As a marketer, my job is to tell the story of a brand, product or campaign with a goal of creating a relationship between “person” and “subject.” Infusing these stories with purpose and allowing people to build a relationship with a deeper meaning has made my career feel more authentic. Working for brands who are conscious of their social responsibility has forced me to be a more creative and engaged marketer, while also forcing me to consider my personal footprint. My 9-5 is working for Obakki fashion brand and Obakki Foundation as their Director of Marketing, and in my spare time, I take on consulting and freelance projects for brands that inspire me. It is incredibly empowering to work with companies who are hardwired to create change. This year, my challenge for every individual and brand is to consider whether or not they feel like they’re making a difference.
Did you know that the fashion industry has been named the second biggest polluter to our planet after oil? As a fashion coveter, I was shocked to learn that an industry that I respect for creativity and expression is also responsible for so much damage. As a consumer, it’s our job to learn about which brands and companies are conscious of their impact, and how they’re making a difference. As employers, entrepreneurs and mindful individuals, we have a responsibility to educate ourselves on how to make more conscious purchasing decisions, and on ways to give back. Everyone seeks speed and convenience to satisfy their immediate needs, however; fast purchasing, especially online, stops us from pausing to think beyond satisfying an immediate desire. This often results in less meaningful consumer behaviours.
I’ve discovered some of my favourite brands through exploring their purpose. For skincare and home apothecary like soap and moisturizers, I shop from Aesop. This brand has its own foundation, the Aesop Foundation, which supports literacy and storytelling programs. I love The-Citizenry for homewares—check out their chairs. All of their products support artisan entrepreneurs from around the world, whose stories they share on their website. They also invest 10% of their proceeds to the artisan’s communities. For basics (especially cashmere) I shop at Everlane. They have incredibly transparent pricing and manufacturing guidelines and they have a project called 100% human, which has donated almost $250,000 to the American Civil Liberties Union. Last but not least, I invest in lots of pieces from Obakki, who covers all of the administrative and operating costs for Obakki Foundation, which means that 100% of donations to the foundation go directly to their programs. Take some time to research which brand support programs you feel personally connected to—it makes investing in quality much more appealing.
Not only do we have a responsibility to give back as consumers, we also have an opportunity to get involved through our careers. As we dive deeper into the age of ‘start-up culture’, we become more aware of our working environments and the many “perks” that are now customary to most companies. When asked, millennials outline social responsibility as one of their workplace priorities. Participating in community giveback and working for a socially conscious employer is both rewarding and motivating. If you’re working for a company who doesn’t have any giveback programs outlined, you have the power to change that. If your company isn’t in a financial position to donate, consider other options like asking your employers to use your office space to host an event for a foundation or cause.
As a business owner, this is an opportunity to increase consumer loyalty, staff tenure, brand authenticity and engage with your community on a deeper level. Studies show that 90% of people would switch to a brand or service that supports a worthy cause, and nearly 50% would pay more to support companies that are committed to social change. People who are involved philanthropically are proven to be happier and healthier. And lastly, it doesn’t have to be monetary. Give back can be time-based, like volunteering for a local organization or having a team day at a food bank.
Whether you’re an employee or an employer, I encourage you to get involved. And for every consumer, do some research on the companies you’re supporting. It’s so empowering to have the opportunity to make conscious purchasing decisions, and is increasingly empowering to be able to make change through your thoughtful buying patterns.