What is Ethical Branding?

I can't tell you how many weird looks and questions I've received when I tell someone I'm an Ethical Brand Strategist. With a quick nod of the head, sometimes my audience will pretend to know, while others pause before requesting an explanation. In that case, my canned response has recently become, "I do marketing for fashion brands who are slave labor free, child labor free, organic, and/or sustainable, etc." From there, I usually get a response somewhere along the lines of, "oh so you just work in marketing basically, right?" Wrong.

Why is ethical branding so much different than any other kind of marketing? Two words, creative storytelling. When I was an undergraduate student studying Cultural Anthropology at Rutgers University, my days consisted of reading books upon books, and attending hundreds of lectures and roundtable discussions on the proper way to tell the story of someone who is not yourself, specifially someone living in another culture. 

While we use clothes to tell our own personal story of who we are and how we would like to represent ourselves, those clothes have a story all of their own, one involving the person who made them, and the effect they have on our environment. Brands that are consciously aware of the importance of that story must approach their marketing from a unique perspective. For example, ethical brands who work with artisans in a country where women and children can not or should not be photographed must be aware of the cultural implications of the mistakes any other brand would use in snapping a picture and throwing it on Instagram. Another example could be in the case of a brand who employs survivors of human trafficking, when protecting their identity could be extremely crucial. 

ETHICAL branding means having an in-depth knowledge of the ethics that should be upheld, not just in sourcing, creating, and selling products, but also in the way that the story of a brand is told. 

ETHICAL branding means using graphics, digital marketing, seo, and content to position a brand in front of a socially and/or environmentally conscious audience, OR strategizing to reach an audience who is unaware of the implications of their purchases, in hopes of steering them toward ethical consumption. 

One amazing example of this is the brand Stela 9, by Anthropologist turned Designer Jess Bercovici. Living in Guatamala, Jess has completely surrounded herself with handmade artisan talent, and tells their story in the most heartfelt manner, through her beautiful pieces. 


I very much believe that Jess' Anthropology training has allowed her to create a brand that preserves the cultural heritage of artisans, while also promoting the value and uniqueness of their work. Many brands like Stela 9 serve amazing missions, and amazing people whose stories deserves to be told. Even for those brands striving to positively impact the environment, there are facts to be properly presented on how any person can make a change by supporting these social enterprises, non-profits, and small businesses.

RISE Creative Co. was founded on the idea that these brands are so busy changing the world, they don't always have the capacity to hire full-time staff devoted to digital storytelling. We create extremely personalized branding packages in an effort to serve these incredible brands, and the people or environments they serve on a daily basis. We believe in sharing ethical brand stories for the world to hear, so that one day "ethical branding" isn't a fad, but a norm.

Ris Rose