On September 14th 2022, Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard announced his decision to transfer ownership of the company, currently valued around $3 billion, to a non-profit organization designed especially to support climate change initiatives around the world.
As a truly philanthropic act, this news thrust corporate social responsibility (CSR) into the spotlight, highlighting the shocking gap between genuine commitment to sustainability promises vs corporate greenwashing.
Greenwashing involves brands presenting misleading or false information to consumers in an attempt to appear more sustainable than they actually are. This could include celebrating sustainably sourced ingredients or promoting a recycling scheme in which the true impact is vastly over exaggerated.
Whether exaggerated or downright false, the act of corporate greenwashing has landed a huge range of U.S. companies in court, facing class action lawsuits in their attempt to actively deceive consumers seeking to be more environmentally conscious. These legal battles are highly public, expensive and lead to some serious long-term reputational damage.
As CSR groups continue to crack down on this behavior and consumers continue to demand more from their brands, one thing is clear: genuine commitment to CSR and sustainability has become a non negotiable for global brands.
How Does This Translate To Influencer Marketing?
When it comes to navigating social issues, influencers are an invaluable tool for marketers. Not only do they hold a powerful platform to share your brand message with a highly engaged following, but they act as gatekeepers to your target audience on their brand views, preferences and changing purchase demands.
Echoing the movement towards sustainable consumption, and supporting the values held by their followers (often promoted by themselves too), influencers are becoming much more selective about the brands they choose to partner with.
In a recent Creator Survey conducted by Aspire, 88% of influencers highlighted that a brand's values would affect their interest in working with them, with 98% agreeing they’d be likely to take on a project with a brand that is genuinely committed to sustainability.
And – unlike some major brands – there were no empty promises here. The influencers we surveyed showed no reluctance to walk away from a partnership that didn’t ring true, with 64.7% reporting having turned down a campaign in the last 12 months because they didn’t believe in the brand’s values.
Fundamentally, it’s not only your customers who are demanding genuine CSR commitments from your brand, it’s your brand partners too. And with the power influencers have to build a lasting impression of your brand with their followers (including promoting the sustainability promises which are true), it makes sense to truly adopt sustainable practices into your working models – not just for the planet, but for the future success of your business.
How D2C Brands Can Be More Sustainable In Their Influencer Marketing
Of course, sustainability comes down to a lot more than materials used and product longevity (although those are also important components!). It includes decisions along every single step of your supply chain, from the transport method used to deliver your products to the way data is stored by your teams at HQ.
While we hope you are looking at ways to become more sustainable with your core business processes, here are some simple ways that your brand can be more mindful in its marketing practices too – influencer marketing edition, of course.
1. Consider Your Displays
We say it time and time again – effective influencer marketing is based on a genuine relationship between brand and influencer. As part of this relationship, you might send a birthday gift, thank you token, or set up a full display table to congratulate them on 10 million followers, complete with cupcake stands, balloons, maybe even a donut wall.
While these can make for super eye-catching social content, consider the materials you’re using. Can they be recycled? Used again? Taken back to HQ for on-site events? Going all out for your influencers is great, but make sure you’re not creating a whole lot of waste in the process.
2. Be Mindful With Your Product Seeding Campaigns
Sending free gifts and products to influencers, otherwise known as product seeding, is a brilliant strategy for building new relationships and generating online engagement with a smaller budget. But don’t be tempted to go overboard. When choosing and sending your desired products to new partners, be sure to keep the following in mind:
Communicate with your influencers: it may sound obvious, but you’d be surprised just how many influencer gifts end up lost or stolen due to incorrect addresses. Make sure you confirm the correct address and discuss any delivery details that might throw a spanner in the works. Let’s avoid your carefully curated gifts ending up with random neighbors!
Personalize your gifts: To streamline the product seeding process, many brands resort to sending every size or shade to save admin time. Not worth it guys! Instead, take the time to find out the influencer’s size and style preferences and send just a few styles or shades that you feel would match them perfectly. This not only adds a personal touch to your gift, but saves a monumental amount of product that the influencer is left to dispose of!
Aspire’s Gmail integration and brand new shared inbox feature makes it even easier to keep on top of all your influencer communication, with visibility across your entire team. Check it out here.
3. Be Honest In Your Messaging
The overarching message of this blog – you must be honest in your marketing messaging. Working with influencers is a brilliant way to amplify the brilliant sustainable practices you have in place – but only if they are 100% true!
4. Don’t Be Afraid Of Pre-Order
Matching supply and demand is a notoriously difficult challenge for brands. So why not cut it out completely? Release your new line for pre-order and manufacture exactly the amount needed (perhaps with a few left over for gifts and events). It saves huge amounts of money and waste for brands and is a clear cut action to support sustainability promises. Plus, setting a closing date for pre-orders generates excitement, urgency and demand for your products – win win!
5. Have An Open Conversation With Your Customers
A sure fire way to increase your genuine commitment to sustainability? Speak to your customers. Engagement on social media is a two way street and if you’re looking for ways to improve your business in a way that's good for the planet and your customers, go straight to them. Maybe they are happy to wait a few extra days to have all of their items shipped together, or would prefer to pay a premium for an item made from more sustainably-sourced materials. You might be ruling out options that customers would be only too happy to accommodate.
So, we’ve established that a true commitment to sustainability isn’t only crucial for the planet, but great for business too. While the climate agenda continues to gain momentum, and consumer demand for authentically sustainable products increases, brands who can truly put sustainability first are set to reap long term benefits as a result.
Ready to take your influencer marketing campaign to the next level? Explore Aspire, the go-to influencer marketing platform for high-growth ecommerce brands.