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Boost Your Sustainability By Working With Influencers

A campaign where brand, influencer and consumer explore sustainability together, is a campaign that increases brand trust and protects the planet. Here’s your guide to making it work.

It’s time for a new fashion mindset. If we imagine how a future ‘sustainable’ fashion industry might look, there’s no scenario that can cope with our current, astronomical rate of consumption. The Global Fashion Agenda predicts that “by 2030 global apparel consumption is projected to rise by 63%… the equivalent to more than 500 billion additional T-shirts.” The main problem with all this over-consumption is that we’re running out of resources – rapidly. The UN says that “by 2050 the equivalent of almost three planets could be required to provide the natural resources needed to sustain current lifestyles.” Whether we prioritise what’s best for businesses, individuals, or life on the planet, we reach the same conclusion: we need to evolve the way we buy clothes.

 

A shift towards sustainability

It’s not all doom and gloom, however. A shift towards sustainability has begun, with clothing supply chains getting a good once-over in terms of ethics, and various brands emerging as leaders in sustainable production. That being said, shopping habits remain pretty untouched. So, it’s up to brands and influencers to lead the shift towards sustainable consumption. It’s up to them whether they choose to see this as a business opportunity or a global necessity; in reality, it’s both. Those that emerge as leaders in this wave of change, if done so authentically, will gain respect, trust and loyalty, whilst lending a hand in restoring health and wellbeing to the planet. That wasn’t the dog – it was the sound of eco-warriors finally exhaling.

Think of the last garment you bought. What sparked the idea? When we ask people this question, they usually come back with: ‘an influencer’. It’s pretty common for all of us to end up shopping after a quick feed scroll. In these moments, we’re open to inspiration and new ideas. So if we bring sustainable concepts into these spaces and sessions, where people come to absorb inspiration and new ideas from influencers, this is fertile ground to sow the seeds of behaviour change. Essentially, there’s no better place to get the sustaina-ball rolling than the ‘gram.

 

Influencers are your key to success

Hold your horses: the point of sale, on the other hand, may not be the best moment to educate customers or attempt to change their behaviour. At this point in a shopping session, research shows us that shoppers are laser-focused on their not-to-be-messed-with criteria of style, function and price, and it takes a lot to change that deeply ingrained habit. You know, the one where your thumb accidentally taps the ‘buy now’ button? Oops. Although sustainability credentials are largely ignored by shoppers at this point (they’re already dreaming of the Postie dropping off their parcel), most brands’ attempts to encourage eco-conscious choices are focused on the checkout. Shifting this focus over to influencer content could well be a game-changer. Specifically, content that lightly educates, normalises, and helps your audience shop in a way that truly fulfils them.

Increasingly, people are searching for meaning and authenticity on their feeds, drawn to influencers and brands that stand for something, and make them feel seen. This is the perfect place to start honest conversations about sustainability, to spark new shopping journeys. And these are conversations that all brands should be having – no matter the state of their supply chains. Influencers do a really good job of bridging that gap between you and your audience, adding power to your sustainable efforts through their humanity and un-edited authenticity.

 

Authenticity is paramount

Now for the elephant in the room; greenwashing. According to Investopedia, ‘greenwashing’ is “the process of conveying a false impression or providing misleading information about how a company’s products are more environmentally sound. [It is] an unsubstantiated claim to deceive consumers into believing that a company [is] environmentally friendly.” So, if these campaigns of yours are employed as greenwashing devices – in other words, efforts to be seen as sustainable whilst hiding the things you haven’t got right yet – nobody wins. And your audience will likely see through it in no time. Brands and influencers need to expose their sustainable (and other) vulnerabilities, in order to build trustworthy narratives and provoke real change.

 

Proving it works

An example of this working well for brands, is our campaign with Office in collaboration with Nike, to celebrate the launch of Nike’s 2020 Vapormax at Office. We were onboarded to help educate and inspire audiences to make better fashion choices. We did this by working with sustainable style advocate Shaunie Brett (@shauniemaker), who has since gone on to become a sustainability consultant for brands and helped us put this article together.

At the time of the campaign, Shaunie had just finished a shopping hiatus, so we positioned the shoe as a wardrobe staple that was worth the investment, and could be styled with pre-loved items. Shaunie talked about what she learnt in a year of no shopping – touching on less buying new, and more styling old. Her content caption perfectly demonstrates how well this sort of partnership can work, and how authentically it can come across – regardless of where brands are in their sustainable journeys. The Vapormax 2020 campaign was special because it was a big part of Nike’s ‘Move To Zero’ commitment – aka, the perfect example of a brand showing vulnerability, to move towards sustainability.

“I’ve been having some really inspiring chats with @officeshoes and @nikelondon, finding out what they’ve been doing to help us shop more sustainably. In a climate where it’s tough to know which brands to trust, I feel so encouraged by how hard these teams are working to innovate despite the tough times, to develop circular supply chains, and to help us participate in the movement.

In the light of #nonewclothes, loads of people have asked me what to do about shoes, saying they struggle to find good ones second-hand – I hear you. I’ve done some digging on the Nike Air Vapormax2020 and got a ton of information. Turns out, they have been made from majority recycled materials (including in the yarn, liner, toe clip, heel tip, sole). IMO they represent a milestone in Nike’s sustainability journey, and prove that you don’t have to sacrifice style and fun when choosing the most responsible option out there.”

Shaunie’s styling work for Nike

How to make it work

As you can see, vulnerability is powerful. Rather than waiting for the perfect supply chain, or carefully briefing the perfect sustainability influencer, share where you actually are in your journey towards sustainability now. Collaborate with authentic, imperfect influencers that resonate with your authentic, imperfect audience. A campaign where brand, influencer and consumer explore sustainability together, is a campaign that can increase brand trust. It’ll also improve the influencers’ engagement, and drive sustainable consumption. A triple whammy. Here are the keys to making it work:

  1. Choose the ideal influencer. Find creators who speak authentically, are ready to be vulnerable, who understand your mission and are truly ready to make more sustainable choices (rather than fall into greenwashing traps themselves).
  2. It’s not about your product; it’s about your purpose. Redefine what success means for this campaign. Education, honesty and valuable advice will boost longer-term metrics such as engagement, retention and brand perception.
  3. Never claim you’re sustainable. In fact, explicitly state that you’re not. And from this place of honesty, expose the areas you’re trying to change.
  4. Deliver instant value. Ensure your content is hopeful and uncomplicated. Provide useful takeaways. Map out an ideal onward journey that results in positive reinforcement, not necessarily through a sale.
  5. Make it a conversation. Interact with your audience to understand what helps them, and what works. Use it as an opportunity to learn what changes their behaviour as well as their attitude. Bring your audience into the campaign, and invite them to share in your effort.

A conscious consumption campaign – a journey of vulnerability and learning for brands, influencers and consumers – has a threefold positive impact. It future-proofs the brand. It gives the influencer a sense of purpose. It gives people and the planet a chance at long term well-being. We already have the goods to drive this change.

If you want to lead the shift to healthier shopping mindsets, explore your options with us at info@connects.com. We’re not “sustainable”, but we’re on a journey to change that. Let’s work together to create a real impact.