Research Handbooks in Business and Management series
Edited by Alexander Nill
Chapter 8: Marketing ethics and differentiation: implications for normalized deviance
Outdoor clothing and gear companies Patagonia and Timberland are featured on practically every ranking and list of the world’s most ethical companies. These firms are heralded for the extent to which ethics shape nearly every facet of their business, from sustainably sourced materials to exemplary human resources practices to community development. Beyond these two iconic standards, however, additional outdoor apparel and gear companies are becoming ethical standouts. Indeed firms such as Marmot, Mountain Hardware, Osprey, Mountainsmith and Big Agnes boast product lines created with mostly recycled materials including recycled plastic water bottle or polyethylene terephthalate (PET) waste materials. Mountain Equipment Coop along with Patagonia established sustainability audits for their textile suppliers. A recent ‘top 10’ list of outdoor gear companies features story after story of exemplary ethical products and other noteworthy marketing practices (see Brones 2008). Aside from the product connection to the outdoors and to nature, what is it about the adventure apparel and gear industry that makes it so ethically noteworthy? Of course other industries and strategic groups of firms stand out similarly with ethics in their marketing practices, including some health and beauty, computer software and food companies. Why do some groups of firms or even entire industries seem to display overt ethical marketing practices? Likewise the public is all too familiar with firms that stand out in the other direction for negative reasons, including groups of firms in some extractive industries for example.
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