With sustainability messaging often a blur of buzzwords and unquantified claims, transparent communications around planetary and social impact is hard to come by, much less to understand. For Jemma Finch, this has always been the intention of Stories Behind Things – a storytelling platform that has evolved to be one of Instagram’s leading voices in the education of more conscious consumption. Now, the brand hopes to make the landscape of sustainable shopping a little easier to navigate.
‘The Seasonal Shop’ prioritises ‘narrative led shopping’, having utilised a rigorous methodology for understanding brands’ sustainability related practices, developed in consultation with Eco-Age and Good On You, to select only the most trustworthy of brands. Alongside each product listing are details of material impacts, animal welfare, cost per use and the brands’ back story. Education, Finch tells us, is essential in shifting consumer mindsets. We spoke to Stories Behind Things founder and CEO Jemma Finch to learn more about her work with Eco-Age, and how she hopes ‘The Seasonal Shop’ can change the narrative around consumerism.
Congratulations on the launch of The Seasonal Shop! Can you tell us about Stories Behind Things’ journey with sustainable activism?
Stories Behind Things first started as a passion project simply sharing stories of pre-loved clothes, the memories they had and the adventure they’ve been on. It quickly grew into a thriving community of humans interested in exploring subjects like sustainability and consumption, and the rest is history! I personally came into the sustainability space through a mental health lens; I found the fast-paced and throwaway culture we live in to be extremely overwhelming. So, for me, Stories Behind Things was created to be the platform that leads with positivity and to explore subjects that intertwine with sustainability including mental health, consumption, activism, impact led brands to support etc.
Over the past year, being in lockdown gave us a chance to reflect on what we can offer to our community. Some of the questions we are most often asked are ‘what brands can I support?’ and ‘I want to invest in brands that are aligned with my values but don’t know where to start’. And that’s where the concept of ‘The Seasonal Shop’ was born! We spent the year researching and have just launched earlier this month, with exciting plans to develop and grow.
How have you seen the activist community grow since it began?
The activist community has grown significantly over even the last year – it’s fantastic to see the momentum growing! At Stories Behind Things, we define activism as simply standing up for what you believe in. To us, being an activist can take many different forms, from emailing a brand to demand better to encouraging open conversations between family and friends that can hopefully shift mindsets. It’s about finding a way that works for us all personally.
The Seasonal Shop’s ethos is to encourage ‘narrative led shopping’, why was this so important to Stories Behind Things’ message?
Narrative led shopping is a key part of ‘The Seasonal Shop’. Education comes first, with an importance placed on learning the environmental and social information of each product. This emphasis on transparency will hopefully help consumers to understand what it is that makes a product sustainable, with so much of the market having been muddied by greenwashing. Through ‘The Seasonal Shop‘, we want to bring the term ‘sustainability’ back to the basics of environmental and social good.
Messaging around sustainability can be so difficult to navigate. How did the consultation with Eco-Age and Good On You shape the shop?
The rise of sustainability as a consumer trend unfortunately has come hand in hand with an increase in greenwashing. We get asked about greenwashing almost every day, so ensuring our methodology when choosing brands to represent was strong – we are so excited to have developed this methodology in consultation with industry leaders Eco-Age and Good On You in crafting this methodology. Ensuring that the brands we represent are genuinely prioritising people and planet is essential. The framework explores the key areas of sustainability: social, environmental and animal welfare. Once brands pass this stage, we explore additional areas they are excelling in, such as: craft, materials, social justice, supporting communities, waste and more. The information gathered from this methodology can in turn aid us to fully trust that the brands we support are truly doing what they can to put planet and people first.
This additional step to our methodology offers consumers an insight into each brands’ success stories. Most crucially, the communication of such was driven by our intention of communicating the nuanace of sustainability. Rather than being a simple yes / no tick box, highlighting how brands can excel in tackling waste or low impact materials can hopefully educate and inspire shoppers to explore the industry’s wider achievements of ‘doing good’.
Did you face any difficulties in ensuring a brands’ honesty around sustainable practices?
Fortunately for ‘The Seasonal Shop’, the way our methodology has been built ensures a great deal of security around the brands’ credentials. We will also carry out spot checks on the brands to ensure that we have an extra layer of protection. It’s so important for us to know that our community can explore the shop at ease, knowing that all brands have passed various touch points.
As society becomes more conscious of consumerism and its effects on the planet, how do you hope to see shopping habits shifting to become more mindful? How do you see ‘The Seasonal Shop’ being a part of this?
We see a huge shift towards narrative and impact led shopping, and an increasing number of consumers who want to invest in brands that align with their values. ‘The Seasonal Shop’ is perfectly positioned to be the platform to discover and learn from the brands who are genuinely putting our planet and people first. We want to see an end to impulse consumption and throwaway culture, and we intend to do this by shouting out the brands we represent as we show a new way to shop – with purpose at the heart.
Are there any other sustainable businesses that have inspired you along the way?
Yes! We admire the work of Intersectional Environmentalist and Earthrise Studio, two social media platforms that offer insightful education and stories around the climate crisis, as well as how it intersects with other social justice issues. We have learnt a great deal from them since they both launched in 2020 and can’t wait to see them develop and grow.
Stories Behind Things has grown from a sustainability conversation on social media to a business. What advice would you give to someone who is looking to incorporate their passion for sustainability with their career?
My main advice would be to work out your why. Work out what specific area of sustainability sparks your interest and let the rest develop from there. For us at Stories Behind Things, the mission was always to remain a platform that openly navigates and explores sustainability and consumption, and to do so in a positive and solution lead manner. Keeping your values at the centre of your passion, and business, can only benefit your growth in the long run!