How to Create Ethical Branding for Your Social Impact Project

Being the creator of a socially conscious project gives you an opportunity to tell the world a story that no one has heard before. Why did you start your project? Who inspired you? Was it a talented artisan in another country? Was it your desire to improve the future of our environment? Was it your your own community that lacked support and intimacy?

The WHY you began with is what draws a conscious consumer to your project.

By definition, conscious consumerism is a movement of people who are looking to make an impact through the stories behind the products that they purchase. As the founder of a conscious project, you must first understand that the consumer is searching for that story that sets you apart. You must then approach your marketing from a unique standpoint.

What is Ethical Branding?

Since the 2014 Rana Plaza Collapse, the sobering reality of climate change, the popularity of minimalism, and the number of ethical brands founded around the world every year has grown substantially. However, conscious brands cannot approach marketing the same way that a major corporation would. They are responsible for taking an ethical approach to their branding as well.

The first step is to examine your cultural sensitivity.

For example, if you are a brand with a mission of providing artisans in the Middle East with access to the global market, you must be culturally sensitive of what you can and can’t share about these artisans. In some parts of the world, it is not culturally acceptable to share photographs of women’s faces. In this instance, you must examine how you can mindfully tell the story of their talented craftsmanship with respect to their cultural values.

Similarly, if your project aims to positively impact the future of our environment through clothing made with organic cotton, you would want to collect any information you can about this industry. Spend time on organic cotton farms. Get to know the reality of the dangerous processes involved in making cotton that is not organic. Walk alongside the people who see the reality every day. From here, you will be able to determine the messaging that best describes your conscious project in the most educated light, with standards your brand will adhere to moving forward when crafting things such as blog posts, e-mail newsletters, and even social media posts.

Authenticity with Your Audience

Adhering to a standard of ethics in your project means examining how authentic and transparent you are with your audience. This can be carried out in a variety of ways:

1. Social Media

Creating real, lasting relationships within your industry has so much more value than the number of followers you’re aiming for. How amazing does it sound to have a room filled with 750 people who consistently engage with your product, love what you do, and have become part of your community? When you buy growth on social media, you are risking lowering the number of people who see your posts, and you are also acquiring followers who may have no interest in your content and never visit your page again.

I would much rather create a close-knit community of conscious consumers than worry about having a large number of followers.

Along with this, Instagram Stories and Snapchat are a great way to get real with your audience and show them the behind-the-scenes of your project. We all know entrepreneurship isn’t always pretty. Some days are spent in pajamas, working on the couch with your dog. However, that’s real, that’s relatable, and that’s what your audience loves to see!

2. Original Shareable Content

The amount of content that is put in front of your face on a daily basis is astounding. From Twitter feeds, to Facebook posts, to scrolling through Instagram, our brain is asked to consume a ridiculous amount of information in one day. Sometimes, it starts to feel like we are seeing the same information posted over and over again, especially during busy seasons such as the holidays. As a conscious brand, the importance of creating original shareable content could be the one thing that determines whether you gain a new consumer or not.

Create a fun video, shoot a holiday editorial, or create a gift guide blog post or e-mail newsletter. You can even get a group of friends together to have a fun photoshoot - something that doesn’t require a large budget, but will give you great content. Consumers today want to see something different, something interesting, and/or something that catches their eye. Use your WHY, use your voice, and use your creativity to create content that no one has seen before, and that draws a new audience into what your project is doing.

3. Relationships

We are extremely lucky to be in a community that favors collaboration over competition. So many bloggers, influencers, and media platforms are using their voice to share projects that are promoting world change. Creating lasting relationships between your project and these voices is so much more authentic and meaningful than paying for advertisements.

An influencer who believes at their core in your mission and wants to share it with their audience is incomparable to any form of paid advertising you can acquire.

If you come across someone who fits this description, don’t hesitate to reach out! Our community of conscious creators is always eager to work together for the good of our growing industry.

With that said, forming relationships with other brands in the ethical space is a great way to grow your community and network. If you’re a jewelry company, why not reach out to a clothing brand to help style their next shoot. Pulling from both of your collections can reach both of your target audiences through social media, while also creating a lasting relationship grounded in a passion for giving back.

Once you have begun to build your brand on a platform of authenticity and transparency, the trust and rapport that unfolds between your conscious audience and your project adds fuel to fire a movement passionate about your cause. While it may seem like our world is in constant disarray, it is encouraging to see so many kind-hearted and like-minded individuals come together to start companies, brands, nonprofits, and initiatives that will change the future of our world. At the core, we are all just people who want better, and if your project radiates change and hope, your audience will follow suit.

Photos by: Iron and Fern

Marisa Flacks

Ethical Brand Strategist at RISE Creative

Marisa is the Ethical Brand Strategist behind RISE Creative. A Cultural Anthropologist and corporate fashion drop-out, Marisa started RISE Creative to serve ethical brands, social enterprises, non-profits, and small businesses through creative storytelling. Outside of her work, she enjoys fitness, health food, all the podcasts, building home decor, and hanging with her puppy in the Queen City, Charlotte, North Carolina.