what do we mean: ethics

working on a re-brand or product launch, certain words will come up over and over in conversation with clients. over the years i’ve found it’s good to make sure everyone in the conversation has the same meaning in mind when using the words, whatever they might be.

we all keep saying the same thing, but i want to make sure we are meaning the same thing, so we “go to the dictionary” to gain clarity around what is actually being expressed — and to avoid costly trips down the rabbit hole of miscommunication.

if ethics is the new luxury, and values are driving both consumer and brand decisions, then we need to be clear on what we mean when we say “ethics” and “values.” what currency do those words have in our culture and how does our culture express it? 

the dictionary definition of ethics includes phrases like “a system of moral principles,” “the rules of conduct recognized in respect to a particular class of human actions or a particular group culture, etc,” and “the rightness and wrongness of certain actions and to the goodness and badness of the motives and ends of such actions.”

consumer and brand values are then the “relative worth, merit, or importance” they place on a set of moral principles. what they are willing to stand by as right action, and what they’re willing to stand down as wrong.

the current cultural conversation around ethics seems to hinge upon this polarization of rightness and wrongness, particularly when it comes to the values of humanity, equality, respect, and honesty.

this is how every purchase is becoming an expression of ethics. how culture is bringing philosophy into the center of commerce, asking “do you stand for what i stand for?”