Four Factors Affect Ethical Marketing Behavior


In the dynamic and interconnected world of marketing , ethical behavior plays a central role in establishing trust and credibility among consumers, stakeholders and society as a whole. Understanding the factors that influence ethical marketing behavior is essential for companies to successfully navigate the complex landscape of modern marketing practices.

In this article, we’ll look at four key factors that have a significant impact on ethical marketing decisions, highlighting their interrelationships and implications for businesses aiming to meet ethical standards. So, let’s dive into the world of ethical marketing!

Culture and societal norms

Societal culture, a complex tapestry of values, attitudes and ideas shared among individuals in a group, plays a fundamental role in shaping ethical behavior. Cultural norms dictate what is deemed morally right and just within a particular society, making moral standards relative to each community. When businesses operate in the global marketplace, they face diverse cultural contexts, which requires understanding and adapting to diverse ethical norms and values.

The Case of UPS: A Global Ethics Program

UPS, the world’s largest package delivery company operating in more than 220 countries and territories, exemplifies a commitment to global ethical standards. Despite language and cultural differences, UPS adheres to a consistent global ethics program, earning it a reputation as one of the world’s most ethical companies.

Intellectual property and ethical dilemmas

Societal values ​​and attitudes also influence the ethical and legal relationships between individuals, groups and companies, particularly in relation to intellectual property. The unauthorized use, reproduction or distribution of intellectual property, such as copyright, trademark or patent, raises ethical concerns. While some may view certain practices as ethical, others may disagree, pointing out the complexity of ethical judgments.

Corporate culture and industry practices

Corporate culture forms the foundation for understanding ethical behavior in business activities. It encompasses the rules of the game, distinguishing competitive behavior from unethical behavior, and guides codes of conduct in business relationships. Ethical behavior, both in exchange relations between sellers and buyers and in competitive behavior between sellers, is influenced by the dominant corporate culture.

The evolution of ethical exchanges

The concept of caveat emptor, prevalent in American business culture before the 1960s, emphasized “buyer beware”. However, President John F. Kennedy’s 1962 Consumer Bill of Rights shifted the focus to ethical trading. The rights to safety, information, choice and to be heard highlight the importance of ethical behavior in business transactions.

Business practices and their ethical implications

Certain business practices may have ethical implications for marketing transactions. For example, positioning allowances demanded by some supermarket chains from manufacturers may limit consumer choices, raising ethical concerns about fairness and consumer rights.

Company culture and expectations

Corporate culture, the set of values, ideas and attitudes shared within an organization, has a significant impact on ethical practices. Formal codes of ethics and the ethical actions of senior management and colleagues shape the ethical climate within a company.

The Importance of Codes of Ethics

Many companies have formal codes of ethics that outline ethical principles and rules of conduct. However, these codes alone may not guarantee ethical behavior, as seen in the case of Coca-Cola, where unethical actions occurred despite the company having implemented a code of ethics.

The influence of senior management and colleagues

Perceptions of ethical behavior by senior management and colleagues can influence individual decisions. Observing ethical behavior at the leadership level encourages ethical conduct among employees, while unethical behavior can undermine ethical standards.

Personal Moral Philosophy and Ethical Behavior

Individuals’ personal moral philosophies underpin ethical choices in marketing decisions. Moral idealism emphasizes universal individual rights or duties, while utilitarianism focuses on the “greatest good for the greatest number” by weighing costs and benefits.

Moral idealism: emphasis on individual rights

Moral idealism, present in the Consumer Bill of Rights, views specific rights as universal, regardless of the outcome. Adherence to this philosophy has led 3M to voluntarily discontinue production of a chemical to avoid potential harm, despite having no known immediate adverse effects.

Utilitarianism: balancing costs and benefits

Utilitarianism, prevalent in capitalist economic principles, assesses ethical behavior based on the overall balance of costs and benefits. Nestlé’s marketing of hypoallergenic infant formula exemplifies utilitarian reasoning, where the “greater good” has been weighed against the number of infants potentially benefiting.


In conclusion, ethical marketing behavior is influenced by a variety of interconnected factors: societal culture and norms, corporate culture and industry practices, corporate culture and expectations, and the personal moral philosophies of people. Companies that aim to be ethical marketers must navigate these complexities and adhere to ethical standards to build trust and foster long-term relationships with consumers and stakeholders. Adopting ethical practices not only benefits the company’s reputation, but also contributes to the betterment of society as a whole.

In the ever-changing landscape of marketing, ethical behavior serves as a compass, guiding businesses to success while adhering to the principles of fairness, honesty and accountability. As companies engage in ethical marketing behavior, they have the power to transcend the competition and chart a course for sustainable growth and positive impact in the world.



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