Ethical marketing-what’s your Plan A

Congratulations to M&S as they now enter their 5th year of Plan A, initially committing the company to 100 changes designed to tackle excess waste, climate change, encourage healthy eating and apply ethical principles throughout all their supply chains. Now they are extending the plan to a further 180 targets by 2015. The company has an impressive record to date from plan A; increasing energy efficiency by 23%, recycling 94% of waste and adding £70 million to their bottom line profitability in 2011.
In an age where our savvy consumers can soon detect and expose companies that don’t “walk the walk” as well as “talk the talk” the social impact of business activities is moving up the agenda for CEO’s everywhere. Unilever CEO Paul Polman warns “those companies that wait to be forced into action (about social responsibility) or who see it solely in terms of reputation management, will do too little, too late and may not even survive”. Whilst Unilever’s goals may be ambitious (double the turnover but halve the environmental impact) this is not seen by Polman as a cost but as an opportunity to focus on both profitability and social accountability.
For today’s ‘social’ consumers company actions will speak louder than words so it is essential business owners give some thought to their own Plan A and how they communicate this though their marketing. So how to create a sucessful brand that the public will trust? In simple terms there is only one way to achieve this according to a leading marketing expert (Leroy Stick). “You know the best way to get the public to respect your brand? Have a respectable brand”.
In his book “Who Cares Wins – Why good business is better business” David Jones outlines a ten point plan to help your own business have it’s own Plan A. My personal favourites for SME’s are:
1. Move from the mindset of “image is everything” to “reality is everything”. Create or identify the best possible reality for your business and share this with as many people as possible.
2. Move from “talking at” to “listening to” and don’t underestimate the power of social media when it comes to customers’ responses and feedback.
3. Change your employees into highly positive advocates for your company. For many salary is not the only deciding factor in taking up employment, employees want to know that their employer shares their own moral and ethical values too.
4. Focus on profit with a purpose in your business. Consumers love to buy from your company when you share their values and beliefs. Conversely they are increasingly able to punish businesses that are seen as irresponsible with adverse publicity.
Happy planning