Greta Thunberg

What sustainability needs now, is connection and activation

Last week, I was touched deeply by Greta Thunberg’s speech at the United Nations Climate Summit in New York. Still, as a communication professional, I can’t help but wonder if her words will not work counterproductively. Shouldn’t doom thinking make way for an inspiring movement of which everyone wants to be part? Or can’t the one do without the other?

Doom thinking petrifies

The message of Greta’s speech is dark and disturbing. It’s so dark that, as a listener, I feel like there is nothing left for me to do. I feel like my only option left is to book a one-way ticket to a tropical island to party until the whole world falls apart. Doom thinking has a petrifying effect and fear will never be an incentive for positive change. Yes, fear sends us in a direction, but it sends us the wrong way. This is the main problem of the current discussion about climate change. The discussion visualises a world characterized by images of endangered polar bears on melting ice caps. Not a world that you want to be part of and which gives you inspiration and direction.

The question of guilt polarises

All who are conscious of our environmental problems and who are already making an effort to change their behaviour in positive ways, feel addressed by Thunberg’s speech. All the while, climate sceptics just feel more and more united and their joint aversion is strengthened. Lastly, there’s the biggest group right in the middle: the group that’s neither sceptic nor activist. This is a group of people who can still be inspired to become more aware to take action. You inspire them by identifying the problem, point out a spot on the horizon and suggest the first practical steps to reach that spot. You inspire them by connecting, not by polarising.

Create a movement that people want to be part of

What would it be like if, instead of Thunberg with her dark speech, there would have been five kids on the stage? Kids who would point out the problem and its disturbing facts, as well as paint a picture of the world they’d like to live in when they’re as old as the politicians present. Then, they all tell us about the first steps they’ve taken to get there; whether it’s a clothing swap, a plant-based diet, the decision to stop flying or stop using a tumble dryer. They would dare every politician to join them in taking the first step. No matter how big or small that step may be. These children would unite in the ‘First Step Club’: a movement characterised by hopeful visions and first steps.

No revolution without rebels?

We need Greenpeace to put subjects on the agenda and to get activated. Is this speech also an example of this? Does the bridge-builder need the rebel? In the case of Thunberg’s speech, I’m doubtful. What I do know is that I get my energy out of connection and activation. That is my first step. I take this step with my clients at every single job I do.

 


Why we believe that brave brands will lead the Fashion Revolution

Yesterday the Fashion Revolution week ended. The Terrace reflects on this global movement for transparency in the fashion industry.

The fashion industry calls for a revolution

It’s Fashion Revolution Week and yes, a revolution is what the fashion industry needs. Fast fashion is the second most polluting industry in the world, next to oil. Apparel and footwear industries currently account for 8 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, only in 2015 the fashion industry consumed enough water to fill 32 million Olympic-size swimming pools and the dyeing and treatment of garments makes up roughly 17-20% of all industrial water pollution. Next to this environmental impact, apparel also comes at a social cost. According to the ILO, about 60 millionpeople are employed in the textile, clothing and footwear sector worldwide, and three quarters of these workers are women. In this way, the industry has served as ‘a stepping stone to development’ in many countries. Yet apparel also became widely known for its bad working conditions in factories, a lack of earning a living wage and even human rights violations. The collapsing of the Rana Plaza building in 2013, a building that hosted factories that worked for the world’s biggest fast fashion brands, was the final straw that accelerated a movement for change. The Fashion Revolution was initiated, an initiative that aims to accelerate collective action with worldwide campaigns that request/demand? more supply chain transparency of fashion brands.

Luckily, brave brands are taking the industry by storm

Well, that was quite some depressing news all at once right? Well, the good news is that many great things are happening. Entrepreneurs are stepping up worldwide, making a positive and sustainable impact the ‘purpose’ of their brand. At The Terrace we have worked with multiple ‘fashion revolutionists’ on strengthening their strategies for positive change. Whether they integrate sustainability in their business from the get-go or whether they turn their business model around, brands are getting serious about sustainability, and they are taking the market by storm. And to be frank, we believe the brands that change the status quo to be the only brands that will stay relevant. Why? Because consumers engage with the purpose of a brand more than ever and dedicating your business to the severe challenges the sector is facing, makes you matter more to your audience. Some brands that we believe are leading by example:

  • Good on You– This app rates thousands of fashion brands on sustainability
  • Mud Jeans– Innovative business model with circular jeans that you don’t need to buy
  • The Next Closet – Second hand designer products
  • Armed Angels – Challenges consumers on the true cost of fashion and incorporates sustainable textiles only
  • Veja– A brand continuously making their shoes more sustainable showcasing that sustainability does not happen over night
  • Reformation– Reaching the next generation of consumers with on trend recycled collections
  • Patagonia– Outdoor clothing brand that vows for anti-consumerism.

From individual commitments to an industry-wide movement

Brands play a huge role in turning the tide for the Fashion Industry, but alone they can only go so far. With the growing need for change in the sector, pre-competitive collaboration between companies, civil society and governments continues to grow. The Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) is one of these examples, uniting retailers like Walmart and Patagonia and 200 other companies to assess their environmental and social sustainability throughout the value chain. The Fair Wear Foundation (FWF) enables member companies to assess and? improve workplace conditions. In 2017, The Fashion for Good centre opened in Amsterdam, which enables international brands, producers, retailers, suppliers, non-profit organisations, innovators and funders to work together in changing the fashion industry for the better. But also at country-level industry stakeholders are coming together to change the fashion business for the better. After the Rana Plaza collapse, the Dutch Agreement on Sustainable Garments and Textile  was initiated, a shared commitment  initiated by industry associations, trade unions, NGOs, and the National Government of the Netherlands to collaborate on many environmental and social issues in the garment sector.

Are you a company working in or with the apparel sector and want to create positive change?

There is a lot you can do. Addressing the challenges in the apparel sector and strengthening your business go hand in hand. Not sure where to begin? At The Terrace we are always happy to help brave organizations find their focus in becoming more sustainable, for instance with our Brand Purpose workshop. Get in touch with our team here if you want to know more.