The State of “Ethical” Business 2024

The State of “Ethical” Business 2024

We’re two months into the year, so we wanted to discuss where things are in the industry, including the current state of “ethical” business.

Warning: This episode will probably be more raw and conversational than normal as everything we discuss will likely get us fired up.

download the transcript

Why We’re Doing This Episode

Here in 2024 one of the best things is that we’re finally starting to see more and more people reject the status quo business practices including manipulative marketing and scammy sales practices.

It’s encouraging but kind of frustrating….because as new people get wise to these BS practices, it’s hard to tell who’s legit and who’s doing the same old, same old with a fresh new package.

What’s being talked about right now: 

  • Anti-hustle culture conversation including more talk about rest and burnout.
  • What is enough? We don’t need to grind our way to 7-figures. 
  • Doing business in a way that’s slower and more sustainable. 
  • Not needing a big team to have a profitable business.
  • Doing less marketing instead of trying to be everywhere.  

So much of what this conversation is about right now is not new. It’s just becoming more mainstream.

None of these conversations are new. Many of us have been having them for YEARS, so while it’s good to see them become more mainstream, I’m also skeptical.

After all, we’ve learned time and time again that this industry is fickle. Case in point. It’s worth noting that certain conversations have fallen off the radar

There’s way less talk about diversity, equity, and inclusion. And definitely less conversation about accessibility. These conversations were happening a lot in 2020 and 2021,  but as usual, people get hyperfocused on this and then decide it’s handled when it should be an ongoing work in progress.

The Monetization of Burnout

Over the last year, the discussion about burnout has been getting louder and louder.

Why? There’s the reality that, as humans, we’ve been through a hell of a lot over the last few years. The collective mood is that we’re not entirely okay and trying to make sense of our feelings. The pandemic created a new kind of burnout, and entrepreneurs and employees struggled.

At a societal level, burnout is a conversation we’re having more and more. On a personal level, an increasing number of celebrity entrepreneurs have faced the reality that hustling their way to 7-figures wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.

So, they’ve been left to reinvent. And what better way than to talk about healing from burnout, rest, and what enough really is.

The lack of credit to those who’ve been talking about these issues for years, and acknowledging the work of marginalized people who talked about these things to literally survive is mind-blowing.

Personally, Maggie’s been exploring these themes in her work, especially in her essays and on the BS-Free Service Business podcast with guests like Bear Hebert and Brittany Berger for years.

So much of the work Maggie is doing is centered around building a simple and sustainable business, which means honoring your capacity and not chasing BS revenue goals.

The Marketing Conversation

We need to talk about this latest wave of bullshit when it comes to marketing.

All of a sudden the business owners who have been teaching the impossible standards of the “right way to market” like:

  • Being everywhere on every platform.
  • Social media marketing as the main marketing driver.
  • It’s so easy to build your list.
  • Psychological hacks that make your offer irresistible. 
  • Using income claims and trumped-up testimonials. 
  • Aspirational marketing aka THE DREAMTM

Collectively these business owners realized that none of this shit was sustainable and was leading to their burnout and bloated expense lines on their P&Ls.

Now they’ve boomeranged to talking about:

  • Do less marketing.
  • You don’t need to be on social media (all these convos are happening on social media). 
  • Ethical marketing (while still doing some very bro marketing stuff).
  • Their “chill” or “old school” marketing which is the SAME old thing.

We don’t trust this. We’re really fascinated to find out what these people will be selling. As they sell from their experience and not expertise.

The Pattern of Predictability

To wrap things up, we don’t want to say we told you so….but we told you so.

We started this show nearly three years ago, as we wanted to start building a bigger audience for the conversations we’d been having with our clients and on our own podcasts. Because all of this was entirely predictable.

For example, a podcast episode from January 2021 talked about how ethical was a buzzword we should all be watching for as it’s pretty meaningless. Maggie said “beware the ethical business”, and here we are. And in late 2022, I pointed out that none of what we’re seeing is different, it’s the same old crap in a new package. Sigh. 

Like Maggie, in December 2020, Michelle created a podcast (and then updated it in 2023) about the rise of ethical marketing and how ethics is a very nuanced topic and can’t be prescribed unless there’s a governing body. 

In September 2020, Michelle started talking about uncomplicating your marketing so that it’s easier and more sustainable for your business. In March of 2022, she was questioning with our friend Meg Casebolt whether or not microbusinesses need to be on social media at all. (Spoiler alert: they don’t).

As a consumer, here’s what we recommend you watch for in the coming months:

  • When you feel jaded or unsure about someone. Your skepticism is a sign.
  • Anyone trading heavily on their “story” of burnout without demonstrating any real understanding that this goes beyond their individual experience. 
  • The quest to “monetize” the bigger sentiment around ethical business, burnout, rest, and being anti-hustle culture without even unpacking their previous business practices. 
  • Stop buying from people who solely market on how they built their business or grew their audience. 
  • Be wary of anti-marketing messaging on social media while still marketing on social media.

Links for this episode:

Join the

Duped Logo White


Duped Cover

for only $7/month and get a
monthly bonus episode,
behind-the-scenes content
and more.

Recent Episodes of Duped

Why Do We Fall for Get Rich Quick Schemes
Consumer Caution: Understanding the Risks of Payment Plans in Online Business
How To Read a Sales Page (Part 2)
The Bundle Breakdown: What Consumers Need to Know Before Buying
how to read a sales page part one
The State of “Ethical” Business 2024
Friend or Foe? Understanding Parasocial Relationships in Marketing
Payment Pitfalls: Navigating Guarantees, Refunds, and T&Cs
Behind the Curtain: Decoding Deceptive Tactics in Summits and JVs
Manipulating Minds: The Need to Know About NLP