This Week in PR Ethics (09/08/22) – What ethical failures are customers least likely to accept? Also Fur Trapping and Ethics Swag

Once again, I didn’t have to look far for ethics stories this week. I strongly encourage everyone to read the HBR study on what ethical failures customers are least likely to accept.  There are also videos and Webinars from PRSA and PRCA and a link to some great ethics swag.


  • What ethical failures are customers least likely to accept – This HBR study is a fascinating read that really digs into how effective public opinion is in keeping companies accountable and what behaviors trigger the most significant response. One section was particularly interesting (although you should read the whole article):

    “We also found that the American public is more sensitive to certain types of abuse. Our participants were most likely to view companies associated with child labor as involved in a human rights violation, while associations with partners that failed to pay a living wage, contaminated a community’s land, or engaged in discrimination were less likely to be seen as involvement in a violation. Interestingly, violent repression of protesters was one of the least likely abuses to trigger perceptions of involvement in a human rights violation (despite it clearly violating citizens’ fundamental civil and political rights), and the abuse for which participants were most forgiving was the destruction of a sacred site (again, despite this being a clear violation of cultural and indigenous rights).”


  • The ethics of fur trapping – Misinformation is a hot topic, and this article from the Thunder Bay News Watch details a campaign from the Ontario Fur Managers Federation to counter what they claim is misinformation. We see so much attention paid to oil and other industries, I wanted to highlight a smaller one.


  • Conflicts of interest – The PRSA Code of Ethics tells professionals to avoid a conflict of interest. Fox 8 New Orleans reports how this standard was apparently not followed when they hired an employee when their mother had check-signing authority in the office. What makes this particularly troubling as they sought ethics counsel and ignored it.


  • Do you want to start an ethics discussion? – For ethics month I launched a limited-time store where you can get giant posters of the ABCs of Ethical Failures for the classroom or office, T-shirts and coffee mugs.


  • Great webinar on fair pay on Sept 8 – PRSA is hosting a Webinar with Lilly Ledbetter, a tireless activist for fair pay on Thursday, Sept 8 at 4:00 p.m. ET. It is free for PRSA members


  • Great ethics videos from PRCA – PRCA is also providing great content and professional development for ethics month. Topics of their free videos include Bell Pottinger: Five Years on and Does NextGen Care if PR is Ethical?
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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