Businesses have a responsibility to be ethical in their marketing practices to their stakeholders or customers, employees, suppliers, the local community, and investors. Therefore, businesses can't go around claiming that products do things that they don't, or outright lying in other ways. Doing so hurts the business, which in turn hurts the stakeholders.
Businesses also have a responsibility to the environment, and how they impact the environment as a whole. Damaging the environment around the business can have far-reaching effects not only on investors and employees in the business itself, but also on the local community in which that business lives. Being a bad neighbor is never a good idea.
Businesses also have a responsibility to the consumer; however, not every business is going to be pro-social responsibility. You can make an argument that a business's primary responsibility is to make money, which in turn employs people. That provides business to suppliers, a return on investment, and it generally brings money into the local economy, which are all good things. The argument would then follow that it is the government's responsibility to set safe guidelines.
There are two different ways to view this issue:
When applying social responsibility to marketing as it relates to business, businesses basically have four choices or stances:
You'll notice that as we take a closer look at each of these stances in order, the constraints on marketing for a business are going to lessen with each stance.
|Stance on Social Responsibility||Description||Example|
|Obstructionist Stance||An approach to social responsibility in which the organization actively tries to avoid, slow, or stop social responsibility. Companies with an obstructionist stance will have the most amount of constraints regarding what they can do with marketing||Enron marketed itself as an honest company. It actually told its employees to buy its stock to fund their retirement plans. The entire time that the company was selling its products in an honest and straightforward way, it was also working behind the backs of the stakeholders, customers, and environment to make sure that its only goal was making money for the owners.|
|Defensive Stance||An approach to social responsibility in which the organization will fight allegations of social irresponsibility, through their use of marketing.||Tobacco companies will market their product as cool or hip while also claiming that it isn't really that addictive.|
|Accommodative Stance||An approach to social responsibility in which the organization goes beyond the minimal standards of social responsibility, but does not necessarily seek to make major changes.||Suppose there is a store that is honest in its advertising and gives its customers good prices. The store doesn't purposely mislead customers, but it also doesn't go out of its way to make major changes in the social responsibility scene.|
|Proactive Stance||An approach to social responsibility in which the organization goes beyond the minimal standards of social responsibility by actively anticipating future needs. This is the stance with the least amount of constraints placed on a business as far as marketing its products.||Companies that make biodegradable packaging are marketing a solution for today's issues of social responsibility, but they're also looking long-term by thinking, "How will this impact society as a whole in the future?"|
Source: adapted from sophia instructor james howard