This Week in PR Ethics (1/7/21): Public Health, Vaccines, Business and Culture

While it’s a New Year, we still have the same ethics issues that we have had for 4,000+ years. Following are a few of the highlights that focus on public health, vaccines, business and culture.

  • Ethics and public health – One of the most fascinating ethical issues for discussion I have seen recently deals with the COVID vaccine and public health. There are many permutations to the issue, but one I know will engage my students is raised in this article – do we delay giving the 2nd COVID shot to get more people their first COVID-19 vaccine, even with reduced, but still good, effectiveness.


  • How is the role of ethical businesses changing? – Harvard Business Review had a great article on how the role of business in society is changed in 2020. The Business Roundtable declaration of 2019 is just one step in the process. This article is a must-read and looks at the most important stories about the intersection of business and society in 2020. COVID-related issues top the list and include both ways companies innovated and the roadblocks that resulted in less progress on sustainable development. Other top stories are fossil fuels continuing on their path to irrelevance, an expansion of the definition of corporate responsibility, companies saying “Black Lives Matter” (and many taking concrete action), and increased calls for reforming capitalism.


  • NAM taking a strong stand quickly against the protests – Like many of you, I was transfixed by the events, Wednesday. Others have covered them in great death and I have been spending the time speaking with my family about my thoughts. But the National Association of Manufacturers deserves strong kudos for taking a rapid and swift public stand, before any other organization I saw.  Now mind, you, I doubt the protestors are listening to NAM, but it shows the role of business changing.


  • Businesses must act – the Rise of Corporate Social Activism – The Arthur W. Page Center had an interesting article this week from Holly Overton. She asks if corporate social advocacy (CSA) the new corporate social responsibility (CSR) and highlights the need for action.


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


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