The Sustainability Channel in association withThe Immortal Awards

Earth Day: Inspiring and Driving Sustainable Change Through the Power of Influence

Talent Agency
London, UK
Emma Shuldham, managing director at ITB Worldwide discusses how brands can get sustainability messages across in an authentic and meaningful way

Earth Day (April 22nd) is a day which serves as a conscious reminder to us all just how important it is to protect our planet and what we can do - both as brands and consumers - to play our part. With consumers increasingly asking more from the brands they love, many businesses have made significant pivots over the last 12 months and put purpose ahead of profit, reigniting interest in the importance of sustainable marketing efforts. 

Under this year’s Earth Day theme, ‘Restore Our Earth’, consumers are more conscious than ever of how the decisions they make impact the world we live in. A BCG survey found that 90% of consumers were equally or more concerned about environmental issues after the Covid-19 outbreak and nearly 95% said they believed their personal actions could help reduce unsustainable waste, tackle climate change, and protect wildlife and biodiversity. 

Marketing has the power to not only shape consumer opinion, but impact behaviours and therefore drive real change. So how can brands get their sustainability messaging across in a way that is authentic, meaningful and purposeful?

Leverage The Experts

To really make an impact, inspire and drive real change, brands need to think more broadly about who has influence and how to leverage it, looking outside of the typically known influencer space and identifying passionate changemakers who are making a difference on a community level. It’s crucial to find the right balance of experts or authorities in the space who lend credibility to the campaign alongside those with high engagement and broader reach who ensure the messaging has impact and is delivered at scale. 

Timberland’s #NatureNeedsHeroes campaign effectively balanced this, with ITB securing an ensemble cast of multi-generational changemakers committed to making a difference and saving the planet. The ‘Heroes’ were those with influence and authority who would collectively generate press interest as well as inspire their communities to act, led by British singer Loyle Carner alongside 10 diverse sustainability experts and activists including solar designers, photojournalists, architects and urban gardeners, amongst others.

Practice Honesty and Transparency

Greenwashing your credentials just won’t stand with savvy consumers anymore; for true authenticity in this area, brands need to be open and honest, putting purpose and key facts front and centre in the narrative. Particularly in the wake of the events of 2020, brand trust is incredibly important so carefully crafting that sustainability messaging is key. 

Patagonia, Pangaia and Everlane, to spotlight a few brands, show us the incredible ways to use Instagram and other social networks to share sustainability credentials in an educational and informative way - from regular IGTV talks on environmental issues to infographic carousel posts on materials and production processes, to profiling nano influencers that live an eco-friendly life. Everlane in particular practices ‘radical transparency’ – using their network of employees as influencers and taking their fans and followers behind the scenes of the making of their garments, highlighting the actual costs in the supply chain along the way.

To achieve true authenticity around sustainability, it requires more than just engaging talent as a mechanic to spread the word but partnering with those who have a strong synergy with your brand and wider sustainability goals - at whatever stage of the journey you might be on. 

Build Long Term Partnerships

Conveying sustainability messaging at scale can be aided and amplified by engaging high-profile talent and macro influencers, but for this to be authentic - and not perceived as transactional – it needs to be part of a long-term strategy. One off activations and spikes of activity don’t ring true to today’s consumer.

Levi’s have approached this effectively through their partnership with Jaden Smith. Not only is he an authentic partner for their sustainability messaging – he is an artist, activist and the founder of two ethical water companies – he has been engaged to participate in multiple brand activations over the last 18 months. From ATL campaigns to an IG Live conversation to discuss the intersection of water, food, social justice and the importance of the youth vote, to the recent ‘Beauty of Becoming’ editorial and film launched on World Water Day to raise awareness around water access - Levi’s has been able build and maintain the conversation around sustainability in a credible way with Jaden Smith, showing the power of using an influential voice – not just a face.

Identify Talent with Authentic Connections to Cause-based Initiatives

Just this week, it was announced that Smith has been enlisted for Levi’s new multi-pronged ‘Buy Better, Wear Longer’ global sustainability campaign to raise awareness of the environmental impact of clothing production and consumption. Amongst an assembly of other Gen Z activists and influencers across the world is 23-year old Manchester United footballer, Marcus Rashford, who led the free school meals campaign for struggling families during the pandemic; a prime example of talent who has been using his profile and platform for the greater good. 

Speaking to the Conscious Consumer

By coming together under a common cause and engaging with the right people of influence, brands have an opportunity to speak to environmentally conscious consumers in more powerful and authentic ways – leveraging those with reach and expertise to raise awareness of key issues and illustrate tangible ways we can all help the collective progress towards a more sustainable future. Combining the power of brands with the influence of credible talent who genuinely understand sustainability is a big step in the right direction to ‘Restore Our Earth’. 

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