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Paper info: Marketing and ethics in competitive tendering procedures


Marketing and ethics in competitive tendering procedures


Florence Crespin-Mazet and Jean-Paul FLIPO

Place of Publication

The paper was published at the 25th IMP-conference in Marseille, France in 2009.


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Due to their nature, their economic importance and the stakes they represent, projects deals frequently generate ethical dilemmas. They often have a profound impact both on the environment, the society in which they are developed and in shaping the industry's culture (several companies are involved in designing, executing and maintaining the projects). Hence, projects are a typical "playground" where a variety of actors, relationships and stakes  economic, technical, social, environmental and political  are at play. However, very little work addresses the issue of ethics in project deals. Recently, the Project Management Institute (PMI) has published a Member Code of Ethics and Member Standards of Conduct as ethical standards for project management. This Code however relies on very general ethical principles and is as such not specific to project deals. Therefore, project practitioners have no precise and practical guidelines to "ethically frame" their exchanges with customers and other major stakeholders. Due to this lack of a specific framework, the Public Procurement Directives serves as the main reference to regulate and define the scope of "fair practices" both in public and private project deals (Cova & Allen, 1989). This paper addresses the issue of ethics in project deals and its implications for project marketers. Based on a literature review, this paper identifies the principles that can ground the practices of project marketers willing to adopt ethical principles. It analyzes the practices generated by the competitive bidding and concludes that the Public Procurement Directives do not actually constitute a relevant framework to favor the implementation of ethical practices in projects. As acknowledged by Berube & Villeneuve (2002), ethical dilemmas faced by project managers are not always solved by legal rules, especially in controversial situations. This paper argues that the strict applications of the Competitive Procurement Directives based on the lowest price bid may even favor the development of unethical practices.The last part then analyzes the marketing principles advocated by the International Network for Project Marketing & Systems Selling (INPM). While at first glance some of these principles may be criticized for restricting competition, the paper advocates that several of these project marketing principles can be legitimized as a relevant framework for practitioners willing to develop ethical practices in project businesses. The paper then suggests an analytical grid to review project marketing practices  positioning the concepts of ethics among others concepts such as the legal framework (respect of the law), and the concept of legitimacy towards society (license-to-operate).