I had this thought a number of years ago, that companies can freely use any iconography they like within their branding. For instance, they could use a kiwi or a lion in their logo or as a character. There’s little ethical consideration to this – the main concern is legal as existing trademarks. But there’s no cultural motivation to check this with anyone, which is quite different to using indigenous cultural symbolism (ok, there are no laws about this, but unconsidered use doesn’t do you any favours). So I thought, how ethical is this?
Human activity has instigated a new era of extinction and most of the world’s charismatic mega-fauna are threatened… well, it’s not just them – the world’s biodiversity is threatened. (We had the pleasure of helping DOC out with some of their Year of Biodiversity promotion.) So who pays the costs of conservation? Governments, environmental preservation agencies? So why not businesses who extract symbolic value from an animal?
This was the exact idea that motivated Save Your Logo, which set itself up to help involve companies to contribute and support actions of biodiversity. Neat! Of course, they have a general focus on key endangered species – not everything is covered.
The ideal would be for companies to be aware of – and grateful for – the cultural symbolic value that supports their business proposition. So, if you’re a business, or a designer, have a think about the ethical implications and find a way to support appropriate preservation initiatives. No doubt there are PR benefits, but the real benefit is that you are not just thinking of your own fate but acknowledging the relationship and shared fate you have with another entity in the web of life that connects us all.