In our last Human Discussions talk, our founder has chatted with Jodi Muter-Hamilton on how to embed sustainability in your brand strategy and communications.
Jodi is a renowned sustainability expert and has been working with many fashion and technology businesses to help them create the best products possible and connect with their audience in a meaningful way. Feeling that sustainability in fashion needed to evolve, in 2017, she founded Black Neon Digital, an independent editorial and podcast platform through which she helps to build brands with integrity. Jodi is also a Partner and Communications Director at Fashion Roundtable, working to make the fashion industry more sustainable and valued as contributor to economy. Moreover, She has also founded Project 2030, which is uniting the cross-industry leaders to create a garment traffic light system, aiming to make it easier for everyone to adopt sustainable fashion design practices and consumption habits.
According to Jodi, it is difficult to define sustainability as a standardised definition doesn’t really exist. Brands tend to take quite a wide creative freedom with how they define sustainability. It is also important to understand that there is no such thing as perfect sustainability, but it is necessary to create a methodology, a way of benchmarking. However, a brand will not be able to become ultimately sustainable if it is not known where it is heading, what are the goals, how to achieve them and most of all, how to measure them.
Brands must know the impact that their product might have in the future and to do so, all the elements that make such products must be acknowledged. It is important to go back to the core and follow each step of the product journey in detail, from the manufacturing through delivery to disposal. As also explained by Jodi, big brands are able to use tools (audits, certifications, kite marks..) to communicate their sustainability credentials, but it is not as easy for smaller brands to show how their products compare, as the tools are often costly. This is one of reasons she decided to found Project 2030. In addition to this, Project 2030 was also developed in order to help those people who want to buy sustainably but do not really know how to do so. Sustainable consumption is still a niche thing for certain groups of people. For example, as Jodi states as a key driver for Project 2030, 1 in 6 adults in England are considered to have very poor literacy skills.
It is possible for both big brands and new start-ups to transition to sustainable ways of working. According to Jodi, brands that have been on the market for a long time can become more sustainable, and she suggests they look back at the history of the brand, focusing on what is important to them and why the founder started it in the first place. As a starting point brands must pick the things they care the most about and make sure that they are the best in it. For instance, if you have a shoe brand, you need to make sure to have the best leather or craftsmanship or whatever is important to you. Make sure that your practices are in line with your brand and communicate that authenticity in your marketing.
Be open and honest about your journey as a brand, let people know what your emotional journey to becoming a more sustainable brand was. Consumers will feel you are more authentic and real. Another element that should be considered is accountability. People will feel more connected to the brand and its founders, if the founders themselves talk about the products and give updates on their sustainability journey. ‘Big brands fall up because the founders or the people at the top are not out in the front, they may hide behind a sustainable team or a press person. A CEO should be aware, and accountable for their company’s sustainability progress. I’m not saying they should know every detail, like why wool is a better choice than virgin non-organic cotton etc, but they have to know and care about the overview as a bare minimum’, Jodi explains.
To new start-ups, Jodi advises to truly define who you are as a brand, what is important for you and communicate that to your consumers. You are in a unique position as a start-up to consider every element right from the beginning. Moreover, as previously suggested, control each step of the product journey, be considerate of the design process and the elements utilised, be more granular.
A lot of the time the issues happen at the manufacturer level but now there are so many platforms that can help you finding the right suppliers who are more ethical and in line with your mission. For instance, among these platforms, there are Segura, Common Objective and Supply Compass. New start-ups can now find the right partner in a much easier way.
It can be argued that nowadays it might be easier to become a sustainable brand or to work in a sustainable manner. To start, be granular about your products and your product journey and be authentic about your brand and its mission. However, it is important to remember that once you start exploring sustainability, begin to gain more knowledge, you’ll no longer be able to turn your back on the huge need to make your business more sustainable.
Listen to the talk here: