This Week in PR Ethics (06/18/20): Eliminating Racist Branding; CSR to CSJ; PR Ethics Issues in Europe

This week there continued to be a number of interesting social ethics issues top of mind including a fascinating article from HBR asking if we are moving from CSR to CSJ and what implications does that have for business. Brands are moving to eliminate racial stereotypes, and honesty and privacy are top ethics issues of concern to communication professionals in Europe.  Check out the top news below.

  • Aunt Jemima is no moreCBS News and other outlets reported yesterday that Aunt Jemima syrup and pancakes will be completely rebranded and their packages redesigned, Quaker Oats announced on Wednesday, out of recognition that “Aunt Jemima’s origins are based on a racial stereotype.” It will be interesting to see if other brands follow suit and if the NFL will finally move on the Redskins.


  • Are we moving from CSR to CSJ? – There was a fascinating article this week in the HBR that looked at the evolution of CSR. The author asked if we are moving from CSR to CSJ. Corporate Social Justice is a reframing of CSR that centers the focus of any initiative or program on the measurable, lived experiences of groups harmed and disadvantaged by society. Corporate Social Justice is not a feel-good approach that allows everyone to be heard, and by nature it won’t result in initiatives that will make everyone happy. Check it out.


  • PR Ethics issues in Europe – For those interested in PR ethics issues outside the U.S. the Bulldog Reporter had a good article this week. In a study from the European Communication Monitor 2020, almost half of European practitioners (47 percent) have experienced several ethical challenges in their day to day work during the last 12 months, while a smaller portion (18 percent) reports about one issue of this kind.




  • Cyberstalking and intimidation of the media – I need to include this one just because it is so strange and bizarrely entertaining to read. In my ethics class I frequently cite the example of Uber allegedly intimidating reporters by threatening to review their ride patterns (as opposed to Edelman gathering information on those opposed to clients…which is relevant and ethics). In this case some eBay executives allegedly decided to harass media in the town next to me who were writing negative stories on the company by sending them “disturbing deliveries” that included a bloody pig mask, a box of live cockroaches, and a funeral wreath.”


  • Ethics of the communication process – This week a panel found that Neil Jacobs, NOAA’s acting administrator, “engaged in the misconduct intentionally, knowingly, or in reckless disregard” for the agency’s scientific integrity policy.” As communicators we are often pressured to modify our communications to make our bosses or clients look better. We need to resist the pressure, particularly when facts contradict assertions or it will impact your organizations credibility. In this case it was Sharpiegate and a hurricane hitting Alabama (or not).

On a personal note, I wanted to let me readers know that I have started a new full-time job as general manager of C+C’s Boston office. C+C is a communications agency all about the good. For my loyal readers the good news is the owners fully support my EthicalVoices work and the blog and podcast will be continuing.

Mark McClennan, APR, Fellow PRSA
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Mark W. McClennan, APR, Fellow PRSA, is the general manager of C+C's Boston office. C+C is a communications agency all about the good and purpose-driven brands. He has more than 20 years of tech and fintech agency experience, served as the 2016 National Chair of PRSA, drove the creation of the PRSA Ethics App and is the host of

1 Comment

  1. Tressa Robbins

    June 19, 2020 - 11:08 am

    I always enjoy your posts, Mark. Congratulations on the new gig! 🙂

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