Businesses should go ethical despite downturn, says guide

By Katie Bird

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Business Business ethics

The global recession is the right time to be investing in making companies greener and more ethical, according to a guide released this week for small businesses.

Current economic struggles are bringing traditional business practices into question and consequently people are warming to more ethical and sustainable ideas, says the Ethical Business Guide.

Authored by Kim Stoddart and Tor Goldfield from ethical PR company BlueRocket, the guide aims to advise businesses just starting out on the road to all things ethical.

Avoid greenwashing

Greenwashing comes under attack from the guide, which includes sections on green marketing and a low carbon business strategy.

“The public has become weary of grand claims, which can, when investigated further, amount to little more than fancy marketing. So it is essential that any claims a company makes can stand the test of time,”​ writes Stoddart in the reports introduction.

Dr Neil Bentley, from the Confederation of British Industry, expands on this theme in his section on adapting to a low carbon economy.

A lot of companies are potentially misleading customers when they describe their ‘green efforts’, according to Bentley, who references an Advertising Standards Authority report highlighting a significant increase in complaints about environmental claims in 2007.

According to Bentley if companies sow the seeds of a low carbon footprint now, they will be able to reap significant benefits later. However, he warns businesses not to take this on lightly.

“Clearly this will require a lot of work and businesses need to be wary of thinking they can make shortcuts,”​ he writes.

Less is more in ethical marketing

Stoddart, herself founder of a PR firm, takes on ethical marketing, arguing that if done honestly there is no need for this to be a ‘lamentable oxymoron’.

Less is more, she argues, advising companies not to make bold statements that cannot live up their promises in an effort to stand out amongst competitors.

Russ Brady from the Co-Operative Bank has also authored a chapter about ethical banking decisions and Katie Clark from the Good Energy Shop advises businesses on alternative energy supplies.

The Ethical Business Guide is available to download free at

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