Tim Frick, founder and CEO of MightyBytes joins the BSuite podcast.

Episode 9: Exploring Digital Marketing Ethics with Tim Frick

In Episode 9 of Season 4 of the BSuite podcast, host Anne Richardson interviews Tim Frick, founder and president of Mightybytes. MightyBytes is a B Corp certified digital marketing agency that serves social enterprises, sustainable brands, and large nonprofits. Tim is an active leader and educator throughout the B Corp community and the digital marketing space. In the episode, he shares how he established Mightybytes’ Impact Business Models, the challenges that come with using digital marketing tactics in ethical ways, and how business leaders can achieve success while adopting a sustainable mindset.

We've been trained that philanthropy and charity happen over here and business happens over there, and ne’er the two shall meet. I think the most exciting thing for me in the past 25 years, above and beyond becoming a certified B Corp, is that whole idea of impact business models where you're creating impact while also generating revenue.

Key Takeaways

Building an Impact-Driven Marketing Agency

When Tim founded Mightbytes in 1998, he had two key ideas in mind. First, he had learned from previous work experience that he didn’t want to spend his career in corporate America, and second, he was concerned that the “mad dash to the internet” of the 1990s was leaving many individuals and small organizations behind in terms of education and funding. Tim committed himself to combatting this inequity by helping socially responsible enterprises and nonprofits become more competitive in the digital world. Many years later, when Mightybytes earned B Corp certification, Tim came to understand what it meant to apply the Impact Business Model to his business.

Tim explains this business structure: “You’re not just earmarking a portion of your profits to give to charity. You’re literally saying ‘This is the financial model I will follow in order to create this level of impact and desired outcome. And I’ve created a Theory of Change around it. And that’s now going to be at the core of my business.’” Today, Mightybytes operates within several impact business models focused on the environment, positive social impact, and building a better digital economy. These models allow his company to remain profitable while also prioritizing stakeholders and the planet.

Overconsumption and the Internet

Digital marketing relies heavily on the internet, and all internet usage comes with an environmental cost. Tim explains how the Jevons paradox, the economic theory that states that increasing the efficiency with which a resource is used leads to increased consumption of that resource, has played out in today’s digital-first society. He observes, “The internet provides these really amazing, incredible opportunities for people, it breaks down barriers, but that doesn’t come without rebound effects. Some of those [consequences] are increased energy use, increased fossil fuel consumption, increased mining for all of the rare earth minerals that we need to power all of our devices and data centers, and the list goes on and on and on.”

In short, the easier the internet makes it to complete activities such as shopping or searching, the more those activities will take place, producing a greater carbon footprint. Tim urges digital marketers to consider that, “it’s great to have progress and it’s great to have all of these advancements, but also it should be done as responsibly, ethically and sustainably as possible.”

Making Sustainable Choices as Business Owners

In response to the fact that internet usage exacerbates mass consumption, Tim advises business leaders to adopt a sustainable mindset. He prompts, “How can we start thinking more clearly about the implications and potential consequences of our actions, specifically within marketing?” He encourages business owners and leaders not only to make sustainable choices for their own companies, but also to advocate for local and national legislation that would phase out fossil fuels on a larger scale. “It’s important to have both of those things sharing equal weight,” he says.

Part of a sustainable mindset is embracing continuous improvement and knowing that your priorities may shift over time as new information becomes available. Speaking from decades of experience as an agency owner, Tim believes, “The thing that you launch is not going to be the thing that you have two years later. You’re going to be constantly adding to it or subtracting from it, making it better, improving it, making it faster, making it greener, all of these things.”

A Community of Impact-Driven Business Leaders

Digital marketing leaders who choose to pursue a more sustainable business structure are in good company. In recent years, many agencies, including Richardson Media Group, have kicked off their own unique journeys of continuous improvement in an effort to make a more positive impact on their communities and the world. This work can feel overwhelming, so Tim urges leaders to reach out to their networks. He cites the B Corp community as a source of inspiration: “It really helps me on those dark days when I’m like, why am I doing this again? I reach out to my fellow B Corp owners or to B Lab and get a philosophical dose of confidence.”

Anne shares Tim’s feelings about the B Corp network, saying in her own words, “People in this community seek to learn from and guide one another, which is really refreshing, and is similar to what I recall from my work in education, another field built upon the give and take of knowledge.” As much as Tim relies on other B Corp leaders, he is considered a respected resource. Tim always has projects up his sleeve (such as Ecograder and his book, Designing for Sustainability, to name just two!) that are designed not only to support operations at Mightybytes, but also to help other digital agencies improve their impact models and build a more equitable digital economy.