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Brands that campaign for ethical issues - do consumers think more of them?

An increasing number of brands are seeking to promote their social and ethical reputation, whether as part of responsible corporate citizenship or for business advantage. MTV has launched a youth-focused campaign to help slow down the acceleration of global warming. Here you can see a short video on what consumers think about brands that campaign for ethical issues.

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MTV Switch is a worldwide, multi-platform campaign, which "aims to promote environmentally friendly lifestyle choices among youth in order to reduce the climate emissions that contribute to climate change" according to the broadcaster, writes Nikki Sandison. Thirty-five public service announcements will be made across MTV's network of 55 local TV channels in 162 countries. The campaign aims to reach a potential global audience of 1.5bn viewers, mainly addressing the 15 to 25-year-old demographic.

Virgin Media has also been making efforts to bolster its social and ethical reputation with the appointment of Stuart Poore as its first director of corporate responsibility. Ashley Stockwell, brand MD at Virgin Media said: "The emphasis of the role will be on harnessing the passion and commitment among Virgin Media employees for delivering socially and environmentally responsible products and services to our customers." Virgin Media's rival Sky has a dedicated corporate responsibility team of 15 headed by corporate responsibility director Ben Stimson. Poore said: " We have dealt with the nitty gritty issues of launching the brand, now we need to turn our attention to key reputational issues."

Sainsbury's recently followed rival Waitrose' ethical sourcing strategy with an ad campaign focusing on the British provenance of its produce. The TV ads, created by Abbot Meads Vickers BBDO, feature farmers who grow and supply food to the supermarket. Sainsbury's decision coincided with growing consumer concern about food miles as the Soil Association announced that it was considering excluding food flown into the UK from its organic accreditation scheme. Waitrose was one of the first UK food retailers to base its marketing on ethical sourcing and supplier partners. Its first such ad featured a farmer herding a flock of sheep in Wiltshire to convey its efforts to source trustworthy, premium foods.

Cynics have suggested that brands are seizing on ethical marketing merely as a selfish reaction to consumer pressure and to increase profits. However brands that were pioneers in adopting an ethical line, such as The Body Shop and The Co-operative Bank, are aware of possible pitfalls, including unintended consequences. Simon Williams, corporate affairs director at The Co-operative Group said: "The rage at the moment is for carbon reduction, but businesses that rush in to do that and abruptly stop flying in supplies find that they unintentionally impoverish farmers in the developing world."

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