JMM Special Issue Call for Papers: Deadline for submissions 24 October 2022

Marketing Ethics in the Anthropocene: Fit for purpose or time for a rethink?

Guest Editors: Matthew Higgins, The Open University, UK; Richard Godfrey, The Open University, UK; Ai-Ling Lai, University of Leicester, UK

Marketing ethics as a specialist form of business ethics has over the last 50 or so years gained traction in the discipline (Chonko & Hunt, 2000). A consumer and stakeholder demanded confluence of marketing ethics and social responsibility is being proclaimed (Ferrell & Ferrell, 2021). This is perhaps simply an appreciation that marketing discourse and the marketing profession hold the power to transform society, an approach ‘which can be used to make the world a more equitable place, embracing cultural diversity, breaking down barriers and helping those who do not have a voice’ (Dean et al., 2018, p. 1441). From societal (Kotler, 1972), social (Duane & Domegan, 2019) and sustainable marketing (Sheth & Parvatiyar, 2021) to corporate purpose (Quinn & Thakor, 2018), marketers are pursuing a sense of meaning, promoting desirable behaviours and heralding a social contribution that extends beyond organisational financial performance (Weidner et al., 2021).

The professed purpose of marketing ethics is to support individual practitioners meet those moral challenges, in a search for a form of special ethics that facilitates a distinction to be drawn between the right/good and wrong/bad decisions (Vanhamme, 2017). Despite this, within and beyond the marketing discipline, the earlier concerns of Murphy and Laczniak (1981) that amongst business functions marketing is besmirched by unethical practices has not entirely gone away. The breadth of these issues and conflicts are well documented and so is the recurring nature of many of them over time and space: from data breaches, invasion of privacy, abusive power relations within the supply chain, bribery, product obsolescence, deceit, mis-representation in advertising and unfair pricing practices, the list of legal and ethical lapses simply grows and with it the trust in companies amongst consumers dwindles (Shankar & Yadav, 2021).

Looming large over the discipline of marketing ethics is a long-standing “entanglement” (Laczniak & Murphy, 2019, p.403) between ‘normative’ and ‘positive’ marketing ethics, exemplified in the long-standing dialogue between Hunt and Vitell (1986), and Murphy and Laczniak (1981), and their respective contributors. Despite Laczniak and Murphy’s (2019) contention that positive marketing ethics is necessary but not sufficient for a progressive marketing practice, the positive approach has seemingly dominated the debate. As Hunt and Vitell (2006: 151) acknowledge, their General Theory of Marketing Ethics has provided “germane” source material for theorists, instructors and practitioners alike and in the process significantly bolstered the volume of writings in marketing ethics (Schlegelmilch & Öberseder, 2010).

In 2019, the Coronavirus pandemic heralded rapid transformations in social, economic, and political relations across the globe, the implications, and outcomes of which continue to play out. For some, the pandemic highlighted the intersection between marketing practice and public policy (Scott et al., 2020). Perhaps a more revealing response was offered by António Guterres, the Secretary General of the United Nations, who in September 2020 issued a statement in which he forewarned that “COVID-19 is not only a wake-up call, it is a dress rehearsal for the world of challenges to come” (UN, 2020). One of those key challenges is the Anthropocene (Gasparin et al., 2020), a recognition that the nature and scale of human activity is having such a significant influence on the Earth’s geology and eco-systems, that humanity “has become a global geological force in its own right.” (Steffen et al., 2011, p. 843). It marks a dramatic shift in the relationship between humanity, other species and the environment upon which we all depend. It is marked however by an increasing recognition that existing institutions and structures are unable to fully comprehend the implications or devise a comprehensive collective response to mitigate some of the extreme consequences of this shift.

For marketing ethics, the Anthropocene poses a substantial challenge. Not only are marketing practices implicated (Dyck & Manchanda, 2021), but these practices are also grounded in a body of thought which was created primarily for a production-based stable economic system (Godfrey & Higgins, 2020). Elsewhere, Ergene et al. (2017) and Gibson-Graham (2011) propose the need to for a feminist ecological reconceptualisation of the relationship between humanity and nature as a radical move to reclaim ‘sustainability’ under advanced market capitalism as we enter the age of the Anthropocene. Meanwhile, Cielemecka and Daigle (2019) argue for a posthumanist revision to the anthropocentric conceptualisation of sustainability altogether, claiming that such a notion is founded on a human-centric vision of futurity and uniformity. New directions for marketing ethics are being called for (Ferrell & Ferrell, 2021), but does marketing ethics have the language and capability to respond? Are we still perhaps assuming too much about ethics (Parker, 1998)? Will marketing ethics remain too mired in an anthropocentric vision?

Submissions examining, but not restricted to, the following topics are encouraged:

  • The challenge of praxis and/in marketing ethics
  • Market value(s) and new ways of thinking about marketing ethics in the Anthropocene
  • Marketing systems and ethics: the impact of Covid-19
  • More than human approaches to marketing ethics
  • Marketing ethics and the Global South: lessons to be learnt for responding to the Anthropocene
  • Unintended consequences associated with marketing ethics practice
  • The impact of and role of digital technologies (artificial intelligence, virtual reality and blockchain) in developing a marketing ethics for the Anthropocene
  • Feminist ecological perspectives of marketing ethics
  • Undoing the anthropocentric vision of sustainability through a posthuman perspective
  • Accounts of Stoic, religious and/or spiritual approaches to marketing ethics in the age of Anthropocene
  • Non-Western perspectives on Anthropocene and marketing ethics

Submission Requirements:
Authors should submit manuscripts of between 8,000–10,000 words (excluding tables, references, captions, footnotes and endnotes). All submissions must strictly follow the guidelines for the Journal of Marketing Management. These are available at:

Manuscripts should be submitted online using the Journal of Marketing Management ScholarOne Manuscripts site ( New users should first create an account. Once a user is logged onto the site submissions should be made via the Author Centre. Authors should prepare and upload two versions of their manuscript. One should be a complete text, while in the second all document information identifying the author should be removed from the files to allow them to be sent anonymously to referees. When uploading files authors will then be able to define the non-anonymous version as “Complete paper with author details”, and the anonymous version as “Main document minus author information”. To submit your manuscript to the Special Issue choose “Special Issue Article” from the Manuscript Type list when you come to submit your paper. Also, when you come to the ‘Details and Comments’ page, answer ‘yes’ to the question ‘Is this manuscript a candidate for a special issue’ and select the Special Issue Title of Marketing ethics in the text field provided.

Potential contributors can contact the Special Issue Editors to discuss their ideas for a paper prior to submitting a formal proposal. Please direct any questions about the submission process to the guest editors via:

• Dr Matthew Higgins

The closing date for submissions is 24 October 2022.

Technical queries about submissions can be referred to the Editorial Office:


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