How Sustainable Brands Broke My Heart

Hello Eco Warriors and Eco Princesses to be,

I am back! I know took my time, but I am very excited to show up again. That piece of content is meant to explain why I disappeared for so long. Has it been 7 weeks? I lost count… I wrote that post as I write in my journal, with honesty, transparency, and vulnerability because I hoped it would be therapeutic. YUP, I think I just joined the club of those Insta girls who use their platform to document their traumas and to heal. So here I am, using my community as a group therapy. 

Disclosure: The photos included in that post show what it took me to heal and recover. It involved a lot of time off, some sun and nature but also meditation, hypnotherapy, visualisation, journaling, and hours long calls with friends that have not been captured on camera. Just so you know 😊

Some context

Before we explore how I am healing my trauma and what you can learn from it, let me provide some context. I created Attitude Organic 3 years ago. I couldn’t believe it until WordPress kindly wished me a happy blogging birthday! They also used it as a gentle reminder that they would debit my credit card to renew my membership. I first started blogging alongside my 9 to 5 to create an audience for my ethical marketplace. A few months later, I added sustainable products to the website and worked on growing the business full time, but I stopped quickly because pushing fashion items sales was not aligned with my anti-consumption values. I finally started blogging full time to teach you about all the different aspects of sustainability.

I guess those changes gave you a clue: my entrepreneurial journey has been up and down, and I have been riding an emotional roller coaster rising my project off the ground. Honestly, there is no surprise here, any entrepreneur could tell you that this situation is normal, but it does not make it any easier. Attitude Organic is my baby and as a dedicated eco mama, I was working day and night to produce high quality content for you and the rest of the community. From January to June, I was spending all my time on my laptop, doing nothing else than working while I could have enjoyed the Mexican sun and food on dreamy beaches. Well… at least up until covid happened.

After 2,5 years of unpaid and hard work, I really wanted to make a living from teaching and spreading the sustainable values I deeply believe in. So I pushed through my fear of showing up, my fear of failing, my fear of selling, my fear of asking for what I deserve (yes, that’s a lot fear!) and I finally reached out to the brands I wanted to work with. Indeed, brands’ sponsorships is one of the most common way to provide community members with that much knowledge for free while getting paid.

And girl, I got disappointed!

My heart broke into pieces when brands destroyed the faith I placed into the ethical niche. I wondered if I should describe all I went through here because I did not want the post to be a long list of complaints but eventually, I decided it was the right thing to do. Why?

  1. Because I owe you transparency
  2. Because I uncovered a new form of green washing and I believe you should be aware of it.
  3. Because I am bored of the haters who think that content creators spend their days tanning in Bali and swimming in a pool full of money they don’t deserve.
  4. Because I want to share my learnings with other sustainable content creators, so they know they are not alone.
  5. Because I already acknowledged that you were part of my therapy group (oooopsie)

The Not So Ethical Practices Of Eco & Ethical Brands

So, let’s dig into the unethical business practices I encountered, that all together, broke my heart.  

I sent emails to brands that I took time to research and learn about, but those emails were left unanswered even though they were open multiple times.

I sent emails to offer brands the opportunity to work with me and was ignored. But as soon as I emailed to clarify their business practices and suggest that they would receive FREE communication (because I still wanted to share my findings with you) they would miraculously re-appear in less than 24hours.

I sent emails to inform brands that I had featured them on the blog and they loved it! Realising how happy they were, I offered to build a long-lasting paid collaboration and I ended up being ghosted.

I have also been contacted by brands that asked me to introduce their products to you for free. After I kindly declined and offered to discuss how we could work together on a paid basis, they would disappear.

Some rare ones got back to me offering a collaboration based on affiliate marketing. Affiliate marketing implies that the blogger prepares a piece of content around the brand, add a unique link and receive a commission (only) if you buy from the brand using the provided link. What brands do not tell is that:

  1. You must purchase within 7 days or I will not be entitled to my commission.
  2. If you discover the brand thanks to me but do not use my link, I do not get paid
  3. That if you visit another website in the middle of your shopping experience, I do not get paid either.

Do you see where I come from? There is NOWAY I am gonna pressure you to buy a new product that fast. As you know by now, I am all about being a mindful and conscious consumer. “Buy only what you need” is my mantra.

Moreover, do brands pay Facebook and Instagram only after people purchase? Hell no!

They run their ads, they pay loads of money to social platforms and if they did a good job, maybe they have a positive return on investment. How is my work less valuable than an algorithm? If brands want me to work for them, they should pay me upfront as well.

I have also been contacted by one brand to join their ambassador program. To be an ambassador, you are supposed to buy their products at discounted rates (lucky us), create content around your new toy and introduce it to your friends/audience. No, it’s not a joke. That brand basically asked me to pay to work for them! After exchanging with some of you, I noticed that it is a largely spread practice so please if some day you receive that type of “offer”, do not listen to your ego, do not fall for the so called Insta fame that they try to sell you. They ask for free labour! Instead, let me know and we’ll brainstorm the best way to make them stop together.

I have also been contacted by brands that agreed to pay me for my work and then asked me for way more than what we agreed on. Example: include a link towards a dog website while I agreed to promote a watch brand. After I politely explained them, I can’t do that and asked them to clarify they ghosted me and never paid me!

Wow it’s a full word page of complaints… so thanks for baring with me!

The Shift Towards My Existential Crisis

All those adventures made me question the niche I used to love and the reason why I work my ass off to see it flourish. Why would you call your brand ethical and brag that you pay ALL your partners fairly if your refuse to pay your marketers? Because that’s what brands expect from me: market their products and position them to you. How would it ever be ethical to get people to work for them, to create brand awareness for them, to bring them social proof and credibility and even to increase their sales directly without paying them? How is that different from modern slavery? How can a brand pride itself in treating people fairly if they ghost them to avoid paying them?

Exchanging with not ethical, ethical brands (ethical is meant to be written twice here) was the first crack in my heart. They hurt my ego, my self-confidence and my faith in the niche. But it went even deeper and my heart exploded because I started questioning literally everything around me.

I questioned business practices in general. Can a business ever be ethical when the bottom line remains being profitable?

I dig into my personal business practices. Was it right to introduce you to brands to make money even if they were (really) ethical?

I reconsidered my own beliefs around being an entrepreneur. Does it make sense to claim that I want to help people but make them pay for it? And if not, how could I ever run a successful business?

I rejected capitalism and the possibility to see green economies become a good thing.

As you can see, I asked myself many questions and I did at least that much internal work to forgive brands, to accept they were crap, to recover from my profound disgust and to heal from my heart break.

Luckily, it was not all back. I also received some constructive feedback. A brand openly said I was too small, and even though it’s a matter of perspective, it was a fair behaviour and I tried to handle the “rejection” with grace.

Another brand agreed to collaborate under fair and ethical conditions. I will disclose it very soon. They really brought light into my days and restored a part of my hopes in the sustainable niche. Maybe the “industry” is not all greenwashed and rotten after all?

A New Direction For Attitude Organic

Eventually, I used that crisis as an opportunity to reflect around the direction I want to take with Attitude Organic, how I will show up for my community, how I will do business in the future and how I want my life to look like. I learnt my lesson and grew which was the best possible outcome.

It took me more than 2 weeks to decide how I wanted to live my life. Let’s face it, my lifestyle in the past 6 months was very far from being my dream life (and I am not even talking about lockdown). Working 12 hours daily, stressing 17 hours a day and having anxiety episodes 7 times a week while making 0€ is not what I want! Even though I know I help people, I also wish to help myself.

I wanna be happy with what I do for a living AND have time to live.

SOOOOO, what you have been waiting for: the outcome! I concluded that I would keep the blog, my Instagram and Pinterest because I absolutely love exchanging with you on those platforms. I also need to revive my mailing list because I do not own social media platforms and they can disappear overnight. I don’t want to lose you and the relationship we built if that happens.

You can opt in here if you wanna preserve our relationship and even get to know me a bit more.

Speaking about our relationship, I received some DMs on Insta in the past weeks to ask if I was OK as I was pretty quiet. You guys glued my heart back together. My inner work brought the pieces back in place but honestly without your kindness and your support, I would not be whole again.

I love the community I built, and I am proud I brought you here with me around our sustainable mission. However, I am gonna completely change the intention behind what I post and the way I share with you. I will post content that is more personal, even more authentic and I will do that with less pressure, more love and following my intuitions.

Concretely, I will post less but freely! I can’t produce 8 blog posts a month, 1 Instagram post per day and 80 Pinterest pins a month all by myself anymore. (That represents something like 40-50 hours work a week). I absolutely love engaging with you and teaching you everything I know but I am afraid I will have to slow down a little and learn to be kinder to myself. I can’t beat myself up for not being hyperactive on all channels daily, can I?

I have good news though!

I am working on a new project to serve you better. That project will make the world a beautiful place when I launch it. It also feels more aligned with my mission to help you be more sustainable and my vision of a dream life and brighter future.

So, I will no more waste time prospecting brands that call themselves ethical but are disappointing. I will not allow them to catch your attention and lie to you about their practices. I will use that spare time to work on a new project that will change your life, mine, and the future of the sustainable niche for the best. I will also keep Attitude Organic’s community alive and nourish it with content that is helpful, engaged and aligned with my truth. I will run it in a way that is sustainable to me (pun intended).

If you were used to my daily posts, I thank you in advance for your patience, your understanding, and your kindness. I really hope that this new format will work for you too because I cannot wait to see you progressing towards a lifestyle that is even more conscious and mindful by my side.

Finally, that post is very vulnerable so I hope it will be well received. Thank you for everything and please know that I value your support infinitely.

A Few More Things

As I said at the beginning, that post was meant to be introspective, therapeutic and a vehicle to express why I was not showing up for you anymore. As a result, it’s not very actionable but don’t worry, I will review it and write a few other posts that you, brands and other bloggers will be able to use to improve the way they interact with other parties.

If you are a brand, I hope that this article is an invitation to review your business practices as well as your relationships with bloggers and influencers. I also wanna drop here that of course I am still open to PAID opportunities where both parties will respect and treat each other’s fairly. If you are a brand that is truly and genuinely helping people to build a better world for themselves, all other creatures, and the generations to come, I cannot wait to hear from you. You may contact me at contact.attitude.organic@gmail.com