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The green challenge: a creator's perspective about how to tap into sustainability
July 8, 2021
After a nine-year career inside YouTube, Emma Ross gathered key knowledge about content production: the creative process, how algorithms work and how to drive engagement. This background was especially valuable and she decided to channel it into addressing the new passion that being pregnant had sparked in her: sustainable parenting.
The learning process about reusable nappies led her to entering the creator world in 2014 with a different mindset. She then combined her content expertise with the eagerness to embrace and share with her audience more sustainable ways of parenting.
After partnering with a range of brands and dealing with the challenges of speaking up about the topic, she has an optimistic and honest perspective of the buzz around sustainability, how businesses communicate it as a value and how brands have yet a lot of work and learn to do. In an intimate conversation with Maira Genovese, founder and CMO of MG Empower, Emma shares her thoughts and learnings over the topic.
What's the greatest challenge of developing content related to sustainability?
I think finding the balance between being inspiring and interesting but also accessible and realistic for people is tricky. One of the greatest challenges when it comes to sustainable living is understanding what's achievable. So I think it's about making useful and engaging content, but also practical and accessible. I wouldn't advocate for things that aren't actually doable.
Do you feel the audience is really more aware of the importance of a sustainable lifestyle or is it just a buzz?
I do think people are waking up to the importance of taking more sustainable decisions in their lives. The pandemic just knocked everything sideways, and I think potentially put quite a lot of people back on their path towards a more sustainable lifestyle. I think there are people jumping into it, and thinking that they should occupy that space. I don't see that as a bad thing, as long as they're doing it with integrity, curiosity and interest.
Are brands doing it right?
There's an issue with transparency. Brands do want to jump into this sustainable space, and that's fine, as long as it's done with integrity and transparency. But especially in the fashion world, we're seeing far too often brands wanting consumers to believe something and telling them only one side of the story. I would like to see more transparency: the supply chain, materials used, workers, I think brands really need to rethink how they're doing business if they really want to deal properly and deeply with the new way of doing things. And some brands are never going to occupy that space.
What do you take into account before committing to a brand?
I do as much research as possible. And some brands make it easier than others. Sometimes you can go on the brand's website and read some of their reports. And it's incredible all the information they're putting out there, really impressive. I mainly ask questions and be curious. Also, I would never work with a brand that I wouldn't be interested in buying. I love the products of the brands I work with.
Sustainability is a topic that can lead to some radical positions. How do you deal with negative comments?
I try to advocate for some categories, like essential products or experiences. I am not a creator that tries to sell loads of things all the time, I don't see myself as somebody that promotes materialistic life. I try to be open about it all, but I don't advocate an extreme attitude. For me, issues like mental health supersede: if you're not feeling good, mentally, and emotionally, you can't address those topics.
Touching on mental health, how do you think brands can contribute to relieving eco-anxiety?
I think we'll see more of that but right now, they're still finding their feet. I don't see many brands delving into issues of eco-anxiety. I think they will, but at the moment, I don't see it. And it all goes back to this idea of brands being transparent, and mainly giving consumers the space and the opportunities to be sustainable. We've seen a lot of changes when it comes to female imagery, for example, brands are doing a lot of work in that space. They're acting but mainly giving consumers the space to breathe and dance around these topics. And I do think the same will happen with sustainability. But I don't think it's happened yet.
New brands have been created with a genuine purpose-driven mindset and having social values really attached to their core business. But some of the more traditional brands were not thinking about sustainability until now. Can they do their part without seeming opportunistic?
I think they're having to catch up fast and learn quickly. And you see some brands getting the message completely wrong. It's about having a good team, educating and employing the right people that can put you in the right direction. And also not trying to do everything. Find the affinity of your brand within the sustainable context, explore that and make it relevant. The opportunism arises where there's a real disconnection between the brand and the environmental cause they embrace.
How can brands use influencer marketing to address sustainable values?
First, give the influencer some creative control. We know our audiences, we know what's going to land well. Give them freedom to drive the conversation around the sustainable values that they hold. Also, understand the different sustainable spheres and which influencers are operating in each of them. Sustainability is a wide issue and not all creators touch on the same topics. Find that right affinity with the right influencer to address your brand's particular sustainable value.