Anyone who wants to start a fashion brand in 2022 has to realize that sustainability needs to be at the heart of any fashion company. Not only do customers expect it, but it’s also demanded by the market.
New generations of entrepreneurs are well aware of the need to make fashion sustainable and are ready to meet the challenge.
At the same time, however, understanding how to build a sustainable fashion brand is not simple, as pursuing a social or environmental cause poses unique challenges to a business.
If you’re a little confused on where to start from don’t worry, in this post we’re going to help you out and focus on a few, very important tips to help you get started.
The term which is being used to describe the value brought to market by this new generation of organizations is shared value, and it describes the attempt to build social value and tackle environmental challenges while turning a profit.
This and much more will be discussed throughout the post.
With no further ado, let’s get started.
Pick a Cause But Be Specific
The starting point of a sustainable fashion brand is connected to picking the right cause. Many brands are now using social and environmental causes to differentiate their brands in busy and noisy markets where competition is dire.
This approach is very useful for many smaller brands who can’t compete on price or heritage, but may be able to set themselves aside from the competition by pursuing a cause that is meaningful and relevant to their customers.
If you are not sure how to pick the right cause, start by understanding your audience.
In this article, we discuss in more depth what marketing frameworks you should use to find the right calling.
Spending time to do the research and identifying not only real issues, but potential solutions is essential, as part of your brand strategy will revolve around making significant headway in the pursuit of your cause.
The important thing to remember is that, as many companies are now pursuing cause-oriented branding strategies to engage with their audience, their messages are often vague and generic.
In many cases, however, the focus of these brands’ efforts is not well aligned with the mission and vision of their company.
Being able to be specific and tackle a precise, tangible issue is what can make you stand out. It’s really important to be specific and invest the time necessary to address a problem that you can really help solving through your own business.
Remember, among many benefits that come from pursuing causes as an element of differentiation, the impact of word-of-mouth advertising should not be downplayed. The cause you will pick is the one you will be famous for, and this is something to bear in mind, as it will be a fundamental brand attribute.
Once you have selected your cause it’s just as important to define a strategy that allows your for-profit goals to be clearly connected to your not-for-profit goals.
What this means, is that you need to manage your strategy, so that you can measure the impact you are making, if you want to be credible in the market.
We’re discussing this next step in the next paragraph.
Measure Your Impact And Show You Can Make a Difference
Impact measurement is key in developing a sustainable brand.
Unless you want to sell a product by appealing to the good-hearted nature of your customers, you need to have a clear plan in place.
The issue however is that measuring social and environmental impact is not simple. Most businesses are actually really good at measuring profits, but anything else can pose a challenge.
If you want to fully take advantage of the opportunities of developing a sustainable brand, then you need to come up with a clear and tangible plan.
Your plan needs to be able to address the following questions:
- What activities will allow you to create social or environmental impact?
- How are you going to measure the output activities of your business?
- How can you test whether your activities are creating the necessary impact, or is it just chance?
- How can you generalize your findings and provide proof of scalability?
These are some examples of questions that investors – or even the general public – may be asking your company, to make sure you’re not simply resorting to greenwashing.
Greenwashing is defined as the process of conveying false information about how your company’s products are respectful of social and environmental issues.
This term is often used to describe how many fashion brands may be resorting to sustainable claims only as a marketing allure, without any substantial commitment to the advertised cause.
Understanding how to develop an impact strategy is not a simple task, especially if you want your supply chain to be traceable and transparent. This is why creating a strong cause-effect relationship between your business and your intended goal is essential.
If you’d like to learn more on how to measure social impact, here’s an article where we delve in the process in further detail.
Become Impact First
But what if the pursuit of social or environmental causes makes my company unprofitable?
Well, this is a really good question. What we can say is that there are varying degrees to which a company can commit to being purpose-driven.
There are at least 5 different business models that can be used to position your brand towards a cause, and we discuss them in-depth in this article: Five Business Models to Pursue Social and Environmental Causes.
The one model that seems to be taking over, is a business approach called: impact first. In this model, companies move beyond the typical corporate social responsibility approaches and fully commit to the change they want to make happen. Being impact first means that companies accept that pursuing a cause can jeopardize their profits and financial results, but this is ok, as they’re determined to make change happen.
Contrary to what we may expect, impact-first companies often end up being extremely successful, as customers are always going to reward the courage and persistence that these brands show in pursuing change. In our blog, we address many brands that have chosen this pathway, including Angel Chang, Good American, or Nudie Jeans.
For as much as it can be difficult to jeopardize profits, bear in mind that the rewards can be very generous, as discussed in this post: Creating a No-Budget Marketing Campaign? Cause Marketing Can Get You There.
Conclusions: Use Cause-Marketing and Change The World
There you have it. As discussed in this post, creating a sustainable brand is not only a matter of wishful thinking, it’s actually a matter of character.
If you want to start a sustainable fashion brand, you need to make sure you are fully committing to the cause, and you are “picking a fight” that you really believe in.
As discussed in this post, there are many challenges and difficult decisions to make if you want to escape “greenwashing” and there’s quite a bit to learn about your customer if you want to build a strong and loyal community of users around your brand.
There are quite a few references to this article, but there are even more sources on our blog. Don’t hesitate to explore it and learn all there is to know about cause marketing and sustainability.
If you’re looking for an opportunity to deepen your understanding and knowledge of the practices of sustainable fashion, don’t hesitate to take a look at our course “The Sustainable Fashion Industry“. Our short and to-the-point, online class covers a wide range of topics spanning from sustainable business models to strategies to lower your carbon footprint. Here’s a link to the course, if you use the discount code BLOG20 at checkout you can access a 20% discount. Enjoy!