The intergovernmental panel on climate change is adamant in its latest report: ‘’Life on Earth can recover from major climate change by evolving into new species and creating new ecosystems…Humanity cannot’’.
The new generation grew up in a state of ecological alarmism, which is a good thing. Young people born today will experience irreversible damages from global warming in their 30s. And they are aware of that. Brands no longer have the choice to position themselves in favor of ecological actions because young people are alert and clear-headed: they no longer want to be lied to. Therefore, as a brand, it is important to promote yourself on the green side of things, but the question remains: how to differentiate the right moves from the missteps?
New influencers are green
You can’t talk about green influencers making a difference without of course mentioning Greta Thurnberg (11M), but she is far from the only one fighting the good fight. Greta paved the way for the development of a social awareness as well as the fact that it can be ‘’cool’ to take position on such matters. She actually just made the cover of Vogue Scandinavia. Young people now subscribe to a lot of green influencers, as it has become instinctive to follow people whose values align with their own.
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In Quebec, influencers are taking the same eco-friendly turn. A good example of a success story is Jessie Nadeau (181K), a former Occupation Double candidate, who chose to use her platform to lead a fight for veganism. Florence-Léa Siry (20K) is another prime example, as she leads by example as an eco-entrepreneur, demonstrating how to be green in entrepreneurship.
URBANIA Magazine is also a concrete example of young people’s growing need to get closer to nature. Urbania is the urban media specializing in 25-35 (with 23K monthly prints). They just launched DEHORS, a media focused on the outdoor lifestyle, nature’s appreciation and its playgrounds (despite their audience being 45% Montreal based). Harold Beaulieu, the mind behind this initiative, explained to us that after doing a clientele analysis, he realized that their subscribers had a vibrant need (sometimes up to 6 times more than the rest of Quebecers) for everything associated with the outdoors and a green lifestyle.
‘’We could see that there was a huge interest toward nature and all that’s nature related, so we were convinced there was space to create a brand focused solely on that”, mentioned M. Beaulieu.
Urbania’s goal was to have an openness, an inclusive outlook on nature and outdoor activities, ranging from people who are really passionate (hiking, canoeing, etc) to people who simply enjoy being outside to relax. And the response was almost instantaneous :
‘’This is one of our platforms that had the best start in the history of Urbania, everyone we presented it to said how it was such a good idea and how something like this was lacking in Quebec’’, explained M. Beaulieu.
One thing is for sure, in the past few years, social media has become not only a place for sharing images, but also ideas and beliefs. Influencers demonstrate, through their daily gestures and social media presence, that this is not just a front, but a lifestyle that they extend into their own daily lives. The authenticity of the process makes it work. Take for example Leonardo DiCaprio, who uses his platforms to advance the fight for the climate. He doesn’t need that presence online, obviously, and that’s what makes his message well received.
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Getting involved, sure, but not just in any way. Here are some dos et don’ts.
- Don’t: not following the tangent. On the one hand, there are the influencers who decide not to follow the movement and who in addition expose themselves on social media by disrespecting the planet and its inhabitants, and with the rise of the ‘’cancel culture’’, one misstep can cost a career. Writer J.K. Rowling was recently quashed ’on social media for a post deemed transphobic.
- Don’t : no greenwashing. Greenwashing means to appear to stand for an ecological cause with the only aim of reaping social status and benefits (read here, likes and subscribers). Greenwashing is seen as misplaced opportunism and can actually have the opposite of the desired effects in terms of branding. In the fashion industry, for example, it is easy to differentiate Patagonia, which has won the consumers’ trust through concrete environmental actions, from fast fashion brands like H&M which claim to launch a deceptively ‘’eco-conscious’’ product line. How can something that, on average, takes about 20K liters of water to produce be sustainable?
- Do : don’t be a buzzkill. Young people want agents of change, but no killjoys. Influence comes from solutions, not just from reporting the situations without getting your hands dirty.
- Do: be proactive. Initiatives that emerge from an authentic and proactive approach are well received. For example the Clean up Guru. In fact, the company has chosen to use their energy to clean up their favorite playgrounds: it is this proactive initiative that guarantees its success. You have to feel a real involvement and a desire for change.
One thing is certain: taking care of the planet and demonstrating this belief in a concrete way is the way to win the hearts of the new generation.