Am I being unethical?

Last Update: January 20, 2018

Hi All, this might seem like a strange question, but ethics are really important to me:

I am wanting to only promote products from some very specific kinds of businesses, because of their ethos. In some cases I want to promote businesses that have a greater social mission, where their actual business model is based on it, some are traditional businesses who are just really vocal about how much they care about things, (and I love them so I want to support them) and others I think, are social enterprises. Some of them have affiliate programs,and some of them don't but in many cases for those that don't have their own affiliate programs, I have found their products are sold wholesale to other people who DO have affiliate links for their own sites. (So they'd happily sell them to me to sell on IF I could carry inventory, which I can't). Do you think it's at all unethical to try to get income from promoting ethical companies, where I am circumventing their lack of affiliate program? I was kinda hoping eventually I can show them sales figures enough to persuade them it's worth it for them to create one.

Also, should I just do this in order to generate money for them and for other causes I care about, or is it okay for me to make decent cash for myself? I mean, If I made mega bucks I would regularly donate a portion to charities myself, but if I don't make much, then it would just be income for me. I know we are supposed to be business-focused, (and I have other ideas so I'm okay) but does anyone find any of this even slightly unethical in any way?

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DShensky Premium
the products you promote should be tied to your niche and the importance of their being ethical has to do with their money back guarantee if your customer isn't satisfied because that reflects back on you.
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Swangirl Premium
I don't think you are being unethical. Sometimes someone has to take the lead and do the best they can in an imperfect situation. You can usually do the most to change the way something works from the inside.

You can also do way more to improve the world if you first get to a position of success yourself. For example you could donate to charity a tiny bit throughout your life but if you focused on your career and became a millionaire (as a dramatic example) you could do so much more. You could donate more, volunteer more, start your own charities and get the word out and spread your values far and wide. One person can volunteer their time, only support businesses they agree with, be the best person they can be and try to influence a few others, but you could accomplish a lot more from a larger platform. If you keep your ethics in mind and stick to your values, you can accomplish so much. I am not saying you need to become a millionaire to do this, but it is an example of keeping your focus on the long term goals so you can do the most good.

Jessica
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Avecita Premium
Thanks Jessica. That is indeed the plan, because you are quite right that the more resources I have the more I can utilise them for good. And if this particular site could be lucrative, all the better, and it's supporting other platforms who are making a difference in the world.
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IvyT Premium
Hi, as has already been pointed out here, being business-minded doesn't need to be at odds with being ethical. Every person who works, hopes to be paid fairly for their efforts. The sad fact is that so many are not, despite their very hard labours.

A business that is ethical can claim to have a 'triple bottom line'. They include corporate social responsibility (CSR) in their business aims alongside profit. I think you'd enjoy reading more about CSR. Google the term and see what you think.

What I wasn't clear about in your post, was the idea that you would be earning as an affiliate for businesses without affiliate programs. You mentioned circumventing... what did you mean by this?
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Avecita Premium
Hi Ivy! Thanks for your support. I know a little about the Triple Bottom Line, - and I am well behind it, which is why I want to support those companies who have it, because I believe that's how business should be done, and I wish to see companies that care outstrip those that don't or who merely pay lip-service to the idea.

By circumventing I mean that some of the companies whose products I want to market and sell, don't have their own affiliate programs but they do sell wholesale. I've found their products being sold by some online sites who have affiliate programs for their own stores, (some of which I would sign up to anyway) so instead of linking to the company directly, 'my' customer would instead purchase the product from one of these resellers just as if they'd found their site first instead of mine. But the reseller has an affilate program which I go through. This is certainly the case for a lot of the ethical product stores I've found - they have affiliate programs I could join. That way I still get paid for sales of that product, because that's the only way that I can 'source' that particular product. It still helps their sales at the end of the day, because the reseller will order more wholesale from them if a product is selling well. (It also means people might buy other goods from that site, that I wouldn't have promoted for some reason, and I'd still benefit from those sales, but I can't help that). Neither wholesale purchasing or dropshipping is an option for me at the moment, and certainly not with this particular site.
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IvyT Premium
Ohhh, ok. Gotcha! So I guess given your concern about ethics - can you vouch for the business practices of the resellers you've found?

Hey, you've just reminded me of an evening I recently attended where several business startups were chosen at random to make a three minute pitch to a famous investor... each had ample warning of the opportunity.

Nerves aside, I was so surprised by how incoherent the businesses that got up to promote were. There they were, standing in front of a really well-known investor offering the kind of presentation that's meant to secure investment, but each seemed at a loss to explain what they did for their bread and butter.

Instead, the persistent theme between them all, was a claim to social enterprise. 'And we will help do... blah for the community...'

This is all very well and good, but it was offered in such a way that it seemed to us onlookers not one of them was actually comfortable with the idea of making money. Or admitting to it. Their justification of business was offered ahead of actually explaining to our famous guest: how do they make money? How will they make a return for the investor?

I see a little of that creeping into the speech at WA sometimes, too. We want to help the world, but don't care confess our own modest desires to be rewarded for work. Nobody should need to excuse themselves of that.

I think, just a generation ago, my farming relatives would have no hangups about demanding a reasonable price on the market for their produce. They'd just drive their goods into whatever market and start hustling. In contrast, I see certain hardworking people in business these days sometimes acting ashamed to claim what's rightfully theirs... while the wolves take whatever's not pinned down.

Anyhow... There's my ramble! Sorry for the length. There are a few good posts here touching on the topic of what kinds of emotional relationships people have with money, that may be hindering their progress in business. Definitely worth reading when considering this topic.

One can definitely be prosperous and ethical. But being ethical shouldn't be something that we offer up as an apology for wanting to do business for our daily bread.
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MsMerry Premium
Very well said and I do agree that there are many kinds of emotional relationships people may have with money and not even realize it. Overcoming that can be difficult but I sure do see where you are coming from and I do like the reference to your farming relatives as that says so much
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Avecita Premium
Hi Ivy. What you said there was profound! I didn't respond to it straight away because it touched me, you are so right, and I wanted to reflect on it. And I have been aware for a very long time that I have this really problematic mindset that it's somehow wrong to make income from doing something that I want to do because I care about it, -i.e. that if I care about it so much, then shouldn't I be doing it for free, yet knowing that that would only keep me stuck and unhappy and unable to really do much good at all. And in the same vein, I'm literally *only* capable of working within my ethical framework, I can't actually do anything else, and that's the primary reason I've always been so unhappy in my full-time jobs as I was either completely going against myself, or doing things that I couldn't care less about. So what's a girl to do?
The business start-ups' pitches that you mentioned were very interesting, I could so imagine that being me. We have to lose this idea that we shouldn't be paid for doing what we love, and even more so if it really benefits other people, while massive corporations exploit us all and lead us to exploit each other.
(I might be getting a bit too political here). And we don't even question it.

While product sourcing yesterday I came across a social enterprise startup whose name I'm probably not supposed to mention here, but basically they give 50% of their profits to social causes, and they ensure that 50% of their jobs go to people who otherwise wouldn't get one, and well, they are fabulous for many reasons beyond that! On the FAQ's on their site, the guy answers very well Q's such as why they don't give 100% of profits and why they pay really great salaries even in the UK, and he mentions that we are perfectly happy to give huge companies using slave labour and dodgy practices all our money, and it's what we actually expect to do. But the second someone is doing good and making money, we have the audacity to think they should do every last thing out of the good of their hearts, and that's both silly, and unfair. And it really hammered it home.

And now, I've just gone and done it again, found a social enterprise donating 100% of their profits to a cause, so of course they are not going to pay for an affiliate. And that's cool. I'd happily promote them for free. But then my guilt trip hit again and I'm thinking, ok, so it's perfectly fine to make money from ethical companies, but maybe not social enterprises, don't be selfish Heather. There are a few in mind that I was hoping to convince to set up an affliate program (not this one above) and then I start thinking maybe I shouldn't.

I was unaware there were posts here about people's emotional relationships with money. I'm going to see if I can find some.

Heather
xx
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MsMerry Premium
Heather just to add another thought, I saw the neatest thing on a site that was selling products and they offered a small % that they gave from each sale to a charity or a cause. I thought that was such a cool idea, and a lot of people feel more trust when you do that is something I read in an article that was speaking on this. Just wanted to share that.
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Avecita Premium
Thanks Merry. I was thinking before of doing something like that, maybe having like a monthly campaign for a cause, and then the next month a different one etc. I'm not sure how to fully do that yet in terms of transparency issues, I thought I'd see if I can actually start making any decent income first, and if it looks like it is doing, then I may introduce that.
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MsMerry Premium
Good idea and that also gives you time to research it a bit more. If I see anything that could help I will save it for you.
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IvyT Premium
Hey Heather, happy to help you brainstorm through this.

There are so many ways to promote ethical business. Maybe this is something you can do well showcasing? No one way?

I think many people put the idea of being an ethical consumer or ethical business person into the too hard basket. It seems to them like you either get it completely right, or overwhelmingly wrong, with no inbetween. That notion may even be aided by zealots of both kinds.

But what if your blog could help people to see how sometimes, only the little tweaks and choices they make, can go a long way? What if you help them to see all the opportunities for microethics in the big spaces between poles, and to claim just a little for themselves?

...So share some useful stories and examples. Sell some products that help. And of course, model by example, your own business choices, whether you share your successes, mistakes, or dilemmas. That's bound to start a constructive conversation.
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Avecita Premium
Thanks Merry!
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Avecita Premium
That's a really good idea Ivy!
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MsMerry Premium
I second Stephen's comments. Not unethical at all. Just a thought but my guess is those company's that wholesale may also drop ship and that does not require you to purchase product up front. a lot of members here are doing this model as well as being affiliate marketers. You are good to go!!
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SteveCrozza Premium
totally
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SteveCrozza Premium
I do like ethics. However, what you are proposing is pretty much standard business, therefore the question of ethics is really not a concern. To answer specifically - you are not being unethical.
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