On Wednesday 27th September the first ever Ethical Brand Directory live (in-person) networking event, with 5 industry expert speakers, took place in London at the business Design Centre – and by all accounts it was a success. It is a slightly bias opinion which has been heavily reaffirmed by many of the guests who travelled in, some from Hull (thanks Chris!) and one guest (thanks Carl) had travelled over from France. This blog is a big thank you to everyone who made it so wonderful. So, let’s take a moment to look back over the events of the evening…
The power of networking in-person
I had a wonderful time as the event planner, the host and one of the sponsors. But I cannot take the credit for how it all turned out. I have a lot of people to thank that believed in me and my vision for The Ethical Brand Directory and the EBD Network. On Wednesday 27th September it was like magic dust was sprinkled over the whole project and it came to life. Getting offline and out there in-person was just what I needed – as it turns out so did the guests! It was so great to be amongst like-minded people. Many people were at the start, middle or fully into their journey of conscious consumerism and/or running an ethical business.
AmaElla were invited to come along and showcase their beautiful products and gain some extra visibility at the event (one of the perks of being a premium listed brand on the Ethical Brand Directory). AmaElla are also a personal favourite. I recently awarded them a ‘L❤️VED BY RSL stamp of approval – which is something I will only say about brands that I genuinely fall for. I carry out my review through the eyes of a style conscious consumer, an ethical brand ambassador and a sustainable stylist. I will never recommend a brand unless I can personally vouch for it, have tried it and tested it and have fallen in love.
Women supporting women
If you’ve ever set your sights on setting up an event or selling things to people who don’t know you – with limited budget, you’ll appreciate it is a really tough thing to take on. “How hard can it be?” I mused to myself when I decided to run this event. Filling a room as an event planner is notoriously difficult. Especially in London, during fashion Week and when there are 3 similar events being hosted on the same evening. I’m glad I didn’t let the stress throw me. Because the evening was better than OK – it was amazing. Not every aspect of it of course, we had our fair share of struggles, tech failures and ticketing mishaps – but we didn’t let that stop us from enjoying the night.
Every moment of hard work was made totally worth when I looked out and saw the great women by my side who had volunteered to speak – the awesome energy in the room, the buzz and atmosphere of passionate people networking together – it was just perfect.
It’s time to vote with our purchases
It totally sucks that there are brands out there who are dominating the mass market that simply don’t give a damn… it’s all about profits and margins – sell more, make more. That’s it. Getting a team of staff to run a race for charity or to volunteer at a local primary school is ‘nice’ but that doesn’t address the actual negative impact that large corporate business can have. Green washing is rife. It’s something we’re going to explore more on the Ethical Brand Directory – we will be insisting that brands have sourcing and sustainability evidenced on their websites, with data to back it up.
It’s simply not enough to stuff a few lines of sustainability and ethics tactics into your strategy – using visible acts of doing something in the community should be in addition to having a robust ethics and sustainability process embedded into the business. But herein lays the issue – all the big companies do it, they over promote the 3% they are taking action on, getting all this positive PR exposure but they’re not addressing the real problems that need to be tackled – not with the same enthusiasm and budget they allocate to the 3%. We on the other hand CAN change our consumer habits, WE hold the cards when it comes to forcing their hand. You’ve got to give the customer what they want – that’s business.
Become an active citizen
If we support smaller businesses that do care, we become active citizens – we have a say. There is a new breed of business being born, ones that have passionate founders with great visions and the desire to do good. They genuinely give a damn. As a consumer all we need to do is support these brands so they can survive. How we shop (no matter how insignificant it seems) can go a long way towards changing the injustices we see happening in the world.
Our money as consumers is what drives the global economy, it makes the world go round. I meet so many people who just don’t seemingly care about the impact unconscious consumerism is having on the planet, people and animals. I sometimes get angry and upset – but then I think back to where I was just a few years ago. It’s one of those crazy things in life, where you just don’t know what you’ don’t know – but when you do, it’s on you to take action and be the change you want to see in the world.
Being an ethical business
We kicked off the evening with a live brand interview (reserved for premium brands on the Ethical Brand Directory). I interviewed the beautiful Julie Kerdevac from AmaElla Lingerie and asked her questions such as what are the three main things that people should know about your brand and what is AmaElla doing to run their business ethically and sustainably. I will be editing the interview and adding it to their profile here so you can find out what she shared. One of the cutest responses was that AmaElla drop off all their parcels to the post office by bike. I just had this beautiful image of Julie cycling down the cobbled streets in Cambridge…on her bicycle with wicker-basket filled with parcels for AmaElla customers.
Supporting ethical and sustainable business
Next up was a conversation about the importance of supporting ethical brands with fashion journalist Bel Jacobs, former fashion editor of Metro and founder of HowNow Magazine.
We discussed the impact we can have as consumers and why its so important to complain (fully exercising that right as consumers) and be more aware and interested in how things are made. Bel, like myself has also been on an ethical evolution – we spoke about the journey and how we all enter through different experiences. It may be food, fashion or due to animal cruelty or as a zero waste enthusiast. For me I have to say the negative impact the fashion industry has was my real wake up call – you can read some of my earlier Fashion Revolution blogs about that here and here.
No matter where you enter the scale – we agreed that using scare tactics to shock people into changing is short sighted. I’m guilty of that. I used to share the shocking stats I heard all the time – I’ve stopped doing that now. It’s about providing alternative ways to do things. The long term strategy for change has to come from positive empowerment.
Why metrics and transparency matters in business
Akhil the founder of Green Story demonstrated value and impact that a consumer can have by making a purchase from an ethical brand. We’re going beyond the feeling of warm and fuzzy because you did a good thing – he used metrics that made us think of about real life comparisons, like ‘buying this is the equivalent to taking 10-cars off the road’, or s’aves the planet 10 swimming pools of water’. This is something that I personally think all brands should consider – I’d like to know more about how my purchase has helped.
Akhil’s video will be going up on YouTube soon so that you can watch his full presentation – make sure you head on over to the Roberta Style Lee YouTube channel and subscribe for EBD playlist updates so you don’t miss when it goes live! More information on Green Story can be found by visiting their website www.greenstory.ca
Back to the source – how is material made?
When we think of clothes we sometimes forget about the process that happens long before a garment is made. To make material a lot of work has to go into it – the textile industry is the second most polluting industries in the world. “More than 90% of that cotton is now genetically modified, using vast amounts of water as well as chemicals. Cotton production is now responsible for 18% of worldwide pesticide use and 25% of total insecticide use” [Source: True Cost]
Charlie Ross the founder of Offset Warehouse shared her story about how she didn’t want to be a designer who made clothes that contributed to some of the atrocious things happening in the textile industry (not only the pollution, but the poor working conditions and blatant disregard of human life, animal welfare and our eco-system). But enough about shocking facts – as I mentioned, the EBD and my motto is about empowerment – that’s why I love what Charlie’s gone and done.
She’s created a solution to a problem, she’s giving people the option – removing excuses and barriers to using ethically sourced materials. Charlie sources smaller quantities of fabric at an affordable price, where sewing enthusiasts as well as new designers can afford to purchase it, without having to compromise on quality or style. A self confessed-material snob Charlie is showing the rest of us how to change by thinking about the raw materials that are used in every-day products (not just fashion but furniture upholstery as well).
What does ethical travel mean?
The final speaker to join me on the stage was Vicky Smith from Earth Changers, she shared her incredible journey from mainstream tourism to becoming an qualified ranger and wanting to lead the way in ethical tourism. I think what really resonated with me is that we are so conditioned to want luxury holidays at bargain prices that we forget that if we get things cheap someone somewhere isn’t being paid a fair wage. People get exploited in tourism just as much as in fashion. It pained me to hear this because ethical tourism isn’t something I have always considered – I tend not to take package holidays provided through tour operators because a) that type of holiday makes me cringe and b) because I tend to take fewer holidays now and when I do, I go long haul and tend to stay with friends and go incognito tourist.
I like to eat local, stay in local ran hotels or rent apartments. So thankfully making changes to the way I have a holiday isn’t going to be extreme for me. Thinking about global travel as a luxury, not a right – was quite a hard hitting moment. Vicky shared a few tips such as: book directly with local hotels, support local trade, eat in local restaurants and buy from local shops (if you must go to an all inclusive resort try and get out and support the economy and livelihood of the people in the country you visit).
The power of in-person networking
Of course the night had to come to a close eventually – we extended networking to almost 9.45pm which indicated that we really needed to carve out more time for the next event. All good things must come to and end so they say, so we all said good night and started to get excited about the next EBD event which we are holding on the 15th November 2017 at BDC Works within the Business Design Centre. One thing that came up again and again was the power of in-person meeting, as humans I think we really need it. Digital networking is great – but real interactions is where it’s at.
Don’t miss out
For all enquires about tickets and booking a stall please refer to the Ethical Brand Directory homepage and sign up for alerts! EBD premium members will be offered Early Bird rates for bookings – so don’t delay, if you’re not registered and an EBD member you won’t be able to showcase your brand at our Conscious Christmas Market this year. If you are registered on a standard membership and want to upgrade email me and I can arrange for that to be done.
And a special thanks to our volunteers and newest members!
The dynamic brother and sister team with a certain je ne sais quoi Colin Saliceti and Agatha Saliceti, The stylish and passionate Lara Gill (currently completing her final studies at London College of Fashion) and total life saver Steve Woody, the tech wizard and time keeper for the evening.
I’d also like to thank Eleanor Platt for being our VIP Blogger for the evening, she’s a costume maker and vintage fashion enthusiast with an interest in ethical and sustainable fashion. You can connect with her on Twitter @Takeitupwearit, or on Instagram @takeitupwearitout. She published her blog on the event which you can read here.
I’d like to thank our newest member of the Ethical Brand Directory and EBD Network- Sveta, from Fresh Lifestyle who wrote a great blog sharing her experience and impression of the event.
Read her post here.
Our official sponsors for the event
Thank you to Online Mastery who helped build the EBD directory. Thank you to Green Story who sponsored the event. Thank you to BDC works who provided us with an awesome venue in their co-working space within the Business Design Centre (highly recommended if you’re a solopreneur – getting out of your home and into a friendly co-working space is so valuable for your own wellbeing and business).