by Michael Jones
There’s no way to escape what’s happening and what’s going to happen. Whether from the mouth of a popular science guy, or a multitude of other outlets, we know the planet is changing and we know we’re the cause. Well, almost all of us know…
I’ve recently come to terms with my own contribution to our planets disaster. I’ve foolishly considered myself part of a more ‘woke’ generation – I don’t own a car, am a flexitarian (kinda lol) and I’ve used a reusable water bottle for 3 years.
I’ve also just begun reading a terrifying book – The Uninhabitable Earth – and have become tremendously guilty. I always believed that most of the climate emergency was caused by generations before me – the frivolous unrestrained capitalism of the 60s, 70s and 80s. I’ve now learned that since existing on this planet me – my fellow ‘millennials’- and our cohabitants have caused more greenhouse gas emissions in the 26 years since my birth than all emissions before that point.
More and more people from every walk of life are waking up to this reality. We’re in the endgame. The choices we make right now are the difference between serious but survivable (for the most part) changes to the climate and a catastrophe that us and the generations who come next will have to expend enormous resources – time, money and lives – adapting to. Think the blood and treasure needed to bring Chernobyl under control (impressively demonstrated in the HBO/Sky miniseries) and then increase that by 10s of thousands. We’ve haven’t faced a calamity of our own making since the height of the Cold War – and we can’t choose to just not press the red button this time
I’ve wondered how this problem applies to my work and the industries I interact with on a daily basis and how they are adapting to calls for ethical consumerism.
Consumers are making brands wake up
Consumer choice alone won’t force the systemic change we need to keep the planet habitable for 7 Billion + humans, but that choice is having an impact on the production processes of brands.
Fashion and modern attitudes to it are of course inherently wasteful. The perceived need to constantly have new clothes is something I’m guilty of myself and I want the brands I consistently buy from help me have new stuff that doesn’t literally cost the earth.
Thankfully they are listening. I’m not alone in my contradictory stance of wanting cool new things and to live on a habitable planet. Sports apparel in particular has tended to lead the way in more inventive uses of materials. From Adidas’ reclaimed plastic trainers to similar offerings from Converse and Vans. Nike has even produced a report to help share their own learnings on the path to sustainability.
This new style of thinking is not limited to the mega-brands with the deepest pockets. The market is ripe for disruptors producing everything from vegan shoes to sandals made of reclaimed rope. The ethics behind every brand is increasingly important to the shopper – they can even check the ethics of purchases on the go.
But how do brands guarantee this effort isn’t wasted?
Making your product in a less harmful way can be pricey. Economies of scale are a real thing and until mass production can fully embrace green principles, processes destroying the planet will win the battle for consumer wallets.
This makes education of those consumers extremely important. Brands know this and will spend huge amounts on marketing to educate on new production techniques and innovative new materials.
But there is a potential weak link in the chain. We all know that the high street remains important in the final purchase decision—particularly of the rarer more expensive purchases individuals make during the year. Even if the final sale is made online, when deciding on the expensive trainers or the winter coat, ‘try before you buy’ is real. This means it’s essential the person providing the final level of advice and validation knows their stuff.
The sales associate can make or break the hard work put into product marketing
Imagine this scenario: you’ve spent years curating a range of trainers that use no animal products. You’ve ensured they look great and appeal directly to your target demographic. The customer, having seen them advertised, visits a retailer you work with. The price of the trainers is quite high, but that was required to ensure its ethical credentials. The customer queries the sales associate: “are these trainers vegan?”
“I don’t know”
Those 3 words can put all the effort and money expended beforehand at risk. The customer came in seeking validation, and while this might not sink the sale, hoping most sales associates would make the effort to verify the product specifics – why run the risk?
Those on the retail frontline need to be confident and educated on the credentials of the products they’re selling – and understand why the customer spending the extra 20% compared to a competitor will help save us all in the long run.
How do we get the information that they need?
Thankfully, there are a multitude of ways to upskill staff at your sales channel partners, such as in-person training delivered by representatives, or even hosting regular training events. At Myagi we’re strong proponents of both, but moves towards digitisation can achieve the same purpose and improve your Brand’s green credentials.
The savings the planet makes when trees aren’t sacrificed for chunky training manuals that unfortunately tend to gather dust in the back-room of a store is one aspect of this. Likewise, a reduction in the amount of traveling your brand representatives and training teams are undertaking helps even more.
Turning physical training in the form of manuals into a digital format has many other benefits; the ability to verify whether they’ve been accessed and increase the interactiveness of such content is also of huge benefit increasing the likelihood that content will be engaged with.
High Carbon – Low Uptake vs Low Carbon – High Uptake
With physical visits, it’s less about removing the role of the travelling rep altogether and instead ensuring their valuable time is properly targeted. Being able to deliver content to the devices of frontline staff ensures they have a strong baseline of information making in-store visits can have an elevated level of expertise and be less frequent.
The rep themselves should be an invaluable part of the content creation process. If a rep can inform and respond to queries from 20 people while on the road in a week, imagine the amount of frontline staff they can reach by creating and distributing digital content for a week?
Small steps in the right direction
If you’ve survived to the end, this blog isn’t meant to be about silver bullet solutions, but it is a plea to move the sustainability questions away from just the end product and how it’s marketed. Businesses need to have a 360 degree approach to how they operate. The Fashion Transparency Index is a great place to see the breadth of factors included – and demonstrates clearly how there is still much to do in this space.
Most of us are heading in the right direction, but efforts desperately need to be accelerated. Find out how Myagi can help your sustainable product information reach the frontline without killing the planet in the process.