Ethical Writing can be a tough but rewarding gig.
There really is nothing better than being able to write from a honest place without the need to meet criteria from external parties. However, in a world where every (wo)man and their dog seems to have a blog (or at least an Instagram account) it can be difficult to maintain ethical momentum when there are constant pressures sell out.
Did you know that way back (ha!) in 1990 when blogs were starting to appear they were heralded as the new wave of honest and ethical journalism. Since then marketing firms have developed ways to harness these individual or small group ventures to sell everything from toothpaste to cars. According to the Dr. Rick who wrote a chapter on the Ethics of Blogging for a Book called ‘The Ethics of Emerging Media‘ this cash for comment blogging phenomenon first began in 2002 and has developed over the years to include tactics like ‘flogging’ (which involves making up fake customers and customer reviews), to the development and sponsoring of fake blogs! With all this crazy crap going on it’s hard to know if anyone out there in blogging land can be trusted. Many bloggers or vloggers will let you know somewhere on their posts that there have been goods or cash exchanging hands but truthfully there is no real way to know whether or not your favourite blogger has been paid to promote a product or service. There is no global declaration of blogger ethics that you sign when you begin. It’s as easy as buying a domain name and writing whatever comes into your head.
Why so many sell outs?
On WordPress hosting alone there are currently more around 54.2 Million posts and 49.9 Million comments created every month. That is 54+ Million reasons for marketers to target bloggers as the voice for their products. Every day Sustainability in Style is approached by lovely (and some not-so-lovely) brands wishing to reach out and collaborate to share their products with the world. It can be difficult to be able to respond to these companies in a way that is beneficial for both parties coming from an environmental science background and knowing too well that the only sustainable way to consume is to not consume at all.
Many brands want bloggers to wear or use their products because this word of mouth advertising is a very effective way to translate marketing into sales. Unfortunately for many of the brands that contact me I am not able to collaborate in this way due to my personal desire to cut back on consumption. However, I am also aware that it is difficult for people who need to shop for something to be able to find many of these great conscious clothing brands with small marketing budgets! So I try to offer other alternatives. My preference for sharing the love is ‘Label Love’ or Interview posts (which are sometimes the result of emails from companies but mostly just companies I have found on Instagram), or on the odd occasion a giveaway. The reason for offering giveaways is that it can be difficult for some people to be able to afford to buy sustainable and/or ethical so I like the idea that someone out there in e-land might be able to try conscious fashion for free as the result of Sustainability in Style collaborations. For some reason giveaways never seem to attract as much attention as I would like them too (hey… it’s stuff for free and I get to play Santa by giving it away) and my hypothesis is that people have been trained to think there is some kind of ‘catch’. It is understandable that people are a little suspicious as many companies like to use giveaways as a way to collect data from entrants and before you know it you are inundated with spam emails. Rest assured that Sustainability in Style giveaways never have any kind of catch, that is… unless you count kindness as a catch.
Quite often I am congratulated on my success as a blogger. This is a wonderful compliment but it always makes me wonder what people believe makes for a successful blog? Is it the number of posts you have, the comments you receive, the number of followers you acquire on social media, or your Google analytics? Perhaps it’s all these things combined. Often this compliment is followed with the question of monetary success in the form of ‘do you blog full time’? My answer is always ‘yes… but my payment for ethical blogging is kindness so I also work at the moment to pay the bills’. For me the day that Sustainability in Style was a success was the day that a follower (there weren’t many then) contacted me to say that my journey had inspired them to take on their own clothing shopping ban. Every day since then has been a bonus.
At the moment this blogging venture is an outlet for my personal passion, and consists of me (and occasionally my man) in my ‘spare time’ writing about the things I love. Sometimes the comments and email responses are slow or the blog posts disappear for weeks on end but this is purely because study and work life take priority. No posts on Sustainability in Style have ever been paid ‘cash for comment’ posts. Occasionally I will take product for trial (like the top above from Mitla Moda) but only do so if I feel it will be of use for me for years to come (and I love Dusana the designer from MM), or in the case of the Trolley Bags, are something I believe that would have to be tried to be understood. Trialling product in this manner allows me to be honest in my reviews and if I don’t like something, like a plastic bag reduction system that comes in a plastic bag, I will let you know.
It would be nice to have revenue from ethical blogging and it can be done. It’s just a matter of finding the right way to do it for your specific blogging venture. You can sell advertising space to brands that you believe in, open an e-shop, freelance, or do whatever else it is that blogging type folks do to raise revenue (I’m such a novice and it’s showing here). This is not a direction that Sustainability in Style will be headed down any time soon as it is currently a hobby space and I don’t have time right now to commit to doing e-commerce well (aside from my offers to help style individuals or work with businesses). However, there will always be growth and evolution with this project and only time will tell where it ends up. One thing that is guaranteed is that the content will always be ethical and transparent!
A little while ago Sustainability in Style was nominated to become a member of the Ethical Writers Co. The Ethical Writers Co are a group of journalists, writers, and bloggers who seek to support and further ethical and sustainable living online and in print. With members across the world, they support, share information with, give advice to, and collaborate on projects with each other and with brands and companies who share their vision in the fields of fashion, beauty, lifestyle, wellness, food, home, and music.
I was thrilled when Sustainability in Style became a part of this group of talented folk and feel honoured to have been included. Unfortunately like many of the wonderful things in my life, my current workload means that my contributions to the group have been minimal at present (this will let up in November when uni is finished for the year). So I feel like an Ethical Writers Co. failure at present despite trying not to judge myself too harshly. Regardless of these feelings of failure I am able to share with you some small snippets of the Ethical goings on in the form of a clothing swap event. If you are lucky enough to find yourself in Brooklyn on the 3rd of October from 1pm until 4pm you are in for a treat! The ‘Style Swap’ shop hosted by Zady and the Ethical Writers Coalition allows you to get your wardrobe ready for fall with a glass of sparkling wine in hand while your ears indulge in some tunes. If you do get to head along be sure to let us know all about it #sojealous
Finally: Thank you for making this ethical writing venture successful!
Without you guys reading Sustainability in Style I would just be a crazy lady with a dog writing away to myself from the comfort of my home office. A contender for a literary series of ‘The Hoarder Next Door’. Every day that I get to sit down to this labour of love I think myself blessed thousands of times over for all the people out there who take the time to log on and see what Sustainability in Style is all about. Thank you for being my measure of success. I love every little bit of feedback you provide!
Feel free to voice your thoughts on ethics and writing here. It’s a safe and supportive space so let rip with any success stories or frustrations you may have with trying to write in an ethical way.