Be the change you wish to see in the world! We talked to six incredible brands about how they're making a positive impact online, and get their best advice for creating 'content for good'.
With everything that’s happened worldwide from 2020 to now, global activism is at an all-time high. The accessibility of social media, combined with the many social, political, and environmental movements that have gained momentum over the last few years, has caused a monumental rise in brands, businesses, and creators standing up for what they believe in – a phenomenon known as ‘brand activism’.
Brand activism is when a brand or business takes a stand on a social, environmental, economic, or political issue. It’s about supporting a cause that aligns with a company’s core values, communicating a commitment to creating a positive impact, and putting that commitment into action.
Brand activism can be propagated through public statements, volunteering or protesting, donations, social media content, or promotional campaigns.
Authentic brand activism is about communicating a commitment to creating a positive impact – and following through with this commitment. In today’s increasingly contested and political climate, consumers value honesty and authenticity above all else and want to interact with brands that share their values. Many demographics, particularly millennials, are investing more time and money in brands that care about more than just profit. 91% of millennials reported that they would switch to a brand if it were associated with a cause.
Big or small, all brands and businesses should strive to use their platform to impact the world around them positively. The ability to influence people is a big responsibility and not one to be taken lightly. While the impacts of brand activism are mainly positive, there’s no denying that taking a stand online can be tricky for brands, businesses, and creators alike. The internet (social media in particular) can be a brutal place to openly express one’s opinions or beliefs – especially if they challenge the status quo.
So, how do you take that first step toward creating a positive change in the world? We talked to six incredible brands and creators making an impact online to learn their top tips for advocating for a cause and their best advice for creating ‘content for good.’
Who Gives A Crap is a B Corp certified toilet paper company recognized for its environmental and social impact. But beyond their terrific toilet paper, Who Gives a Crap are keen social media activists committed to creating a cleaner, more sustainable future.
“Water, sanitation, and hygiene are essential to ensuring communities protect themselves from disease and illness caused by contact with waste,” says Sophie Kalagas, Who Gives A Crap Content Team Lead. “When working together, clean water sources, toilets, and proper hygiene can eliminate waterborne illness and disease – our mission is to help make that happen.”
On top of talking the talk by vocalizing their views on social media, Who Gives A Crap also walks the walk by donating 50% of its profits to ensure everyone has access to toilets and clean water in our lifetime. They’re on a mission to encourage people to make simple, eco-conscious decisions by choosing bamboo or recycled toilet paper over traditional toilet paper and help each customer make a small yet monumental impact.
The world is a pretty tough place right now! People want to support brands and businesses that consciously try to make a positive change. They look at the brand’s values to ensure they align with their own before purchasing. Our customers back us not because of what we do today but what we do for the future. They trust that we’re actively listening to them and looking for ways to improve our impact on people and the planet.
Brands should figure out their values and the causes they care about most, then create content that aligns with their purpose. Creating engaging, shareable content with new angles that people might not have seen before is crucial. A few ways you might approach this:
Showing passion helps build trust and authority and encourages people to spread the word. Recently, our team developed a powerful image showing the connection between traditional toilet paper production and deforestation. On International Women’s Day, we shared a social post that spotlighted the ridiculousness of feminine clichés and stereotypes by tapping into our trademark humor and some clever satire.
We take a multi-channel approach and distribute content on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, TikTok, and LinkedIn. We’re constantly scrolling through these social platforms and poking around the internet, looking for inspiration from others putting out great content. It’s also handy to see what people are discussing so we can tap into any trends or conversations.
Our business, and many other for-purpose businesses, have shown you can be successful and do good. We shouldn’t see the purpose as taking away from the business’s profit. It’s something that makes the company more successful in the long run.
To date, we’ve been able to donate more than $10 million to water and sanitation programs, underscoring our belief that doing good is good business. Setting out to give away half your profits isn’t commonplace in the business world, but we’ve proven our model can work and have a massive impact on the planet. We hope this inspires other businesses along the way.
One Roof is Australia’s leading digital network for professional women and female-led businesses, founded by former corporate lawyer Sheree Rubinstein. The organization offers aspiring entrepreneurs with weekly masterclasses, networking, opportunities to test and validate ideas, business coaching calls, monthly founder circles, office hours with industry experts, access to co-working partners across Australia, and a sense of community and support. On-boarding well over 1000 women and cultivating a close community on Instagram over the last two years, One Roof’s goal is to empower business women worldwide and become the go-to for entrepreneurial women.
We’re very clear on our values which include vulnerability and being bold and courageous. We strongly believe in sharing our mistakes, challenges, and failures to support and elevate others. We create content aimed at understanding and shedding light on women’s challenges, offering advice and personal experiences in a vulnerable and honest way. We recently hosted the Unspoken Conference over five days featuring 17 stand-out world-renowned speakers sharing unspoken and taboo issues affecting women in business and leadership. We want to better support women, normalize and de-stigmatize the challenges they face, remove shame and judgment, and help them build a thriving life and successful businesses.
Ask yourself, why? What is it that’s driving you? What’s important to you? Write that down, reflect on it and let that be your north star. It will carry you through the most challenging times – because, damn, building a business is hard work. Come back to it, update it, stick it on your wall, and keep looking at it. It may change over time, and that’s ok! Keep growing, evolving, and coming back to it.
Jessica Walsh is one of the most iconic graphic designers of the modern age. As the founder and creative director of world-renowned design agency, &Walsh, she’s significantly impacted the evolution of visual trends and the graphic design industry. Her designs and illustrations have been featured everywhere, from the New York Times and New York Times Magazine to major celebrity and brand campaigns.
In addition to being a design and business powerhouse, Jessica is also a passionate advocate for seeing more women in creative director roles and graphic design. Putting her activism into action, she founded @ladieswinedesign and @letstalkaboutmentalhealth – two ventures focused on breaking down sexism in graphic design, de-stigmatizing mental health, and empowering women to achieve their creative goals.
While I’m proud of my work, my most significant career highlight has been starting my agency, &Walsh. In addition to being a successful agency, I want &Walsh to use design and creativity for social impact. We are now investing more into meaningful projects – such as Ladies, Wine & Design, and Let’s Talk About Mental Health.
Ladies, Wine & Design is my global non-profit initiative born out of personal experiences with sexism in our industry, not only from men but from other women. The community brings women in the creative field together with mentorship circles, creative reviews, and events. I started Let’s Talk About Mental Health to open up conversations around mental health and other stigmatized issues. Activism is central to our agency, and we have big plans to grow these ventures.
While brand activism is important, your content should still illuminate your brand’s authentic voice and personality. At &Walsh, when we onboard our clients for branding work, we will take them through a “brand therapy” phase to help them discover their brand personality and voice. We believe every brand has something weird, different, or unique that’s their most valuable asset, and we help brands “find their weird,” and discover who they are and what they stand for. A great brand is like a great person: genuine and honest about who they are & unafraid to show their true colors.
FlexMami is more than an influencer – she’s an internationally recognized digital and cultural icon. Known for sparking challenging and thought-provoking conversations online, Flex – also known as Lillian Ahenkan – has cultivated an engaged community centered around critical thinking and self-awareness.
Named Instagram Australia’s #YoungEntrepreneur 2020, Lillian is the Founder and CEO of Flex Factory and creator of the popular conversation card game, ReFlex – which is designed to facilitate deep, meaningful, and unconventional conversations.
The author, TV host, DJ, podcaster, business owner, and entrepreneur has various platforms focused on pushing for change and prioritizing people. With a superpower for encouraging dialogue and critical thinking, Flex Mami is breaking the ‘influencer’ mold by speaking her mind and encouraging her community to think differently.
We must all be empowered, informed, and equipped with the skills to express ourselves and our interests. Once I started sharing mine, I noticed that much of my audience found the process alienating because they hadn’t explored or unpacked what they believed and
why. I quickly understood that if I wanted to have practical, mutually beneficial discussions with my audience, we, at the very least, needed a baseline understanding of the content’s context. This inadvertently turned into an education, but the responsibility quickly became burnout-inducing.
The most challenging part of speaking your mind online is being misunderstood, being made to feel solely accountable for your audience’s education, and not being able to maintain personal boundaries. The most rewarding part is noticing how empowered people feel to challenge their beliefs and remain open to hearing other perspectives.
Making content is my job, so I try not to over-intellectualize what I create and why. It’s an income stream and an opportunity to create financial stability for myself. Since my content is often an extension of my being (such as my thoughts, identity, and interests), it’s essential to create boundaries to avoid believing that my content is an extension of me, as opposed to the manifestation of my skills.
I’m not actively trying to make a difference in the world by using my career – I think it’s been a gratifying and illuminating byproduct, though. It would be remiss to give the impression that my platform is inherently altruistic. My priority is not simply “doing good”; it’s to show the breadth, depth, and diversity of what it is to be me and integrate intersectionality identity, culture, ethics, philosophy, and pop culture.
Haley Weaver is a talented illustrator, mental health advocate, and writer based in Washington, DC. Haley’s webcomics are centered around anxiety, depression, relationships, and selfhood, perfectly intertwining the hand-crafted charm of illustration with a relatable, authentic commentary on her experience of mental health.
Known as Haley Drew This on Instagram, she shares her heartfelt posts and experiences with her 279K followers through her art. Haley has always been attracted to telling stories rooted in humor and vulnerability. But, ever since she made a personal resolution to post a doodle a day on Instagram in 2017, she’s reached more hearts – and feeds – than she ever thought possible.
I have struggled with anxiety most of my life, and I want to help relieve that burden for others. We can’t erase our mental health burdens, but we can undoubtedly normalize them and find ways to accept them. I hope my platform continues amplifying that message and serves as a space for acceptance.
I think art has always served as a great vehicle for activism, and it’s cool to be able to do that in the digital age, where a platform can reach so many. Creating art about the things you care about is the best way to take a stand — passion is best captured when it’s authentic.
A small business looking to make a significant impact, Tsuno is on a mission to change how we look at periods – for good. The company is a social enterprise that produces disposable, sustainable bamboo-fiber sanitary pads and organic cotton tampons. Founded by changemaker Roz Campbell, Tusno donates 50% of its profits to charities focused on empowering women through education and menstrual support.
In addition to creating sustainable period products and funding girls’ education, Tsuno has created a safe, supportive online space to empower women, educate their audience on issues impacting women and girls around the world, and remove the taboo around periods.
Reducing plastic in disposable period products is something I am passionate about, as is reducing menstrual stigma, supporting menstrual health, and girls’ education in developing nations. The business is set up as a social enterprise to donate 50% of profits to charities supporting girls’ education in Sierra Leone and Uganda, along with donating our products to charities in Australia that help people experiencing hygiene poverty. Tsuno hopes to empower others by donating half of our profits from selling our products, to help fund girls’ education in Sierra Leone and Uganda.
By existing as a company and offering the products we do, I hope to achieve a shift in what other brands offer. Because of the emergence of smaller brands such as Tsuno, more prominent brands have been influenced to adjust their product offering, focus more on sustainable materials, and play their part in tackling period poverty. This is a beautiful indirect result of bringing my products to market.
People want to work for and buy from brands that are ethically, socially, and environmentally responsible; it’s pretty simple. My advice would be to have a go, start small and work on something you are passionate about. Tsuno is still a small business – it’s predominantly run by myself and one other part-time employee. Still, we’ve created a positive impact by donating our products to local charities, supporting people experiencing hygiene poverty, and donating funds to One Girl. We are also contributing indirectly by being part of a collective of brands pushing for a social cause and influencing larger, multinational brands to adjust their product offerings and support social efforts.
In a world driven by social media and branding, brand activism is more than just a buzzword or publicity play – it’s the key to influencing real change. By using your brand, business, or platform to take a stand on important issues and encouraging your community to do the same, you can be the change you wish to see in the world. We hope that these incredible brands have inspired you to speak out, take action, and make a positive impact with brand activism.
Are you feeling inspired? There’s more where that came from! Learn how to build a small business from the ground up, read our interview with world-renowned designer Jessica Walsh, or find more expert advice in our Community Stories section.