#21 Just be honest with me! Why transparency in business really matters.
Well hello again, thank you for joining me in this week’s instalment of my guest blog series. If you haven’t read any before then a big welcome! I’m now on week four, so do check out my working from home, body positivity and mental health blogs too.
This week’s post is on a topic I have so much to say about! It’s something that I’ve always been acutely aware of from a very young age, and that I’ve also noticed come to the forefront in recent years in my line of work. As you may know I’m a Marketing Consultant so I do a fair bit of work helping people communicate their brand with consumers.
There’s been a really interesting shift in that tone of voice in recent years. Suddenly brands have gone from being faceless and very ‘business-ey’ to being personal and much more about the people behind them. Honesty and transparency is now being called for in so many areas, from wanting to know the people who owns and works in their favourite café, to the people who make our clothes.
So something I’ve personally been really impressed with, while fangirling and following all things Aesthetic Laundry, is the girls’ real commitment to open and honest communication about their business and the fashion industry in general. If you’ve been following them during the current pandemic, you’ll know they haven’t shied away from that in what’s been a really stressful time.
When I reached out to Joss to tell her how much I admired their transparency in response to COVID-19, she challenged me to put my thoughts around all of this and why it’s so important into a blog (alongside saying thank you for the encouragement of course!)
So here we go, let’s talk about transparency in business.
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My relationship with businesses
In many ways my relationship with businesses and brands feels like a real-life person to person relationship. You meet a new brand and it’s exciting to start with, everyone’s showing their best version of themselves. However, time goes on and those cracks start to show themselves, the more closed off they become, and the more frustrating it all ends up being!
This is something I’ve received both as a working professional, and a consumer.
Here’s a familiar situation for us all I’m sure: you interview for and accept a job, you’re so excited to work for such a positive company that really cares about and looks after their employees. A couple of months in and you see that whole philosophy isn’t practiced and it’s a way in to a stressful, unsupportive working environment. Does their social media reflect the complaints of their staff? No, they get one of the few happy people to write a blog on how much they love working there – and put pressure on you to do the same.
Another one: ‘Oh amazing! Look at this whole range of ‘we care’ clothing – the workers must be treated so well’. Yep, we all know how that one turned out – that brand turns out to be exploiting people less fortunate than us.
Since I was little I’ve had a very strong moral compass. I’m sure my parents are to thank for that – and I salute them for raising me in such a way. However, I bet they regretted it when I started using that compass against them (tehe). I remember at a very young age telling my mum she had to stop eating Malteasers as they weren’t Fairtrade. When she protested I told her to write to the manufacturers petitioning them!
Fast forward to when I was in sixth form and my friends were confused I chose to take part in TOMS ‘day without shoes’ to raise awareness that a lot of people around the world aren’t lucky enough to have something as simple as a pair of shoes.
Let’s face it, the world we live in is far from perfect – and don’t get me wrong here, I am by no means perfect either! But I’m doing my best to be transparent and open in my life, and responsible in how I live and what I buy. As I’ve got older I’ve become more aware of that need for transparency from the brands and businesses we interact with in all spheres of life.
So why is transparency so important?
Simple: it empowers people and businesses alike to live better, more positive lives.
When brands are open and honest about how they operate, how they treat their employees, how they make their products and what they’re made from it’s such a positive force for building a better world! It allows their employees to feel valued and take real pride in their work, they take better care of what they’re doing, and that filters right down to you as a customer – you get a high quality product that you can also take pride in. You know you’re supporting one of the good’uns.
It goes one step further too, in being honest about how they’re doing it can really help and encourage other people or businesses. For example when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, my income (as a self-employed freelancer) genuinely went to £0 overnight. It was so scary and overwhelming, and it made a world of difference knowing it wasn’t just me. Opening Instagram and seeing Joss and Heidi being so open about their struggles in the ‘Decisions’ videos made me feel less alone.
Seeing them rise to the occasion and work tirelessly to keep their business going also inspired me to do the same. It made me see it was possible. Yes we work in very different industries, but I’m sure I’m not the only one who was so encouraged by a brand they love and admire taking the time to go ‘yes, this is really hard. But here’s how we’re trying to keep going through it’.
They’ve said from the start they’re committed to sharing the ups and the downs of their work and that really shone through in how they’ve responded to a crisis.
Alongside creating a positive force, transparency in business actually makes life a whole lot easier for us as a consumer. I get so fed up of constantly searching on packaging, or clicking through page after page of websites to try and check in on whether or not a brand is sustainable, organic, fairly priced, and so on. Wouldn’t it be helpful if the experts were just honest and here to help and empower us?
One example from my life currently is this summer we are hoping to finally buy our first home. We started tentatively viewing in March time then the COVID 19 crisis hit in full force. The estate agents listing a house we were very interested in was our first port of call – what were we supposed to do? Was now a good time for a first time buyer? Was there going to be a massive crash in the value of houses? How fast did we need to move? Was the process going to take longer? So many questions around trying to buy a house in such an uncertain time. Much to my disappointment the only advice we were met with was ‘Well we can’t really advise on that obviously it’s a decision you have to make yourself’.
WHAT?! You sell houses, do you really have no advice to offer?! Imagine how much easier it would be if the estate agents were open and amenable to actually helping us understand what is a really huge life decision. This isn’t a rant against estate agents by any means! It’s just a practical example of how much harder life can be when the experts don’t share their knowledge and process with us.
Enjoying a Fairtrade latte en-route to Edinburgh last summer (this was a rare day without my beautiful reusable copper cup)
Trying to be an ethical consumer
Years ago very few chocolate bars were Fairtrade, especially none of the mainstream brands. As consumers we spoke up, we didn’t want the chocolate industry to exploit vulnerable farmers and families, and I still remember the day that Dairy Milk became Fairtrade. What a milestone! But that change wouldn’t have happened without a shift in shopping and people showing companies such as Cadbury’s that we weren’t prepared to buy chocolate that didn’t treat people fairly.
That happening at such a young age really taught me the importance of trying to be responsible and ethical in where I put my money – even if at that time it was my pocket money.
We’ve made some progress, but I think it really is down to us as consumers to continue to search out and endorse those companies being transparent, and prioritising values that really matter to us. A big value for me is fairness and environmental responsibility. So in the various areas of my life I’m spending and supporting businesses I have a real focus on choosing companies I can see to be practicing those values.
As I’ve said previously, environmental responsibility was how I first came to discover Aesthetic Laundry – my friend mentioned their zero waste kids jumpers and I was so impressed – what a great idea for fabric otherwise destined for landfill!
So where possible – I’d encourage you to really think about the world you’re contributing to through what you buy, and what you share and recommend with others too. No one’s perfect, but where we can let’s be ethical consumers and join the conversation.
A great example of fashion that isn't seasonal - you last saw this tie dye wonder in the snow! (Boilersuit: Lucy & Yak)
The difference openness and honesty makes
We’ve touched on this a bit throughout this blog, but I just wanted to really hit the nail on the head with why all this matters.
Often without brands speaking up we don’t hear about the real issues, for example the Fairtrade campaign was the first time as a young child I really started to think about where my food comes from, and how those making it were treated. Again I discovered TOMS at a young age and they opened my eyes to the lack of basic necessities those less fortunate than us have access to.
And those issues are so important! For instance until discovering more sustainable fashion brands I never thought about all the offcuts of fabric and how wasteful the industry can be. In recent years I only started realising how wasteful fast fashion is too – why aren’t more brands making products designed to last? Why is the fashion industry so temporary in terms of trends? When will ‘seasonal’ fashion stop being the focus?
I’m glad to see in the industry a recent uprising of brands looking to right that wrong! And I’m so pleased to see consumers really getting behind that message and championing it too. We still have a lot of learning to do but I’m encouraged and excited that we get to learn all these things together.
So we’ve still got a way to go, but thank you to brands like Aesthetic Laundry for shining the light and leading the way. With them, what you see is what you get. Let’s have a bit more honesty like that in our daily life.
Speak to you again soon!
To find out more about working with Rachel click here.
Rachel is a Marketing Consultant and Producer of Theatre and Film based in the West Midlands. She is currently working alongside Joss at Aesthetic Laundry to provide support, where she can, in a voluntary capacity. When she isn't working, she enjoys eating any gluten free cake, drinking good gin or wine and lifting weights at the gym. Rachel is really passionate about supporting small, independent businesses - especially female led creatives. Drop her a follow @racheltimeblog for a daily dose of colour, silliness, and to see her two adorable pet rabbits Eevee and Parnsnip!