Handbook on Ethics and Marketing
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Handbook on Ethics and Marketing

Edited by Alexander Nill

Exploring both the theoretical and the applied aspects of the role ethics plays in marketing, this Handbook analyzes key issues in order to advance our understanding and provide an overview of the state of the art in this vital field.
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Chapter 9: Distributive justice: theory and applications in global markets

Thomas A. Klein


The juxtaposition of growing globalization and concerns about ethical conduct in that context necessarily inspires three questions: (1) How should marketers respond to the reality that ethical norms appear to vary widely around the world? While there appears to be general agreement about what is acceptable business practice in advanced economies, the growing interest in doing business in emerging and less developed economies poses new and larger ethical implications. These arise from opportunities to exploit more vulnerable populations, immature institutions and exchange partners eager to do business on terms that are ‘out of bounds’ in markets where those conditions do not exist. Are there hypernorms that transcend cultural and institutional differences or is this simply a situation where businesses apply ethical relativism, learning and responding to those differing environments? (2) How should marketers respond to varying demands of justice when this concept is subject to multiple and sometimes conflicting interpretations? Political, social and cultural differences pose macromarketing problems, not confined to what seems to be fair in arrangements and practices involving dyadic exchange relationships. Do marketers have obligations related to influencing the systems within which exchanges occur? (3) How should global distribution – the mobilization and movement of goods, services and funds across borders – incorporate the concept of justice into specific marketing decisions involving product management, vertical channel relationships, upstream as well as downstream exchanges, promotion and pricing? The most elementary understanding of distribution is to bridge temporal, spatial and quantitative gaps between supply and demand.

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