Social (Behaviour Change) Marketing Statement of Ethics

I’m pleased to announce that the International Social Marketing Association (iSMA) has officially adopted a Social Marketing Statement of Ethics to support the ethical conduct of social marketing professionals, including practitioners, scholars and students.

Why adopt an ethics statement?

Social marketers working across different social contexts often come across a wide range of diverse ethical issues. Any behaviour change programs and projects that seek to influence individuals and communities should, therefore, be developed and delivered in a way that demonstrates that these ethical concerns have been identified, considered and addressed.

Having worked on various social marketing initiatives over the years across many cultures, I welcome this long-overdue addition to the social marketing field and encourage other practitioners to reference and adhere to the ethics statement whenever possible. I genuinely believe that adherence and reference to these principles throughout program design and delivery will go a long way toward building trust with audiences, stakeholders, and those in charge of policies/laws that can affect positive change.

The core principles

The six social marketing ethical principles, as outlined in the official statement, are as follows:

1. Respect and Sensitivity: Respect for people’s privacy, autonomy, diversity, free and informed choice, rights to participation and non-participation, inclusion and exclusion, and control over their lives.

2. Social justice and fairness: Promotion of social justice and avoidance of unfair distribution of benefits and burdens.

3. Openness and transparency: Transparency of goals, methods, intended and achieved outcomes, data ownership, and potential or apparent benefits and risks to target group(s) and society.

4. Avoidance of conflicts of interest: Avoidance of potential or apparent conflicts of interest, including opportunity for personal and reputational gain or avoidance of loss; promote public trust in social marketing.

5. Duty of care and non-malfeasance: Endeavor to do no physical, psychological or environmental harm and exercise a duty of care, integrity and professional and scientific responsibility.

6. Serve public interest: Fulfill social and political mandates and identify responsibilities and accountabilities for all stakeholders.

For additional details, please refer to the official statement.

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