Reading: Defining Ethics

Ethics is the set of moral principles or values that guides behaviour. There is a general recognition that many, if not most, business decisions involve some ethical judgment.

Bright pink laminated paper thumbtacked to a cork board. The pink sign contains the word ETHICS in black; to the right of the word is a black arrow pointing up.Each party in a marketing transaction brings a set of expectations regarding how the business relationship will exist and how transactions should be conducted. For example, when you as a consumer wish to purchase something from a retailer, you bring the following expectations about the transaction: (a) you want to be treated fairly by the salesperson, (b) you want to pay a reasonable price, (c) you want the product to be available as advertised and in the indicated condition, and (d) you want it to perform as promised. Unfortunately, your expectations might not be in agreement with those of the retailer. The retail salesperson may not “have time for you,” or the retailer’s notion of a “reasonable” price may be higher than yours, or the advertising for the product may be misleading. These differences in expectations can lead to ethical questions that are sometimes difficult to analyze.

Canadian Marketing Code of Ethics

To create greater clarity for marketing professionals, the Canadian Marketing Association (CMA) has created the: CMA Code of Ethics and Standards. There are 18 components that address the most common ethical issues.

It’s helpful to review the document in order to understand the scope of issues that marketing professionals face. It is important to understand what ethics are based upon.  Norms are established standards of conduct that are expected and maintained by society and/or professional organizations. Norms may be fluid and change and values are more stable. Values represent the collective conception of what communities find desirable, important, and morally proper. Values also serve as the criteria for evaluating our own personal actions and the actions of others. They are often called beliefs. [1] [2]

The CMA’s Canadian Marketing Code of Ethics and Standards is the foundation of the marketing community’s self-regulation. CMA’s Code is mandatory for members and as such is a comprehensive regulatory framework governing members’ conduct.[3]

Recognized as a benchmark for effective self-regulation, the Canadian Marketing Code of Ethics and Standards has evolved over the years to become the best practices document for Canada’s marketing community. Governments and regulatory bodies often refer to the document when enacting legislation and include key provisions of our Code in those statutes and regulations. The media also often reference the CMA Code as an example of best practices for business.

The exchange process between an organization and a customer is based on a relationship of trust. The Statement of Ethics aims to protect that trust.

  1. Social Norms (2011, March 01). Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
  2. What are social values? (n.d.). Environics Research.
  3. Regulatory Framework and Best Practices for Marketing. (n.d.). The CMA.


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