Communication and responsible consumption: is the sector doomed to be another « villain »?

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We’ve all read that fashion is « the second most polluting industry in the world behind oil ». This is not true. The reality is much more nuanced, and for good reason. It’s not the fashion industry alone that pollutes, but all of the industries it encompasses. 

For example, if you want to know the carbon impact of a garment, you must take into account a number of criteria such as 

The choice of raw materials: is the garment made from synthetic or natural fibers? Does it have ecological certifications like GOTS? Cotton, if it’s not organic, is one of the main pollutants of our soil because of the pesticides used during cultivation.

· Manufacturing: was your garment designed in a country with restrictive legislation concerning the use of chemicals and waste treatment? The dyes used to color our clothes are often toxic both for the manufacturers and for the people  who wearing them!

· Transportation: Where does the product you hold in your hands come from? In the case of fashion, much of the production takes place in  Asian countries.

· Durability: Is your garment designed to last and be repaired?

Whatever the field, the consumer is not mistaken. They have become aware that they are also an actor of change and that their purchases have an impact, economically, of course, but also, and above all, on society and the planet. Consumers, when they have the means, look for brands that are committed and that defend the values with which they identify. In fact, 73% (1) of them think that brands should act now for the betterment  of society and the planet. 

With this new awareness, responsible communication has its place. It is the promise of communication that respects both the consumer and society with a sincere, transparent approach, and that assumes its share of responsibility for purchasing behavior. It can accompany the consumer by giving them the opportunity to make informed choices, with all the data in hand. 

However, only 34% (2) of consumers think that companies are acting in good faith when they communicate their commitments and promises. That’s how much room for improvement there is! 

 

Transparency in the air of responsible communication

The fault probably lies with the numerous examples of Green/Social washing that have induced a global distrust of brands’ big announcements. How can we not think of the example of Intermarché who, during a campaign in 2011, claimed that its fleet was fishing virtuously thanks to the creation of a « responsible fishing label » created from scratch by the company? The Mousquetaires group was forbidden to renew its advertising campaign because the logo created for the occasion played on its resemblance with the independent MSC label (created by the WWF in collaboration with Unilever) which certifies sustainable fishing.

Or like the Inditex group, who wanted to promote the women of their organization with the campaign #inspiringwomen? When we looked more carefully, we found that the brand was suspected of marketing products made in whole or in part in factories where Uyghurs are subjected to forced labor! 

If communication (and more broadly advertising) can be criticized for some of its negative effects, such as the reproduction of stereotypes or the incitement to overconsumption, the positive effects are less often discussed. However, when it is part of a responsible and transparent approach, communication can gradually lead to a transformation in society. It can make other ways of living and consuming desirable and change economic models. 

Indeed, by claiming to change or sharing the desire to change, companies are obliged to make their products and their model consistent with their consumers. The process can take several years, and we know that it is more complicated for well-established major companies, than for a start-up with an already adapted and agile business model. Considering this, this challenge must be seen as a way to bring brands closer to their consumers: by admitting that no, they are not perfect, but that they are proactively working on their improvement, companies will be able to recreate a bond of trust. 

This is the case, for example, of the Labeyrie Fine Foods group, which has set a goal of fighting global warming on its own scale. Following the carbon assessment carried out in 2019, the group has defined 12 priority projects with reduction targets for 2025 validated by the SBTi (3). 

Responsible communication has the power to transform companies and societies for the better. It is our duty to use it. Feeling gun-shy like Danone and its flip-flops about getting involved? Think about brands like Patagonia that have managed to increase their revenue by 4 times between 2005 and 2017, while advocating for more responsible consumption!

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Alice Rozec, Brand Consultant

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Sources

1-2 : Meaningful Brands® 2021 by Havas Group : https://www.meaningful-brands.com/  

 

3 : https://www.labeyrie-fine-foods.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/12/lff-2020-2021-csr-report.pdf 

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