How Ethical Email Practices Will Set Your Business Apart

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As purpose-driven leaders and Christian business owners, integrity is at the core of everything we think, say, create, and do. This principle extends to our marketing efforts, where building trust with prospects and clients is paramount. 

Recently, a situation arose that made me reflect, yet again, on the importance of ethical email list practices. Maintaining a clean email list is crucial, not just for legal reasons, but also to exemplify God's light in the marketplace and align with the Ultimate How-To Guide.

When we dare to take a stand overtly or covertly as Christ-followers, we are more scrutinized as others look for ways to poke holes in our actions. They expect us to look and act differently than everyone else or the latest trends. 

Let's accept that challenge and rise to the occasion.

Why Ethical Email Lists Matter

Imagine receiving an email from a company you've never heard of, pushing a product you have no interest in. It's not exactly a recipe for building trust, right? 

Ethical email marketing involves ensuring your list contains individuals who have explicitly opted in to receive your communications. They've given you permission by signing up for your lead magnet or newsletter or checking the "yes" box when registering for an event.

Let's examine the two approaches to understand the nuances between right and wrong.

The Dos and Don'ts of Ethical Email Lists


  • Purchase email lists from third parties.
  • Add emails without consent or use misleading tactics.
  • Hide opt-ins with pre-checked boxes.
  • Make unsubscribing difficult.
  • Over-email with irrelevant content.
  • Ignore privacy legislation like GDPR or CAN-SPAM.
  • Use deceptive, clickbait subject lines.
  • Maintain poor list hygiene with bounced emails or inactive subscribers.


  • Obtain permission by only adding those who opted in.
  • Have a clear opt-in process.
  • Be transparent about what subscribers will receive and how often.
  • Offer easy unsubscribe options.
  • Respect user privacy by safeguarding information.
  • Regularly update lists by removing inactive subscribers.
  • Ensure your emails reflect your brand's values and mission.
  • Personalize emails for better engagement.

The Legal Side: Avoiding Unwanted Trouble

While regulations vary, most regions have guidelines on email marketing. Ignorance of the various laws, regulations, and rulings does not give you a "get out of jail free" card. 

Here are highlights from some prominent ones:

  • CAN-Spam Act (US): This law requires permission-based marketing. Violations can incur hefty fines. (Currently, the charge is $51,744 for every email and related person involved, with no cap on the number of violations.)
  • CASL (Canada): Stricter than CAN-Spam, with potentially high court-determined fines.
  • GDPR (Europe): This regulation focuses on data privacy and imposes significant fines for non-compliance. (The current penalties are 20 million euros or 4% of annual global turnover, whichever is higher.)
  • UEMA (New Zealand): This legislation allows the courts to determine penalties on a case-by-case basis and comes with publicly naming and shaming non-compliant businesses.
  • Email Service Providers (ESPs): All have guidelines against emailing non-subscribers, and violations can lead to account closure.

While the nuances of the legislation vary by country and region where your business is emailing, common points across the board require permission-based consent, business and content transparency, and easy ways to unsubscribe.

The Integrity Side: Building Relationships Through Faith

Ethical email marketing aligns beautifully with Biblical principles:

Truthfulness: James 5:12 and Proverbs 12:22 encourage truthful communication. Translation: Be honest about who you are, the purpose of your messages, and how your subscribers' info will be used.

Stewardship: Proverbs 27:23-24 encourages us to be responsible with the information and resources we share. Translation: Target your email messages to specific needs and interests. 

Love and Respect: The love chapter in 1 Corinthians 13 encourages us to treat everyone with agape love and genuine respect. Translation: Personalize messages and avoid mass blasts that feel impersonal.

Wise Speech: Proverbs 15:23 shares how right and wise words are powerful and deliver joy. Translation: Craft clear, concise, and relevant messages to each subscriber's needs.

Good Works: James 2:14-17 defines how faith without works is unhelpful. Translation: Use emails to uplift, challenge, and inspire others. 

You can cultivate a thriving email list built on trust and respect when you follow these principles and do your part to let your YES be YES and your NO be NO (Matt. 5:37). 

Take a Stand. Be Different.

In today's competitive marketplace, prioritizing ethical email practices can be a significant differentiator for your business.

By demonstrating your commitment to building trust and operating with integrity, you'll stand out from other companies that might resort to spammy tactics.

Ethical email marketing allows you to cultivate a loyal subscriber base that's genuinely interested in your message, ultimately leading to a more prosperous and sustainable business venture.

By treating subscribers with Christ-centered values, you'll not only avoid legal issues but also build stronger relationships, opening doors to even more successful business opportunities.