If your leadership is anything like most, they’re often reluctant to embrace new concepts or structures, or they just don’t have time/energy/resources to help navigate the rapidly evolving fashion CSR landscape. We’re as obsessed with helping the industry itself move forward as we are with empowering its next generation of leaders through our core offerings. Because of that, we’ve brought together a couple ways you get the fashion CSR ball rolling sooner rather than later! We think these work best as something a core group helps orchestrate to then bring to leadership together. A unified front that presents solutions rather than more problems is usually always well received.
- The Local Volunteering Lens: Talk to your co-workers about presenting a united front for ways the company can better serve the local community. See where people are already volunteering or where there are existing relationships and come up with a shortlist of ways to increase employee volunteering locally.
- The Greenwashing Lens: Craft a short presentation about what greenwashing is, companies similar to yours that have dropped the ball on this front, and a highlight 1 or 2 areas where you feel your company is either leading or falling behind on this hot button front for 2022. As with most things, don’t just come to them with complaints, research solutions for the areas you’ve identified and reach consensus on them as a group. This may mean mocking up a campaign, or vetting new suppliers etc.
- The Generational Lens: If your target market is younger, talk to your C Suite after you’ve had a look at pieces like this, this, this (and research from 2018, 2019, 2020, and 2021.) You’ll quickly be able to show a clear case for support of comprehensive CSR by gen Z and younger millennials. If that isn’t enough, suggest doing a focus group with gen z participants to solicit candid feedback while being careful of how things like questionnaires are conducted to minimize confirmation bias. If you can help bridge some of the action or knowledge gaps highlighted in some of this research your brand will not only be leading the pack, but instantly more credible than your peers.
- The Collaborative Lens: Dig though you suppliers and collaborating organizations to see what they’re doing to be more responsive to social impact needs. Then draft a list of ways your company can collaborate with them to achieve impact together. A rising tide lifts all boats as we always say, and collective impact is something that the public, funders, and industry watchdogs love to see. Just don’t let it be a passive collaboration. Make it engaging and proactive and DEFINITELY communicate it excitingly to your customers. From the perspective of uplifting members of historically marginalized groups, collaborate to create platforms where you can organically amplify their own voices especially if they’re members of staff/teams internally for you or your collaborator. This is also a great events strategy.
- The Philanthropic Lens: Is your company donating through a corporate foundation or is it just writing regular checks? Is it donating at all? Does it offer employee matching or other incentives to make giving back easier for everyone? How is it communicating this. A great way to get C Suite Buy-in at larger firms is to come to the table with a clear case for support. If your company is creating goods which can be easily tweaked to generate support, or uniquely tell the story of your collaborating organization’s mission through data visualization or other storytelling.
Speaking of storytelling, that’s often what dynamic fashion CSR is all about. Fashion is, after all, is storytelling through clothing. How can you align the story and practices of your brand with the organizations whose impact you’re trying increase or the community you’re trying to serve. How can your products and people become a tool to create and amplify change? These 5 lenses for viewing CSR may help introduce new thinking into the equation for your company and its leadership.
No matter what your company does, there is a way to do it in ways that uplifts local and/or marginalized communities, and which empowers those who’ve historically suffered at the hands of the fashion industry writ large. Identify synergies, craft solutions and then take it to the top for a meeting. If you're really stuck, consider bringing in a CSR expert to help sort out opporubntities from noise.