A Gen Z Mini Series: The Pro Green Generation
The pandemic has disrupted career paths, educational journeys, and many peoples’ ways of living. As a 23-year-old entering the ‘real world’ at a time where the world feels far from real, holding on to what I stand for and believe in has become essential.
Gen Z were already a purpose-driven generation, but the pandemic has meant myself and a lot of people I know are re-affirmed and re-energised about who we are, what drives us, and what we stand for.
2020 was the year where brands have experienced the full force of ‘cancel culture’ - where a brand’s activity is seen as offensive and objectionable and their followers retract support. They get ostracised and dumped. Boohoo owned Pretty Little Thing’s 99% Black Friday discount received uproar from fast fashion critics, HSBC were targeted by the ‘Brandalism’ group over its fossil fuel ties, and Jo Malone received widespread accusations of racism and lost its first male ambassador, John Boyega after cutting him out of the Chinese version of an ad campaign he created.
The reality is that patience for a tone-deaf brands is dwindling. So how can brands stay on the right side of value driven individuals?
“This is a generation that will unapologetically put humanity at the top of the agenda.”
– Zamzam Ibrahim, President of the UK National Union of Students 2019.
As a Gen Z strategist, I’m hyper-aware of statistics like 70% of my generation believe brands must step up to the plate and promote progressive values (DAZED). So, on one side of the argument, brands are expected to act accountably throughout their entire production line or run the risk of being cancelled. But for those brands wanting to leverage green credentials in their marketing, the stakes become much higher. Sustainability is a touchy subject for most. Some audiences respond better to aspirational messaging from marketing, while others need a dramatic shock to wake up to a particular issue.
I remember receiving a Greenpeace message telling me that there are enough textiles to fill a truck, being sent to landfill every second. When you read a statistic like that, it feels unfathomable to understand what that actually means. It’s so big that our brains cannot comprehend or process waste at that scale. But the more we learn, it’s only natural that climate grief can set in. Climate grief is defined as the grief felt in relation to experienced or anticipated ecological losses, including the loss of species, ecosystems, and meaningful landscapes. People go through grief differently. Some cry, some deny, and others shake with anger.
Back at the beginning of 2020, Ecover launched their first TVC for the ‘Laundry Against Landfill’ campaign on Channel 4. Professor Green features sitting on top of a washing machine in full spin in the middle of a warehouse. Vast quantities of clothes fall around him visually replicating the amount of clothes sent to landfill every second. An epic soundtrack of a distorted organ plays as the vibrations from the machine shakes his voice when he delivers an impassionate speech about textile waste. It felt like a heartfelt letter from an old friend telling you a clear call to action, to ‘…wear longer, waste less’. Delivered with the same voice-shaking emotion that I felt when I read that Greenpeace statistic. A statistic that would otherwise exist as an intangible number.
This ad is just one of many triumphs from Ecover. They are trailblazers in homecare. Not just in words but in action. They are accountable from sourcing to packaging and every step in-between. They are even pioneers, building the world’s first ‘ecological factory’. They speak from a place of honesty – it’s ingrained in the business and ingrained in my affinity to them, I speak about Ecover more than I speak about homecare products on the whole. That translates to commercial success, in 2020, Ecover grew value sales of laundry detergents by 13%, far outstripping the market as a whole (Mintel).
Like every generation, our voices have become louder in our 20s. We live in a world where Boohoo continues to expand it’s global marketplace after buying out Debenhams and Ecover continues to expand its portfolio with a new black and dark laundry detergent. Every individual has the availability to sit on either side of the fast fashion discussion. But for my generation, climate grief has the potential to mobilize and galvanise the collective and provoke more than words. More and more will invest in brands who are doing the right thing, and as for the rest? They’ll be cancelled. Since Covid, 72% of us have shown more interest in activism and social causes (Facebook) so it’s no wonder that making decisions for or against a brand is relying more and more on these values.
- How can you make sure your communications come across as honest and authentic?
- How can you disrupt the status quo?
- What’s your long-term vision and your roadmap to achieve this vision?
- Do you know enough about the social cause you want to promote?
- Why now are you deciding to promote it? Is it knee jerk or for clout? Are you being genuine?
- Are there people from that community at the table?
Written by Tom King, Gen Zer and Junior Planner