Creating A Standard
We’ve got some pretty big news to share. At first glance, it might look like a setback, but it has opened all the doors for us to move in the direction we’ve been meaning to go all along.
We have realized we are not able to create a measurable certification-type standard similar to Fair Trade, Organic, etc. – even though that was the original plan.
1. We can’t empirically measure whether taking our pledge (or an expanded version of it) makes the difference we want it to. There are clear links between unethical tactics and the harm they cause, but we can’t isolate our pledge from other elements (such as markets, regulations, culture) to prove causality – and that evidence is needed for an ISEAL standard. Maria has been writing a paper on manipulation, and their research led to the conclusion that creating a certification isn’t feasible for us.
And we are so glad it isn’t. Because:
2. Making new rules to replace old ones is a patriarchal approach. We are here to break the system. Creating a standard that companies can use to tick boxes and get ‘85% there’, is not what we’re here for. We want a true shift in consciousness; for businesses to own their actions. Merely ‘passing’ is not enough.
3. Standards are a powerful tool for good – and they can be used to dominate, to manipulate, to deceive. We’re not super into that, obviously. Taking responsibility for the power we have as enterprises (of any size) requires intention, courage, and deep willingness.
That’s what we need.
Yes, I’ve spoken about how rules are sometimes necessary to protect the most vulnerable. How a standard will change things. …And I learned I was wrong about a lot of it. The most vulnerable don’t need ‘our’ protection, they just need us to take the foot off their necks (sound familiar?).
Our New Intention Pledge
As our pledge no longer has to become a measurable certification, we realized it can go much deeper than individual tactics.
So we created a new pledge based on intention.
This new pledge is edgier, simpler and less prescriptive than earlier iterations. It will give more businesses the chance to embrace ethical marketing in a way that suits their unique circumstances – and makes room for more creativity and new ideas.
With the ethical move badge, we pledge to the following:
We put the person before the sale.
We respect you and your privacy. We will help you make the best choice for your needs, not ours.
We communicate inclusively, truthfully, and clearly.
We will not confuse you or hide information from you. We will help all audiences feel welcome.
We take responsibility for our part in changing the marketplace.
We recognize the need to break the cycle of consumerism. We will continuously review our sales and marketing to ensure they benefit the common good.
We count on you to hold us accountable. Please connect with us if you see us not honouring our pledge.
And again, because some of us work alone (and because we love it so much):
I put the person before the sale.
I respect you and your privacy. I will help you make the best choice for your needs, not mine.
I communicate inclusively, truthfully, and clearly.
I will not confuse you or hide information from you. I will help all audiences feel welcome.
I take responsibility for my part in changing the marketplace.
I recognize the need to break the cycle of consumerism. I will continuously review my sales and marketing to ensure they benefit the common good.
I count on you to hold me accountable. Please connect with me if you see me not honouring my pledge.
How we created the new pledge
Some of you may recognize the words as being part of our ‘commitments’ that we put in place to patch the gray areas we weren’t able to cover in our previous pledge. Our commitments mirror the values in the ring around our ethical move logo, so it was clear that they were the key to our new pledge. We simplified and made them more actionable.
There are new items such as privacy, inclusivity, and the promise to continuously review our practices – which have been at the heart of our learning over the past year and were clearly missing in our previous iteration.
The list of tactics and how to flip them to make the ethical move will now become part of our resources for you to learn and choose how to take a stand and honour your pledge.
We will add the new pledge to Github for open source collaboration and translation, and invite you all to participate!
There is no governing body to check or police us, we are inviting conversation if we are in breach. Owning our actions, aligning them with our words, and being open to learning from others is at the core of this new pledge.
We decided to stay close to our roots in communication and marketing. That’s why the language doesn’t explicitly mention Liberation and environmental justice, even though we care deeply about these issues. However, we believe our global crisis is the fallout from a broken marketplace. Oppression is profitable. Exploitation is profitable. If we can break consumerism, remove the addictive need for more and fear of not having enough, we have a chance at dislodging the linchpin that is keeping those systems in place.
The best part: There are no new tactics to add to make it ‘work’. Now, we all get to work on the how of our pledge… together.
In essence, this IS our new standard. It is not empirically measurable, but infinitely meaningful.
Make the ethical move.
We needed our old pledge to start the conversation, to put a stake in the ground and say NOPE. It needed to be categorical and specific to make people think.
I am so grateful for the conversations, the questions, the dismissals that came from it. We’ve learned from every one of you.
Making the ethical move is often not popular or easy. It takes work and feels intensely uncomfortable. It creates the need for conversation that we’d rather not have. It makes us afraid of losing out, of not having enough.
We are right there with you.
The ethical move is here to provide conversation and community, the pledge is how we take a stand together, the badge is how we recognize each other.
We can’t wait to see what will come next.