Transparency is the new buzzword and a term you’ll hear flying about in all matters of life and business.
As our knowledge grows of what is and isn’t good in the world, so do our expectations of people and companies. Our demand to know more is growing every day (and there is nothing wrong with this) however, the rate that knowledge flows and knowledge grows can be faster (much faster) than the time it takes for a business, no matter how small (there’s a common misconception that small businesses are agile therefore they can change the fastest) to adapt, learn and implement.
With our expectations to have access to every little bit of information we want – it is hard being a business owner (with good intentions) to keep up. As consumers and as information gathers, we forget that some of the most thoughtful, caring, and impact-driven businesses out there are being spearheaded by one-woman operations (who are also juggling partners, kids, and pets).
What do we expect when we ask for BRANDS TO BE TransparenT?
It would seem we are all looking for openness, open lines of communication, and accountability – linking people to action. There needs to be evidence of compassion, we all seek that human touch, and perhaps it’s a combination of these are qualities along with data that will really satisfy our need for more ‘transparency from brands’.
Transparency is clearly important, as citizens of the world, and paying customers, we feel we are entitled to know what’s happening, who is involved, and who is responsible for making those decisions.
But ultimately, isn’t it because we want to know where the buck stops? Who is to blame for making a bad decision? And will they take responsibility and make a change. Will they tell the truth? Maybe, maybe not. But it’s worth thinking about transparency in two situations, one where you are happy with a brand, and its story, and one where you feel misled, short-changed, and truly dissatisfied with a service or product.
OUR Ethical Brands Transparancy
When it comes to Ethical Brands and being transparent on our platform, we ask for honesty. We realise now, after pushing for more data and information from our members that we simply cannot expect our family of brands to be able to create detailed analysis reports every month showing the % of progress towards particular goals. Sure, we’d love that – in fact, we’d welcome it. But the truth is running a business is hard, it’s super complicated and until you do it yourself you will never appreciate many plates are spinning and how easy it is to let one (or two) drop.
We are only human. Yet we expect so much from one another. At Ethical Brand Directory we have to extend a level of TRUST towards our brands as we are unable to confirm every last detail they provide us with. But are we simply demanding too much from the little indie businesses that are just trying to stay afloat? Shouldn’t we be demanding (or shouting) for more transparency from fast-fashion giants like H&M and ZARA?
I think we should be. I know firsthand just how hard it is to run a business. Running a service-based business is tough, in fact, it’s blooming difficult. Imagine having the responsibility of sourcing suppliers, auditing factories, finding sustainable fabrics within your budget, thinking about responsible packaging – and designing your ranges, getting them into stores – onto platforms to sell, and then working full time on sales and marketing strategies, finding pop-ups, trying to secure PR, figuring out how to optimise a website, get more than a dozen views on an Instagram post, build an email list! and there’s just so much more to deal with.
So, it’s never a surprise to me that so many ethical fashion businesses fail, you can read our recent post about the reasons why ethical fashion businesses fail here.
Transparency Vs. COMPASSION
I think it’s fascinating that we demand compassion and fair working hours for the people who make our clothes, our beauty products, and even our food, yet as business owners, we do not always apply that same logic to ourselves. As a business owner, it’s fair to say ‘nobody else’ you work with will put in as much blood sweat, and tears as you, (unless they’re an equal partner and have invested the same as you, share your passion, and have as much to lose as you).
We all get overburdened with all the expectations, to do better, to show we are listening, adapting, and changing. We work long hours, and if we don’t apply compassion and sustainability to ourselves – then we burn out. It’s happened time and time again with people I have worked with.
As business owners, we are required to communicate, to share, to report…, to be ‘transparent’ we expect it from others, and we expect it from ourselves. So that’s why when we start to suffer, it hurts all the more – as we know we should be doing it too but –OVERWHELM and paralysis can kick in, and it’s in times like these that the ‘compassion’ we extend out to others needs to be directed inwards.
Taking a break is often all that you can do.
But going silent and taking time off from being online is not recognised as a crucial part of the self-care journey. If you go quiet for a while, people may start to think you have something to hide. And the truth is simply taking a hiatus from posting on your social media, blog or newsletter can feel like you are letting the world down and failing to be ‘transparent’.
On the whole, most people really are just trying to do their best.
The Struggles ARE REAL – LET’S BE HONEST
Now, since we’re talking about being fully transparent, I wanted to address some of the gaps and slowdowns we’ve had here at Ethical Brand Directory (EBD) or you may know us as Ethical Brand Network (EBN) as we rebranded – but then I had to hit pause.
I’m going to be totally honest about the ‘time-off’ the ups and downs across the lockdowns, why protecting my own mental health and energy levels became a priority.
So where do I start…
I say we, as I’ve always wanted so badly for EBD to be a ‘we’ thing, not a ‘me’ thing – but in reality, I have always been the driving force behind EBD (or EBN) so when I refer to ‘we’, even when we had a full team, I was still somehow always doing the lions share. I was the one staying up to 4 am to hit deadlines, working my arse off and investing my own money into the business so we could stay afloat.
Well, it all had to stop. During the lockdown I went through a difficult patch I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression due to prolonged periods of time without human contact. It made all the everyday things, so much harder to cope with. In the end, I had to take a break because I couldn’t endure any more disappointment, delays, and letdowns. Like an elastic band I had just been pulled in too many directions, for too long, the lockdown created a lot of anxiety and prolonged periods of isolation exasperated that, and… I…just… needed… to… take… a… break – and slow…down.
I had to go through some stressful, expensive, and heartbreaking realisations about where we were, and where we wanted to go. The BIG investor opportunity we had was a major flop. The people we planned to work with to scale the business let us down on epic levels, wasted our time, cost us money and opportunity. I was still funneling my own money into things (as advised) to get it ‘investor ready’ and commercialise the business – until I pulled the plug on it all. I had issues internally with team members not delivering and to be frank – it was just all a bit too much!
I’ve had to say goodbye to a lot of people and pretty much start all over again, from scratch. It’s easy to be disheartened, to even look for someone to blame, but the person the buck stoops with is me, no matter what my team do or don’t do – I am the ‘boss’ and I must take responsibility for all of our failures too – it’s not just about owning our successes.
Time off has helped me regain my strength and focus, and look at where my priorities lie. I started EBD as I wanted to give back and help. And I want to get back to my WHY – and create a model that is ‘fair’ to me too – and isn’t all about me giving, people taking and me not receiving any credit or financial reward for my efforts.
Back in 2017, there wasn’t much out there, and I am glad I have been able to do so much and be part of the movement pushing for change across the last 5-years. But now, it’s about stepping back from ‘all the stuff’ and I am only concerned with simplifying.
In the next few months, we are changing our pricing plans for new joiners. Our focus is on building up our Directory and sharing the new brands we discover – and giving brands who need help, a hand via our self-service Academy. We will be winding back a lot of what we do, so we can focus on doing a few things really well.
Do let me know if you’ve experienced any struggles, and if you’re willing to share your story. I think as business owners it’s too easy to hide behind our marketing and carefully curated social media feeds. What we need is more transparency around how we are feeling, how we aren’t coping – and the struggles we are facing trying to live up to everyone’s expectations – and if you’re anything like me, trying to live up to my own impossibly high standards that I set for myself.
Let me know in the comments if you’ve been affected by the lockdown and if your mental and physical health was affected, which in turn impacted your business. I’m sure we all have things we can share, and learn from one another.