Sustainable, eco-friendly, ethical. These are terms we hear a lot lately. A few years ago, companies committed to be sustainable were not considered fashionable or cool, but because climate change urgency is a hot topic now, people are getting more knowledgeable about the impact of wastage on the environment and ethical issues in the fashion industry. Based on the Vice news report on the impact of the fashion industry on the environment, greenhouse gas emission made by textile industry is much more than aviation and shipping industries.
A lot of cool fashion brands are starting to use terms like sustainable and eco-friendly when describing their products, however many of them use it loosely and without credible evidence. The main issue here is, to what extend they are being genuine about it and if they are really committed to be sustainable how could they convince their clients to purchase sustainable products?
As discussed by Mia Marjanovic, who is a Berlin based sustainable fashion blogger on Instagram, a lot of fast fashion brands greenwash. Which means they try to look as if they are making a difference, but they actually just have one or two products that are sustainable and give this Impression that the whole brand is sustainable.
Companies like Ganni, Veja, Rothy’s and Allbirds which are some of the most popular brands on Instagram and have cult followers, launched their companies with 100% commitment to sustainability, but little to nothing is mentioned about their sustainability effort on their Instagram page compared to some of their competitors who are less committed. These companies believe being sustainable is something everyone should do at this climax and it shouldn’t be used as a marketing tool. But are people educated enough about recycling and sustainability to naturally go for these brands? The answer is No.
No matter how much government and media push the urgency to act on climate change, people still need to be informed about the impact of the fashion industry on the environment. Having access to thousands of glossy and cool fast fashion brands on Instagram makes people choose those that are cheaper, sexier and trendier. They rarely naturally go for a sustainable brand just for the sake of the environmental issues. Now that these brands are committed to help tackle the climate change, it should be important for them to educate people to be more responsible.
The question here is if Instagram is a useful platform for sustainable brands to educate their clients about this matter? And what is the best way to communicate it to them?
As stated by Reilly & Hynan (2014), by comparing channels of communications like social media and magazines, social media is more effective in conveying the brand’s message as it is interactive and creates a sense of brand community. And because of its direct dialog it is more transparent to customers (Lee , 2009), therefore direct discussions about sustainability on channels like Instagram can influence customers more effectively than any other traditional media. Nowadays, more sustainable apparel companies are using Instagram as a platform to inform customers about the importance of sustainability and corporate social responsibility. As indicated by Ajzen (1991) engagement on social media can change the attitude of people.
Based on de Vries’s (2012) research, for young adults in order to engage in a post about sustainability, the content should be more vivid and interactive and also consists of promotional incentives and discounts (Muk, 2013). For sustainable brands in order to attract more follower, reaching out to credible influencers to promote this can also be helpful (Lee & Watkins, 2016).
Despite the effectiveness of Instagram in influencing people, a report made by Future laboratory (2019) challenges the nature of Instagram for promoting sustainability as it can be hypocritical to promote less consumption and sustainability and at the same time have a purchase button on a product for a quick purchase. On the other hand, the existence of endless bloggers that encourage people to buy fast fashion can also create a dilemma among fashion customers (de Lenne & Vandenbosch, 2017). As their preferences are usually brands that are more flattering and trendy.
When a brand has that cool and trendy vibe and gained enough followers on Instagram like Reformation, which is a sustainable LA based Womenswear company, with right contents, it can educate customers about this matter and make them feel good about purchasing a sustainable piece. Posting contents like below screenshot from Reformation’s Instagram account is a perfect example of educating customers about sustainability in a right context.
Instagram Isn’t the Space for Sustainable Fashion. https://www.thefuturelaboratory.com/blog/instagram-isnt-the-space-for-sustainable-fashion. Accessed 5 Feb. 2020.
Ajzen, I. (1991) ‘The theory of planned behavior’. Organisational Behavior and Human Decision Processes. Vol 50, No 2, pp179-211
de Lenne, O & Vandenbosch, L. (2017) ‘Media and Sustainable Apparel Buying Intention’. Journal of Fashion Marketing and Management: An International Journal. Vol 21, no 4,
de Vries, L., Gensler, S. & Leeflang, P.S.H. (2012) ‘Popularity of brand posts on brand fan pages: an investigation of the effects of social media marketing’. Journal of Interactive Marketing. Vol 26, No 2, pp83-91
Instagram Isn’t the Space for Sustainable Fashion (2020) https://www.thefuturelaboratory.com/blog/instagram-isnt-the-space-for-sustainable-fashion
Lee, M.S.W. & Motion, J. & Conroy, D. (2009) ‘Anti-consumption and brand avoidance’. Journal of Business Research. Vol 62, No 2, pp169-180
Lee, J.E. & Watkins, B. (2016) ‘YouTube vloggers’ influence on consumer luxury brand perceptions and intentions. Journal of Business Research. Vol 69, No 12, pp5753-5760
Muk, A. (2013) ‘What factors influence millennials to like brand pages?’. Journal of Marketing Analytics. Vol 1, No 3, pp127-137
Reilly, A.H. & Hynan, K.A. (2014) ‘Corporate communication, sustainability, and social media: it’s not easy (really) being green’. Business Horizons. Vol 57, No 6, pp747-758