business news in context, analysis with attitude

Interesting piece in Advertising Age noting that "no good deed goes entirely unpunished; high-profile stances on social causes can have unintended consequences; and the water is getting pretty murky as 'ethical marketing' encourages consumers and activists to delve into corporate policies in ever-greater detail. P&G and Unilever in particular have become lightning rods of late in part because of the public stances they've taken on environmental and social issues."

One example cited by Ad Age: "Unilever has scored at the top of global ethical and sustainability indexes in the past year. Its reward was to be labeled by Greenpeace, along with its global Dove agency, Ogilvy & Mather, and some U.K. PR firms, as killers of Indonesian orangutans because it buys palm oil from former rain forests." And Greenpeace has been effective, as Unilever CEO Patrick Cescau has called "for a moratorium on deforestation in Indonesia by palm-oil producers and pledged to get the ingredient only from sustainable sources by 2015," according to the story, which also suggests that an emboldened Greenpeace plans to turn its attention to palm oil users Procter & Gamble or Nestlé next.

KC's View:
To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, you can't please all the people all the time…and that is the unfortunate reality of being a public company and marketer in the instant communications environment of 2008. But that doesn’t mean one should stop trying – the cynical among us would suggest that since organizations like Greenpeace and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) are never going to be satisfied by anything but total fealty to their radical agendas, why bother trying.

But I can't go that route. I think it is important to always try to do the right thing, to always try to be ethical and fair in one's business decisions and dealings. Because if you do that, you can please most of the people most of the time, because they will respect the effort.