clock out and then continue working so they didn’t have to pay overtime and others were humiliated via an email chain for not working enough. And yet despite this very public scandal, Sports Direct has reported continued growth each year since, with a 4.7% revenue increase this year. 

Is It Worth It?

Findings in a report by Nielsen shows that, globally, more than 66% of consumers are willing to spend more on a product if the company or brand has good ethical values. However, this doesn’t suggest that they wouldn’t buy from a brand that doesn’t share those values, just that they are more inclined to pay more a brand that does.

So, although consumers are becoming more aware, research shows that when it comes down to the figures and profits, business is not greatly affected by your ethics. Brand loyalty, however, is something that can be sustained by ethical practises and values.

Lynn Nyemba, Copywriter

Does Being Ethical Pay?
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