Derek Newberry, a blogger at Nextbillion has a very interesting post on Ethics in the BOP Market. He uses the case of Fair & Lovely, the skin whitening cream marketed in India by Hindustan Lever, the Indian subsidiary of Unilever. The company has constantly used a advertising strategy that depicts women of darker complexion as being inferior (the most controversial being such women being unable to find a suitable groom). Derek posted this Fair and Lovely ad, which uses a similar strategy as mentioned above.
BoP critics like Aneel Karnani (University of Michigan, Ross School of Business Professor) have used the Fair & Lovely example to show how companies make ethical sacrifices in marketing products and services to the poor. His paper “Doing Well By Doing Good – Case Study: ‘Fair & Lovely’ Whitening Cream” can be found here.
Derek proposes a simple two-point framework to deal with such ethical challenges in working with BoP markets (He calls it the BoP Litmus test):
I think for many traditionally profit-minded organizations, its a tough test to pass, especially with regard to the products and services that they are pushing into the BoP markets. Fair & Lovely has played in well to exploit the race/color insecurities that has plagued Indian society for centuries, to sell skin ‘whitening’ creams. I guess one of the comments by a youtube viewer after viewing the video sums it all up – “this is just wrong on so many levels”