Ethics washing

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Law - regulation - ethics.

Ethics washing is a derogatory term for the overstatement of an organisation's ethical concerns and actions, or those of a sector.

Potentially with the effect - or intention - of delaying effective law-making and external regulation of the sector.


For example, if the sector were to set up panels and similar bodies in relation to its ethics, and to successfully publicise these efforts, all of this might slow down the implementation of necessary laws and effective external regulation of the sector.

In other words - the argument goes - the issues and related protections for affected individuals and the public should be a matter of law, and not dependent on the ethical standards of the dominant actors in the market.


Examples might include the privacy of internet users.

The term ethics washing is derived from - and analogous with - greenwashing in relation to environmental concerns.


See also