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代寫UNIVERSIA BUSINESS REVIEW

    UNIVERSIA BUSINESS REVIEW | SEgUNdo tRImEStRE 2011 | ISSN: 1698-5117
    68
    Responsible consumers
    and stakeholder
    marketing: building a
    virtuous circle of
    social responsibility *
    Consumidores responsables y marketing
    orientado a los grupos de interés: construyendo
    el círculo virtuoso de la responsabilidad social
    Received: 6 de mayo de 2011. Accepted: 16 de mayo de 2011. JEL CODE:
    M14
    1. IntroductIon
    Historically, the idea of marketing in business schools was not so
    different from the definition used by the American Marketing Asso-
    ciation today: “The activity, set of institutions and processes for crea-
    ting, communicating, delivering and exchanging offerings that have
    value for customers, clients, partners and society at large”. The role
    of marketers in those days was largely to support sales departments
    to persuade consumers to buy whatever the factory made, in a
    supply chain that was geographically short and morally uncompli-
    cated.
    Some time around the 1960s, however, business experts started to
    notice that the value provided by marketers for customers wasn’t
    always positive. In other words, marketing could do harm too. Pro-
    fessors of business ethics, along with other social commentators,
    began to point out myriad ways in which marketing could harm the
    consumers it was supposed to serve – from conning them into bu-
    ying goods they didn’t want to persuading their kids to eat more junk
    food than was healthy (Packard 1960).
    Meanwhile, the rapid pace of globalization meant supply chains
    N. Craig Smith 1
    INSEAD Chaired Professor
    of Ethics and Social
    Responsibility
    INSEAD
    ?
    Craig.SMITH@insead.edu
    Elin Williams
    ?
    elin.williams@gmail.com
    UNIVERSIA BUSINESS REVIEW | SEgUNdo tRImEStRE 2011 | ISSN: 1698-5117
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    executive summary
    The many ways by which marketing activities may harm consumers have been well docu-
    mented in contemporary literature on business ethics. But increased global supply chains
    have made business ethicists to turn part of their attention to the harm done by consumers
    through marketing, particularly since the 1990s. Decisions made by marketers and consum-
    ers downstream are increasingly leading to social and environmental harms upstream. The
    article describes how marketers on one hand, and consumers and CSR activists on the other
    hand, have responded each other in an effort to show a socially responsible behavior. The
    authors argue that stakeholder marketing has an important role to play in building a new kind
    of responsible consumerism –a valuable tool to make producers to seriously integrate social
    responsibility- and in ensuring that both companies and stakeholders may benefit from a more
    symbiotic relationship between business and society.
    resumeN DeL artÍcuLO
    En la literatura contemporánea sobre ética en los negocios están bien documentados los
    diversos modos a través de las cuales las actividades de marketing pueden generar impactos
    negativos para los consumidores. Desde los 1990s, sin embargo, la expansión de las cadenas
    globales de suministro ha obligado a los expertos en ética de los negocios a dirigir parte de su
    atención al daño hecho por los consumidores a través del marketing. Y es que las decisiones
    hechas por vendedores y consumidores aguas abajo están, cada vez más, generando
    impactos sociales y medioambientales no deseados. El presente artículo hace una descripción
    de cómo los vendedores por una parte, y los consumidores y activistas en RSC por otra parte,
    se han respondido mutuamente en un esfuerzo por mostrar un comportamiento socialmente
    responsable. Los autores concluyen que el marketing orientado a los grupos de interés (stake-
    holder marketing) tiene un papel importante que jugar en la construcción de un nuevo tipo de
    consumo responsable –una herramienta valiosa para hacer que los productores integren, en
    serio, la responsabilidad social- y en asegurar que tanto las empresas como los grupos de
    interés puedan beneficiarse de una relación más simbiótica entre los negocios y la sociedad.
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    were getting geographically longer and, as a result, “society at lar-
    ge” was getting larger. Some time in the 1990s, business ethicists
    realized it was time to ask new questions. Of course, we couldn’t
    ignore the harm done to consumers by marketing. But we also had
    to turn our attention to the harm done by consumers through mar-
    keting. Consumers’ harm-doing occurs when, for example, they buy
    goods that involve environmental damage or deplorable workings
    conditions. Indeed, consumers’ decisions can even be related to
    dramatic events such as the following.
    On 28 May 2010, workers began fitting “suicide nets” at Foxconn’s
    electronics factory in southern China, after at least 12 employees
    jumped to their deaths in just 5 months. The Foxconn fac-
    tory produces iPhones, arguably the main ingredient in the
    Apple recipe for success today. In this example, consumers’
    decisions are linked by a tangible line of responsibility, run-
    ning from you the consumer through the marketer to wor-
    kers on the other side of the world. So you don’t have an
    iPhone? No matter. Foxconn also manufactures iPods and
    iPads, along with devices for Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Motoro-
    la, Nokia and Sony, not to mention other household names.
    Are you still off the hook?
    You can’t plead innocence by forgoing electronic gadgetry
    either. You still have to eat and wear clothes. You could try
    buying only fresh food from local, organic farmers’ markets and ne-
    ver dining out – chances are you’ll be well fed (if starved of leisure
    time). But dressing well at a reasonable price and to high ethical
    standards is a greater challenge. The speed, flexibility and low pri-
    ces demanded by today’s fashion business of its suppliers are of-
    ten passed on to the suppliers’ suppliers until they finally reach a
    sweatshop in a developing country.
    This phenomenon is perhaps most obvious in the spread of Euro-
    pean-based fast-fashion chains, such as H&M, across the world. Ar-
    guably their success is the result of a global collusion between mar-
    keters, consumers and journalists, who have persuaded each other
    that cut-price catwalk copies are essential ingredients of modern life.
    But modern death is only just up the supply chain. In March 2010,
    a knitwear factory in Bangladesh burned down killing 21 workers.
    They were locked in to prevent theft with vast quantities of synthetic
    yarns that were highly flammable. The blaze swept through the buil-
    ding, as they worked through the night to fulfill orders. Among the
    Consumers’
    harm-doing occurs
    when, for example, they
    buy goods that involve
    environmental damage
    or deplorable workings
    conditions
    N. CRAIg SmIth & ElIN WIllIAmS
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    Key WOrDs
    Corporate Social
    Responsibility (CSR),
    ethical consumerism,
    responsible consum-
    erism, stakeholder
    marketing, fair-trade
    PaLabras cLave
    Responsabilidad
    social corporativa
    (RSC), consumo ético,
    consumo responsa-
    ble, comercio justo,
    marketing orientado a
    los grupos de interés
    factory’s clients was H&M.
    Such fatal incidents are, fortunately, rare. And global supply chains
    are notoriously hard to police. But low pay, poor conditions, long
    hours and child labor are institutionalized in today’s fashion busi-
    ness. Whether you are the marketer who chooses the $20 hand-
    beaded kids’ blouse for the billboard ad or the mom who buys it for
    her daughter’s birthday, the little girl who sewed on those tiny beads
    in an Indian sweatshop is on your conscience.
    To use the business jargon, the demands of marketers and con-
    sumers downstream affect – and sometimes destroy – the lives of
    manufacturing workers upstream. But the jargon is, like the earlier
    definition, misleading. The insidious metaphor of upstream and
    downstream itself implies a one-way interaction, which just doesn’t
    match the social reality. Or the responsibility.
    Indeed, that responsibility spreads far beyond the supply chain,
    once environmental issues are taken into account. The idea that
    gas-guzzling SUVs are the ideal vehicle for the school run is per-
    haps an example of collusion between consumers and marketers
    that results in damage to the entire planet.
    2. cSr communIcatIon verSuS cSr practIce: the
    need for a Stakeholder approach
    Around the same time as business ethics specialists were waking up
    to the combined responsibilities of the marketer and the consumer,
    companies discovered Corporate Social Responsibility, known to us
    these days simply as CSR. The marketers were delighted. In their
    ever more sophisticated world of branding and zeitgeist of increasin-
    gly individualized consumption, they seized the opportunity. If they
    promoted the social and environmental good of their products, no
    matter how tenuous, they would not only assuage their customers’
    consciences, they could also make their products more attractive
    and thus sell more of them.
    As Curras-Perez, Bigne-Alcaniz, and Alvarado-Herrera (2009: 547)
    put it, “CSR is one of the most commonly used arguments for cons-
    tructing brands with a differentiated personality which satisfy consu-
    mers’ self-definitional needs”. But there often was a mismatch bet-
    ween company claims of CSR and the realities upstream in a supply
    chain with values as mixed as its metaphors. As stated by Christian
    Aid (2004) “the corporate world’s commitments to responsible beha-
    vior are not borne out by the experience of many who are supposed
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    to benefit from them”. In part, the issue was that while CSR activists
    where focusing on the social and environmental impacts of produc-
    tion, marketers were simply targeting the consumer and doing little
    else.
    Inevitably there was a backlash. Companies were subjected to stake-
    holders blaming them for unfairness and deception. Accusations of
    window-dressing and “greenwashing” abounded (Crane 2000). The-
    re was a rise in anti-brand activism aiming to persuade consumers of
    the inauthenticity of the brand (Palazzo and Bassu, 2007), accompa-
    nied by a substantial increase in internationally active NGOs (Yaziji,
    2004). Sometimes consumers went so far as to boycott. It is probably
    no accident that these years coincided with the rise of the worldwide
    web. The Internet provides the perfect vehicle both for questioning
    corporate messages and for orchestrating action against offending
    companies.
    The marketers tended to react as they only knew how: with communi-
    cations campaigns. For example, when Wal-Mart was facing criticism
    on a number of fronts (for working conditions in supplier factories, as
    well as its stores, impacts on high streets of local communities, and
    for its poor environmental record), the company produced a major
    PR initiative painting a picture of a good corporate citizen in the com-
    munities where it operated (Beaver 2005).
    However, this didn’t put an end to the criticism. Nor should it have.
    PR campaigns do not solve fundamental structural problems. An in-
    creasing number of voices maintain that marketers must find a so-
    lution that fully addresses the supply chain issues – at least if they
    want to embed CSR in their brand values. In short, they must start
    to take a stakeholder approach that encourages a new type of res-
    ponsible consumerism. Crucially, this new approach involves marke-
    ting professionals looking up the supply chain to manufacturing and
    shipping, down the supply chain to the sales force and the consumer,
    and outside it altogether to the communities on its borders and the
    environment as a whole.
    3. the role of Stakeholder marketIng
    Stakeholder marketing involves the design, implementation and eva-
    luation of marketing initiatives so as to maximize the benefit to all
    stakeholders: customers, employees, shareholders, suppliers (that
    is, everyone involved in the supply chain), as well as the environ-
    ment, society in general, related non-profit organizations and those
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    who benefit from the efforts of the non-profits.
    Marketing, more than any other business discipline, is uniquely poi-
    sed to help both companies and stakeholders benefit from a move
    towards a more symbiotic relationship between business and society.
    Of course, this is not to say that forging a new role for marketing, ad-
    dressing the needs of each and every stakeholder, is possible let alo-
    ne easy. But, in practical terms, marketers are at least blessed with
    techniques that should help them succeed where others have failed.
    This could be, for example, in mapping key secondary stakeholders
    (media, government, consumer groups, competitors and NGOs),
    as well as the more obvious primary stakeholders (customers, sha-
    reholders, employees, local communities) and those in between
    (suppliers, their employees and their local communities) (Freeman,
    Harrison, and Wicks 2007).
    Realistically, marketers cannot serve all of the stakeholders that they
    identify. But in mapping the relationships between them, they will dis-
    cover that some are more important to their business than they at
    first imagined. And even if a company’s stakeholder map does not
    lead to any startling new discoveries, the mapping exercise puts the
    company in a better position to make the tough choices.
    Once key stakeholders have been identified, market research tech-
    niques could be used to explore their expectations and issues – and
    subsequently measure the impact of any stakeholder initiatives that
    are eventually implemented. Marketing skills could also be used
    to engage stakeholders and maybe even to reach out to the more
    unfriendly ones, such as the activists who may have exposed the
    company’s poor sourcing practices to the press. Finally, marketers
    have the communication skills to help embed a stakeholder attitude
    in other parts of the organization.
    This brave, new, stakeholder-centric approach could cascade from
    the marketing department throughout the entire company, with sup-
    port from the right quarters, not least the CEO. Who knows, it may
    even reach the accountants and persuade them to implement the
    much-discussed but comparatively little-practiced “triple bottom line”
    (Savitz and Weber 2006), accounting for “people” and “planet”, as
    well as profit. In any event, stakeholder marketing could well lead to
    benefits for that good old-fashioned single bottom line – “doing well
    by doing good” as it’s commonly put.
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    4. faIr-trade
    Looking up the supply chain, there is no doubt that innovative fair tra-
    de schemes will be a key component of the new stakeholder marke-
    ting. Through history, fair-trade have been identified “as the ethical
    consumer’s answer to world poverty and global exploitation,” (Zick Varul
    2008: 654). FINE, the international federation of fair-trade networks, de-
    fines fair trade as “a trading partnership, based on dialog, transparency
    and respect, that seeks greater equity in international trade. It contribu-
    tes to sustainable development by offering better trading conditions to,
    and securing the rights of, marginalized producers and workers.”
    Fair-trade has the potential not only to positively impact the situation
    of workers upstream the supply chain but also to produce substantive
    changes in consumers’ behaviour downstream, so it can be a way for
    “governing the moralization of consumer behaviour” (Zick Varul 2008). It
    in fact recognizes the key role of marketing in shifting consumption pat-
    terns in order to achieve socially responsible production processes.
    Once the province of NGOs who sought to challenge multinationals, fair
    trade has now been embraced by large corporations, such as Unilever.
    According to the company website: “Consumers around the world want
    reassurance that the products they buy are ethically sourced and pro-
    tect the earth’s natural resources. A growing number are choosing to
    buy brands such as Rainforest Alliance Certified Lipton tea [and] Ben &
    Jerry’s Fairtrade ice cream.”
    In fact, it seems that Ben (Cohen) and Jerry (Greenfield) were a key in-
    fluence in a major new initiative, the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan.
    Sold to the multinational a decade ago, their values-driven brand has
    not only survived but is also increasing its use of fair-trade ingredients.
    Greenfield, though not longer a manager, is still involved in marketing.
    He remains an advisor and brand ambassador and claims that – though
    there have inevitably been conflicts – Unilever executives have been re-
    markably proactive in learning from their model. Indeed the ambitious
    new initiative has fifty concrete targets with three broad objectives: to
    help more than a billion people improve their health and well-being; to
    halve the environmental impact of Unilever products; and to enhance the
    livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of people in the supply chain.
    The point we’d like to make, however, is that we as customers depend
    on marketing professionals not only to tell us about better corporate be-
    havior but also to encourage it to happen. Moreover, we believe that
    marketers have the skills and the connections to go one step further and
    contribute to a whole new phenomenon that reaches far beyond their
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    companies: “responsible consumerism”. If you like, it’s a different kind of
    “CSR”: Consumer Social Responsibility. Yes, at this point, it’s time to tra-
    vel back down the supply chain and return to that consumer conscience
    of yours.
    5. from “ethIcal conSumerISm” to “reSponSIble
    conSumerISm”
    There has, of course, been much talk over recent decades about
    “ethical consumerism”. Broadly speaking, this refers to the purcha-
    sing of products and services that have been produced, marketed
    and distributed ethically (Smith 2008). In practice, this means giving
    preference to goods and services made and delivered with minimal
    harm to humans, animals and the natural environment (positive ethi-
    cal consumerism), or boycotting those that do not incorporate social
    responsibility principles in their production process (negative ethical
    consumerism) (Smith 2008).
    There have been abundant surveys about ethical consumerism. For
    example, in 2009 Time magazine reported that almost 50 percent of
    Americans say protection of the environment should take priority over
    economic growth. And 78 percent of those polled said they would be
    willing to pay an extra $2,000 for more fuel-efficient cars. But these
    statistics were not reflected in the subsequent sales figures. Wishful
    thinking, self-delusion and the desire to please pollsters are all natural
    human behaviors, as we have learned from opinion polls down the
    ages. And, to be fair, recessionary forces are currently pushing con-
    sumers into particularly price-sensitive decisions. Long-term savings
    and environmental impact inevitably take second place to short-term
    cost-control. And perhaps that’s the responsible course of action for
    many individual consumers in the circumstances.
    Indeed “responsible consumerism” might be a preferable – and much
    more broadly applicable label – than “ethical consumerism”. After all,
    those who took on mortgages they could not hope to afford unless
    ever-increasing property prices enabled them to keep refinancing
    were partially responsible for the sub-prime crisis, as well as being
    among its victims. Note that we’re not exonerating those who mis-
    sold and mis-marketed the mortgages to consumers or the banks that
    created and traded securities on the back of these mortgages with
    insufficient regard to the risks of these products, if not deliberately
    misleading their counterparties. We’re simply remarking that they had
    a multitude of accomplices who, even though they acted alone, cer-
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    tainly did not act responsibly.
    By adopting a new name (an old marketing trick, as it happens), per-
    haps ethical consumerism can be seen less as a niche phenomenon
    and more as a mainstream reality. For too long scholars and practitio-
    ners alike have tended to see ethical or responsible consumers as a
    discrete, small market segment waiting to be captured. But in an ever
    individualized world, consumers’ choices are increasingly linked to the
    expression and reaffirmation of identities, either individually (Palazzo
    and Basu 2007) or collectively (McAlexander, Schouten, and Koenig
    2002), therefore they would command those products they perceived
    to match their own values (Varman and Belk 2009). Moreover, indi-
    vidualized consumption has been identified as a way to question the
    undesirable impacts of mass consumption (Heath, 2001).
    We know (alas from personal experience) that the feel-good purchase
    of organic local produce today can give way to the temptation of a
    guilt-inducing, fast-fashion or high-tech bargain tomorrow. In fact, the
    high price of the former can even be used to justify the sweatshop
    price tag of the latter.
    By broadening the discussion from ethical to responsible consume-
    rism marketers and those who do academic research into marketing
    also become less exclusive. “Responsibility” unlike “ethics” does not
    sound as if it is uniquely reserved for some liberal or intellectual elite.
    Consumers are increasingly concerned about the social and environ-
    mental impacts of what they buy (Smith 2008). As Jerry Greenfield
    recently put it, “Nobody wants to buy something that was made by ex-
    ploiting somebody else.” Responsibility, we maintain, is a concept for
    everyone – from the teenager shopping over the Internet to the gran-
    dparent in the neighborhood store, from the janitor in the basement to
    the CEO in the corner office on the top floor.
    Responsible consumption can be in fact a powerful tool to drive pro-
    ducers to incorporate social responsibility strategies (Barnett 2007).
    Sure, that CEO has a special part to play. There is no doubt that res-
    ponsible consumerism has to be co-created by corporations and led
    by people at the top (Caruana and Crane 2008). But the marketing
    director and team have essential roles too in educating, empowering
    and transforming existing consumption habits – and thus influencing
    colleagues in production, logistics, purchasing and finance… all the
    way up the supply chain.
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    6. a fInal remark
    If it’s true that many forms of social and environmental harm scat-
    tered along the supply chains of multinational corporations are tri-
    ggered by marketing decisions in the first place, then it can also be
    argued that marketers have a moral duty to change existing prac-
    tices, wherever they occur. For this reason and others, marketers
    should move center stage in the debate on CSR – albeit with a cho-
    rus of NGOs, consumer groups, scientists, governmental bodies
    and others behind them – if responsible consumerism is to become
    a mainstream phenomenon.
    Ultimately, however, your conscience is the most important factor in
    making responsible consumerism work. But it will inevitably encoun-
    ter challenges. With responsibility come complexities and dilemmas
    (such as whether or not to drink your favorite Starbucks skinny latte
    for fear that it isn’t fair trade). Yet, with the help of marketing pro-
    fessionals concerned about all stakeholders, you can be steered
    through moral mazes to making the right choice. And if there is no
    right choice, at least you can make a reasoned or reasonable deci-
    sion based on your own values and the correct information.
    Asking whether your latte is fair trade is just the beginning, though.
    Other questions for consumers, marketers and academics include:
    How far along the supply chain does consumer conscience have to
    stretch? We believe that, the more responsible consumers become
    and the more stakeholder-oriented marketers get, the farther we can
    go – right to the raw materials. But first we have to break out of the
    old vicious circles and into new virtuous circles somewhere downs-
    tream. It is possible for marketers and consumers to collude in doing
    the right thing as well as the wrong if only they can ask the right
    questions of each other and the supply chains in which they form
    links.
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    noteS
    * This article is primarily based on the article ‘The sweatshop on your conscience: How
    consumers and marketers are more responsible for the other end of the supply chain than
    they’d like to think’, published in SCOPE Magazine, winter 2011, and co-authored by N.
    Craig Smith and Elin Williams (see: http://www.scope-mag.com/). It is also based on two
    academic papers: ‘Marketing’s Consequences: Stakeholder Marketing and Supply Chain
    Corporate Social Responsibility Issues’, published in Business Ethics Quarterly in October
    2010 and co-authored by Smith with Guido Palazzo and C.B. Bhattacharya; and ‘The New
    Marketing Myopia’, published in the Journal of Public Policy and Marketing in spring 2010
    and co-authored by Smith with Minette E. Drumwright and Mary C. Gentile.
    1. Contact author: INSEAD; Boulevard de Constance; 77305 Fontainebleau; France.
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