media update’s Taylor Goodman takes a look at five brands who have got ethical marketing on lock. But, before we can take a look at these socially conscious companies, we need to know what it really means to be ethical in the marketing world. 

According to WordStream, ethical marketing is when “companies market their goods and services by focusing not only on how their products benefit customers, but also how they benefit socially responsible or environmental causes.”

Ethical marketing practices have risen in prominence over the last few years, as consumer behaviour has shifted towards being more socially aware, especially when it comes to younger consumers. This is proven by the fact that 92% of millennials are more likely to make a purchase from an ethical brand

Why? Well a business that is ethical shows consumers that it has a human side. This is a brand that cares, something that resonates with modern-day audiences. This is also important to consumers because it helps them to identify a brand’s values and see if they align with their own. If a company's values align with the consumer’s, they are more likely to make a purchase as they find the brand relatable. 

Now, let’s look at five examples of ethical marketing campaigns:

1. Patagonia 

Who is the brand? 

Patagonia is a premium outdoor and adventure-wear brand that has built a reputation for being sustainable and ethical. 

In the retail world, most brands like their fashion fast and cheap. This has had disastrous effects on the environment and has increased sweatshop labour in underdeveloped countries. 

Patagonia aims to separate itself from its competitors by ‘building the best product while causing no unnecessary harm to the environment, and by using its business to inspire and implement solutions to environmental crises’. 

How does it make use of ethical marketing practices?

The company’s website includes an ‘Activism’ tab. Here, consumers can find videos and blog posts on topics ranging from politics, how to be anti-racist and climate change. 

The brand is certainly not hiding behind any doors when it comes to presenting its values to consumers, and putting this information on its site is proof of this. 

Aside from the resources on the site, Patagonia has also made use of ethical marketing practices in campaigns like ‘Don’t buy this jacket’. 

This campaign was a bold move from the brand, as no business is ever telling consumers not to buy their product. Alongside a picture of the jacket, the brand gave the reader reasons why they shouldn't buy the product, such as 36 gallons of water required to produce the jacket (enough to fill the daily needs of 45 people).

The message of this campaign was this: ‘Don't buy this jacket if you don’t need it’. It aimed to raise awareness for how consumerism negatively impacts our environment. 

Aside from creating awareness for the disastrous effects of fast fashion, Patagonia’s sales increased by 30% following the campaign.  

2. Lush 

Who is the brand?

When people think of Lush, a fresh and handmade cosmetics retailer, they think of rainbow coloured bath bombs, not necessarily ethical marketing. 

However, upon entering the website and looking at its mission statement, one might think otherwise, as the statement reads: “No company should be trading from an unethical position and society has a right to expect as the norm fairness and resource stewardship from the companies that supply them.”

The brand rejects the labels of being ‘ethical’, ‘eco-friendly or ‘sustainable’ because it believes that this should be commonplace in the retail space, instead of a marketing ploy.

How does it make use of ethical marketing practices?

Right off the bat, Lush’s products are 100% vegetarian and have a firm policy against animal testing, something that is far too common in the cosmetics industry.  

The brand’s packaging is also recyclable and it has a ‘five-pot programme’ where, if a customer can bring back five of their empty black pots, they get a free face mask. 

Lush also makes its values and purpose known to consumers through its YouTube channel, where the brand shares videos on a wide range of topics, like its Lush book club or talks on Brexit, body image or mobile tech addiction. 

3. Dr. Bronners

Who is the brand? 

Dr. Bronners is far more than your ordinary soap brand — it is one of the top selling liquid soap brands in the United States, and for good reason.

This is a family-owned and run business that was started in 1948 and its soap is ethically sourced, cruelty free, organic and fair trade.

The brand aims to “create a positive impact on the world through producing socially and environmentally responsible products of the highest quality, and by dedicating profits to helping make a better world.”

How does it make use of ethical marketing practices?

Since its infancy, the Dr. Bronners brand has always been geared towards creating positive social change and producing sustainable products.

The organisation is upfront with its philosophy, with its product packaging featuring the company’s ‘Cosmic Principles’, a “30 000-word philosophical screed that was written by the company's founder, Emmanuel Bronner in the 1940s.” 

Dr. Bronner has a history of ethical manufacturing and marketing; it doesn’t just do it because it’s what’s trendy right now, but rather, because it is ingrained into the business, and has been for years. 

A unique part of the brand’s ethical marketing strategy is its “equitable compensation structures that limit executive pay to five times that of lower-level employees.” This means that CEO David Bronner only earns five times as much as his lowest paid employee, around $200 000 a year. 


Who is the brand? 

TOMS is a footwear and apparel brand that was founded in 2006. Its origin story is one to behold as owner Blake Mycoskie started the business after an enlightening trip to Argentina. 

In Argentina, Mycoskie saw that residents in impoverished areas were living without shoes. He then started TOMS with this in mind, aiming to uplift communities in need. 

TOMS places its environmental and social philanthropy on the forefront of its branding, ensuring that its brand values are clear to consumers right off the bat. 

How does it make use of ethical marketing practices?

The brand prides itself in being the first original one-for-one company, meaning that for every pair of shoes bought, a child in a developing country gets a pair of shoes. Since 2006, the company has donated nearly 100 million pairs of shoes to people in need

This one-for-one model was then expanded onto its eyewear division, where TOMS would donate part of the profit from its sales to save or restore the eyesight of people in developing countries. 

Additionally, TOMS’ coffee business announced a partnership with Water For People to provide safe drinking water in developing countries. It has since provided developing countries with over 722 000 weeks worth of safe water

In 2019, the brand revised its ethical marketing strategy. Now, for every $3 the company makes, it gives $1 to its giving fund

5. Warby Parker 

Who is the brand? 

Warby Parker is an American online retailer of prescription glasses and sunglasses. It claims to be a brand with a ‘rebellious spirit and a lofty objective’ that offers designer eyewear at reasonable prices. 

The idea for the business came about when one of the founders, Neil Blumenthal, lost his glasses while on holiday and was dumbfounded at how expensive a good frame costs. At the time, Blumenthal was running a non-profit organisation called VisionSprings, which taught women how to administer eye exams and sell glasses. 

Blumenthal then saw a gap in the market for an online prescription glasses retailer and proposed the idea to his Wharton business school classmates and co-founders, Dave Gilboa, Andy Hunt, and Jeff Raider. 

The brand aims to position its customers as agents of change so that they are able to “generate optimal awareness and engagement while helping messaging resonate.”

How do they make use of ethical marketing practices?

Warby Parker’s ethical marketing practices are similar to TOMS in that it has partnered up with non-profits like VisionSpring to donate one pair of glasses to someone in need for every pair sold. 

Since the company was founded in 2010, it has distributed four million pairs of prescription glasses to people in developing countries. 

Additionally, the brand offers training to adults to administer basic eye exams and sell glasses; this counts for the majority of its distribution.

What brands do you think have admirable ethical marketing campaigns? Be sure to let us know in the comments section below.

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Want to learn more about the importance of compassion in marketing? Then sure to check out our article about Why brands should use the power of storytelling in their marketing.
*Image courtesy of Vecteezy