Sustainability

One small step for fashion, one potentially giant leap for sustainability

Friday, May 25th, 2012 | Our Philosophy | No Comments

This blog post originally appeared on Melba Foggo’s Logica blog

In the crucial battle for the hearts and minds of trendsetters, the fashion industry is better placed than any other to encourage consumers to be greener.

In recent times it’s been heartening to see a number of major brands taking great strides to becoming more sustainable. Nike, Levi’s, Timberland, North Face, Gucci, YSL and Puma have all made efforts to reduce the environmental impact of their products.

But what stops them from going further? A common theme among high-street brands we’ve spoken to at Global Cool is fear of putting their heads above the green parapet. There is no shortage of will to make supply chains more sustainable, to create greener production processes and even to educate staff on environmental issues; but when we’ve suggested that they could use their influence with consumers to make an even more significant difference in the fight against climate change, we’ve been met with looks of horror.

That’s why the launch of H&M’s Conscious Collection last month feels like an important step. Of course, there is no shortage of places for the ethically aware consumer can go to get their fashion fix: sites like Fashion Conscience, Annie Greenabelle, People Tree and THTC (which has featured in Logica’s Sustainability Stories series ) have all played an important role in showing bigger brands that sustainable fashion can be both aspirational and profitable.

The Conscious Collection – all the garments are made from organic cotton, hemp and recycled polyester – is a rare attempt by the high street to take ethical fashion to the masses. Crucially, as well as being sustainable, this line is affordable for the average customer and, because it comes with the full weight of the H&M brand behind it (including celebrity endorsers like the Hollywood actress Michelle Williams), it ‘s been well received in mainstream media. Even the Daily Mail, a newspaper not usually known for its support of climate change, gave the launch a positive review.

That’s not to say H&M and other fashion brands do not have their detractors; there were no shortage of people queuing up to point out the fashion industry’s shortcomings around labour rights on the The Guardian’s coverage.

Clearly this kind of scrutiny is important to ensure that the fashion industry lives up to its environmental claims, especially as a recent survey found 52% of consumers are skeptical about brands’ ethical claims.

Less helpful, though, are those detractors who argue that the word sustainability is incompatible with an industry whose lifeblood is the creation of new trends that ensure the old trends have a very short shelf life. Not only is this attitude defeatist, it also fosters the kind of fear of criticism that has held brands back from being bolder in their sustainability initiatives.

Of course, there is still a lot more that fashion brands can do – not least making their entire range sustainable. Marketing Week also pointed out that H&M could do more to promote sustainability by making their customers feel good about buying these products. At Global Cool we think they have a part to play in encouraging wider green behaviours, too, such as efficient home energy use. But this is certainly a step in the right direction and one that we hope many more fashion brands will follow.

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Music festivals and sustainability: An unlikely success story

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012 | Our Philosophy | 1 Comment

This blog post originally appeared on Melba Foggo’s Logica blog

Thousands of people travelling from far and wide (often in gas-guzzling cars) to be entertained by shows requiring vast amounts of energy while generating piles of rubbish in once green fields; on the surface, music festivals hardly appear to be beacons of environmental responsibility – and we haven’t even mentioned the chemical toilets yet.

But, beneath the surface, music festivals are making great efforts to reduce their environmental impact. Leading the way is American festival Rock the Green, which came to our attention through Logica’s Sustainability Stories campaign to highlight innovative sustainable projects. Incredibly, this one-day festival held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin generated just 10 trash cans of rubbish last year, with 92% of waste being either recycled, reused or composted.

Key to the success of the festival was the involvement of local sponsors and partners who recognised the business benefits of putting Milwaukee on the sustainability map. “The community has embraced Rock the Green,” said founder Lindsay Stevens. “Our sponsors and partners have made it clear that showcasing Milwaukee on the national stage as a leader in innovative sustainability practices is a priority.”

Music festivals in the UK have also made great strides in becoming more sustainable, including the big festivals. Glastonbury festival recycled 49% of its waste in 2010 and last year they launched the Green Traveller package, which granted access to perks such as solar showers to those who made the journey to the festival by public transport rather than car.

It’s not just the obvious candidates like Glastonbury (which has long had a close relationship with Greenpeace), either. A Greener Festival Awards was set up in 2007 to help music festivals around the world become more sustainable. Last year 47 festivals were given the award, with 12 achieving ‘Outstanding’ status. One of those was the Isle of Wight Festival, whose green initiatives go above and beyond the usual advice to refill water bottles and clean up mess from the campsite. Recycling is incentivised by offering eco-friendly freebies in exchange for cans, cycling is promoted through organized bike rides and the Let It Bee campaign highlights the dwindling bee population.

The key aspect of these initiatives at the Isle of Wight Festival is that they go above and beyond simply cutting the festival’s carbon footprint. Instead, they use the captive audience that a music festival creates to influence people’s behaviour beyond the festival’s fields. Rock the Green also took this approach, with a number of interactive areas around the festival site that aimed to educate and enable the audience to be greener in their day-to-day lives.

Of course, festivals could go even further. As welcome as a shower at Glastonbury might be, no doubt take up of the Green Traveller scheme would be higher if the incentive was a half-price ticket instead. More could also be done to involve the musicians in carrying these messages. They are, after all, undoubtedly the people best placed to influence the audience at a festival. Global Cool has produced video interviews featuring over 100 bands talking about green lifestyle choices. These videos gave the green lifestyle messages that festivals want to promote – notably public transport use – a much bigger platform and also amplified them beyond the confines of the festival’s fields via the web.

Are musicians really credible as green messengers? Many of them are working just as hard as festivals to be sustainable and, again, it’s not just the obvious candidates like Radiohead (who have stopped playing large music festivals that don’t have adequate public transport infrastructure in place). Julie’s Bicycle, another UK organisation working to make music festivals and the creative industries as a whole more sustainable, have helped a number of high-profile artists practice what they preach when it comes to sustainability. Their Industry Green (IG) certification has appeared on CD releases by Jack Johnson, Kate Nash, Robbie Williams and many more, ensuring that the environmental impact has been kept to a minimum.

As we approach festival season once more we look forward to seeing festivals following in Rock the Green’s footsteps and taking even bolder steps toward promoting and enabling sustainability.

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How to make sustainability desirable

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012 | Our Philosophy | No Comments

This blog post originally appeared on Melba Foggo’s Logica blog

With the Sustainability Stories campaign currently in full swing, now is an apt time to be writing our first guest blog for Logica.

Global Cool has worked closely with Logica over the last couple of years. In late 2011 and early 2012 they helped us redefine our business strategy and develop the B2B content services that are now helping to fund our main consumer-facing work. Melba Foggo, Logica’s International Practice Leader for Sustainability Services, is also Treasurer and a Trustee of Global Cool Foundation, which runs the Global Cool campaign.

So, Global Cool has certainly benefited from the expertise Logica is offering as the prize for the Sustainability Stories competition. We are also an example of the kind of innovation that Sustainability Stories is championing.

Global Cool has pioneered a unique approach to tackling climate change. Launched in 2007 with backing from Tony Blair, Prince Charles and celebrities such as Leonardo Di Caprio, Sienna Miller, Josh Hartnett and many more, our mission is to reach people traditionally turned off by climate change campaigns. Over the last five years we have worked with Vodafone, London Fashion Week, Britain’s Next Top Model Live, London Fashion and a host of music festivals to promote sustainable living to the mainstream.

Over the last 30 years the green movement has done a great job of mobilising people who have an intrinsic desire to ‘do their bit’, but it has largely failed to engage people whose values and priorities lie elsewhere. Global Cool was created to fix that problem. We target society’s trendsetters, who are at the tipping point of normalising behaviours and attitudes. Without buy-in from the mainstream it will be impossible to generate the social, economic and political will needed to combat climate change.

The Global Cool team has its roots in mainstream mass media, so we understand how to communicate with trendsetters. We have also done extensive research with market segmentation experts Cultural Dynamics to understand how trendsetters think. We know that they don’t like being told what to do and are turned off by scare tactics or apocalyptic visions of impending disaster. Perhaps most surprisingly for those who find themselves compelled to fight climate change, we also know trendsetters do not respond to rational, science-based arguments. Sorry, Al Gore, but all the graphs and data in the world are not going to make any difference. Nor are they are relevant; most trendsetters already believe in climate change, they just don’t feel empowered or motivated to do anything about it. Climate change does not have an awareness problem, but its solutions do have a marketing one.

Global Cool is solving that marketing problem by inspiring people into action rather than scaring them. We focus on specific, day-to-day behaviours that people can easily adopt rather than visions of melting ice caps that feel like a million miles from the real world to most people. Behaviours we promote include turning down home heating, flight-free holidays, cycling and public transport (an area that Logica has worked in with its work in Helsinki ). We highlight the benefits of these green behaviours and connect them to things trendsetters do care about, such as fashion, music, travel adventures and lifestyle trends.

Our Turn Up The Style, Turn Down The Heat campaign encourages people to wear on-trend knitwear around the home so they can turn down their heating and use less energy. By centring the campaign on fashion we make green behaviours fun and positive which in turn makes them desirable to people who are unlikely to turn down their heating because they think it will save a polar bear.

More than 211,000 people visited our lifestlye website last year and our research shows that 80% of our audience can be identified as trendsetters – or what Cultural Dynamics define as ‘Now People’ in their values modes theory. We have also shown that we can get people to change their behaviour, with a 50% increase in the number of people willing to Turn Up The Style, Turn Down The Heat before and after the campaign.

As well as making sustainability cool, we also believe in making it easy, and that’s why we were delighted to see Logica supporting sustainable projects that are empowering people to make a real difference. Sustainability Stories is giving a voice to innovative sustainability and showing that a sustainable future can enrich all of our lives through positive change.

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Solving climate change the Steve Jobs way

Thursday, January 5th, 2012 | Our Philosophy | No Comments

steve jobsThis post was originally published in the Huffington Post

Apple is hardly a beacon of environmental good practice, but that doesn’t mean Steve Jobs didn’t play his part in helping to find a solution to climate change.

Climate change does not have an awareness problem. It does, however, have a marketing problem. Plenty has been done to raise awareness, but very little has been done to effectively market green solutions to the general public.

Of course, the climate change problem is very simple to sum up: the human race is producing more and more carbon dioxide, therefore global temperatures are rising, therefore the earth will eventually no longer be a place that human beings are able to exist in. In a nutshell: “Hello dinosaurs and dodos, nice to meet you, we’re the human race!”

It’s the simplicity of this message that seems to make it the default when people try and talk to the public about sustainability.

The actions that individuals can take to help combat climate change are so much more difficult to summarise. This is because the behaviours that are causing us to produce too much carbon dioxide are wide ranging. Just think about all the ways you could waste energy in your home: washing clothes at unnecessarily high temperatures, sitting around in shorts and t-shirt with the heating pumping out to the max, re-boiling the kettle because you forgot to make your brew the first time it boiled. The list goes on, and that’s before you’ve even put a foot outside your front door.

There is no one-size-fits-all way to discourage humans from behaving in these ways. In some cases, the free market, driven by the profit motive, can provide a way for the public to consume products in a less wasteful way. The iPod is a great example of this. By creating this product, Steve Jobs and Apple vastly reduced the demand for CDs, the plastic cases that they come in and the transportation that is required to take them to the shops.

Of course, product innovations such as the iPod won’t always be the answer. For other behaviours, it’s necessary to motivate the public to consume less, not just differently.

For some people, appeals to thrift might work. In these times of economic turmoil and rising energy prices, the financial motive for energy efficient homes has never been stronger. But when it comes to behaviour change, the solution is rarely as one-dimensional as that. Not everyone is motivated in the same way, and therefore not everyone cares about financial prudence.

Similarly, not everyone is equally empowered to change their behaviour. So reinsulating the loft to save money might float a homeowner’s boat, but someone living in rented accommodation is less likely to know how their heating system works, or feel able to do much about it. They might, however, be persuaded to turn down their heating to a lower temperature if they can be convinced that having it too hot is drying out their skin and making them age prematurely (which it is).

The possible solutions to high-carbon behaviours are almost endless, but what almost all of them have in common is that they do not require the consumer to understand the problem they are helping to solve – just as people who bought the iPod probably did not know (or care) that they were reducing the demand for CDs.

The person who puts on a jumper so they can turn down their heating and protect their skin does not need to know how much CO2 they have saved – nor does the person who ditches the car for the bike because they want to be fitter, or the person who takes canvas bags to the supermarket because they have cooler designs and are more comfortable on the fingers than plastic ones.

Whether knowingly or not, Steve Jobs made us all accidental environmentalists, but that was never part of the marketing strategy. We all bought iPods because they were more convenient, beautifully designed and – crucially – because Apple managed to convince us that we would be happier with one than without.

We need to find more green solutions like this for a whole range of behaviours. This presents a much greater creative challenge than simply talking about melting ice caps, carbon calculators or slapping an “eco” label on something. It’s time for us all to take inspiration from Steve Jobs and step up to this creative challenge.

Image via philozopher

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We run Global Cool, the only online magazine in the UK truly inspiring the mainstream to live greener

We create content about music, fashion, celebrity and lifestyle trends. We use this content to inspire people normally turned off by climate change to lead greener lives. We reached more than 200,000 people in 2011 and we don't preach to the converted. In fact, 93% of our audience say we are the only green organisation they engage with.

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