Active Altruism: Influencing Sustainability

November 17, 2021

Marketing, as they say, ain’t what it used to be.

Influencer marketing has arrived, and it represents an unquestionable shift in the dynamics of brand power and message. “Exposure is no longer the preserve of the rich,” says Al Ramich, CEO of SmallGiants. “You can go viral (and therefore have influence) with no backing, no funds and no status. Technology has inverted the traditional relationship between money and power.”

Influencer marketing has actually been with us for a long time, including everyone from town criers in medieval times to Farrah Fawcett leveraging her iconic Charlie’s Angels hairstyle to sell hair products. Today’s equalizer is mobile technology, and it means that anyone – literally anyone with a smartphone and something to say – can be an influencer now. Fashion and beauty brands have taken notice, and they’re listening.

Sending a message of sustainability
Style shown: District Re-Tee

The Message Is the Medium

Where it was once the companies who had the power and defined the message, now it is the influencer who defines the message that fashion labels seek to align with. In one highly-visible example, this year’s Met Gala found singer and animal rights activist Billie Eilish wearing an Oscar de la Renta gown – but only on the condition that the fashion designer agreed to stop all fur sales.

With most influencers trending toward the younger generations – Millennials and Gen Z primarily – the message they want to send is often about sustainability.

Fashion and beauty brands are listening
Style shown: The North Face Canyon Flats Fleece Jacket
These are just a few examples. I could spend all day just talking about the many different influencers and the messages they have for the fashion industry alone. But I want to answer the question I can feel you just waiting to ask: how can you leverage these messages to benefit your business?

Going All-In On Sustainability

The key to an influencer’s message can be summed up in one word: authenticity. It’s pretty easy these days to do the research to find out if someone is just saying the right words, or if they’re walking the talk of sustainability. Organizations like Better Buying make 360-degree feedback loops between suppliers and buyers more transparent than ever.

Brands approach sustainability in different ways
Style shown: Cotopaxi Batac Backpack
Making it even more complex (sorry!), many brands approach sustainability in different ways. While traditionally known as a fast-fashion manufacturer, H&M has recently focused on using recycled materials. Others take a broader approach and address sustainability across the full lifecycle of their products, like shoemaker Allbirds.

In other words, if you’re going to say you’re selling sustainable products and behaving ethically, you’d better mean it and you’d better be able to convey what that means if you’re asked about it.

Luckily, some apparel brands wear their sustainability on their sleeves, so to speak. Companies like Allmade and Cotopaxi feature apparel that is both ethically sourced and made from either recycled or repurposed fabrics. Familiar brands like The North Face use recycled fabrications in more and more of their products. The District Re-Tee has become a family of apparel pieces with a clear mission to reduce both material usage and also the chemicals used in the dyeing process.

These are the kinds of sustainable brands that influencers can be proud to talk about. Featuring their products prominently in your lineup is not just good for the planet. By conveying a message that is increasingly meaningful to today’s buyers, these are products that will also help your business grow into this new world where the power of marketing can be used to change the world for the better.

Next month, I hope you’ll join me for a preview of the trends we’ll be focusing on in 2022. I’m beyond excited to tell you all about how what we’re wearing speaks to the connections we share and how the movement from “me” to “we” is taking shape in our wardrobe. See you then!

Influencers use marketing to change the world
Style shown: Allmade Tri-Blend Tee