You’re an ethical fashion brand?

Prove It.

By SUSTAIN

We’ve noticed something about all the promoted posts on our Instagram feed: everything being sold to me suddenly has an ethical, green or sustainable tagline.

But like any good millennial, we are skeptical. We’ve been sold ridiculous “truths” before. Like if you work hard enough, you’ll be able to afford a house in the same city as your career. Or perhaps our personal favorite, avocado toast is ruining the world. Right. Because poisoning our environment with rampant corporate capitalism has nothing to do with it.

Needless to say, when every targeted ad crossing our digital doorway contains those nebulous better-world keywords, our cynicism levels up. Here at SUSTAIN we are an unapologetic supporter of eco-fashion and conscious consumerism. Give us a deadstock summer frock or upcycled accessory any day. But slapping a Google-approved keyword on your Shopify page does not make you an ethical company.

In an increasingly crowded “ethical everything” world, we want to see the proof.

We’ve done a little digging into how an ethical fashion company goes about proving to us their eco and social cred. That’s how the Green Story was discovered.

Part number-crunching data analysis, part smart tech marketing disruptor, Green Story works behind the scenes to help ethical fashion brands cut through the greenwashing and prove their eco-cred.

According to Akhil Sivanandan, co-founder of Green Story and green marketing expert, one of the biggest hurdles ethical fashion brands face is cynicism from consumers.

“There are a lot of sketchy green claims out there. I can think of few products, which I will politely not name, that are just blatant examples of greenwashing. Making a label green and using a leaf graphic hardly proves a positive environmental impact. It’s no wonder that consumers are skeptical of green claims. Unfortunately, this skepticism translates into a big gap between thinking about buying an eco product and actually following through on the purchase. That gap of cynicism, we call it the say-do gap, really harms the brands that are putting in the hard work of investing in green suppliers and transparent supply chains.”

We have definitely experienced that say-do gap while staring at our laptop, hovering over the ‘add to cart’ button and staring at a woman smiling back at us as she supposedly makes this dress from a place of pure joy. Really?

How do we get beyond leafy graphics, smiling women and every shade of green known to humanity? How do we know that our purchase, which is often sold at a premium because it’s “eco”, is actually doing something for the world.

“We tell our clients over and over,” says Akhil, “it’s about the data. You have to show your customers the numbers behind your claims. Your customers are smart and cynical, as they should be! Respect their skepticism and prove your claims are true with accurate data.”

As a consumer we certainly like to be referred to as smart. But digging for data? We’ve slogged our way through CSR reports and there’s nothing like decoding corporate speak and staring at charts to kill the vibe of a fun shopping experience.

He must have heard the eyeroll in our voices. With a chuckle, Akhil explained that serving up raw data to consumers isn’t best practice for obvious reasons. And CSR reports are often directed at board members and shareholders, not your average customer. Using your impact data well means translating the data from a Life Cycle Analysis (an internationally recognized standard for assessing environmental and social impact, we’ve later learned) into super accessible visuals that communicate impact in less than 7 seconds.

7 seconds?

According to Green Story’s research, that’s how much time a brand has to capture your attention.

Interesting. But does it work? Yes, according to Green Story’s in-house research. Their Ungalli Clothing Co. Case Study saw online follow through rates increase by 114%. Current research is tracking the marketing ROI, in comparison to working with traditional marketing agencies, for their clients.

Will data-informed smart tech push us into a post-greenwashing world? We’ll see.

We’re not ready to give up our armor of millennial skepticism just yet, but we have found ourselves increasingly compelled to put our money where the data is.