Promotional gifts and the ethics of giving and receiving

Promotional gifts and the ethics of giving and receiving

When an organisation thinks about getting promotional products it’s likely they have one of two goals in mind. The first, to promote their brand through the products during marketing campaigns. The second is to reward or gift clients and business partners who they’ve worked with over the years. Both goals could raise issues of ethics and lawfulness.

Marketing with gifts is an important part of relationship building, but where is the line? When does a well-intended gift to a supplier become unethical and potentially illegal? Knowing the rules about giving and receiving gifts will keep you and your clients out of trouble.

The first thing to look at is – what is the point of a gift? Are you receiving a gift which may influence improper conduct or is it just a token of thanks for the work you’ve done together over the last year? These are the difficult decisions that must be thought about when accepting gifts. Does receiving this gift create a conflict of interest?

The second thing to ask yourself is if you are expected to return the favour. If you feel as if would need to give them a gift back, or more importantly, some buy off them or provide them with work over their competitors.

Another thing to be wary of when it comes to gifting and receiving gifts is the timing. Is there a big deal about to happen between your two companies? Even the best of intentions could fall foul of the UK Bribery Act in this regard.

There is also the issue of cash gifts. Cash gifts are rarely acceptable. It’s easier to hide and it’s far more likely to be seen as bribery than a gift in fair practice. It’s the issue most likely to conflict with the UK Bribery Act.

Three simple questions

Whether or not your company has a protocol or guidelines in place about receiving or giving gifts, there are three simple questions each individual can ask themselves.

– Am I embarrassed about giving / accepting this gift if others find out?

– If this gift was made public what would the media coverage be?

– Will this gift influence important decisions?

The one bit of advice we can gift is just be careful when giving and accepting business gifts. If in doubt, be conservative, it’s far simpler to politely refuse something you’d feel uncomfortable accepting.

Although this may seem all doom-and-gloom, promotional gifts remain a fantastic way to thank you customers and clients. They are still a great way of getting your brand’s name in the hands of top level managers.