Ethical Influencing: Why Bloggers Need To Do Better

Fur, tea that gives you the shits, toothpaste that rots your teeth, apps that don't protect against STIs - the list of endorsements from bloggers and 'influencers' that are or could be potentially harmful is growing.

But is it time for influencers to be more careful about what they're using their influence to sell?

Ethical blogging flatlay

It's fairly obvious that the recent scandal over an Instagrammer promoting real fur on their page is what has inspired this article.

Said, 'Grammer' or 'Influencer' (not using the word blogger as that involves writing text longer than an affiliate link) has come under fire for not only posting a photo where she is wearing a real fur coat but then also deleting all comments protesting her choice and then going on to post further photos wearing real fur.

The sad thing is that not only did she choose to wear fur and take a photo - it's that over 20,000 people have liked the photo, with hundreds commenting on how much they love the same jacket.

Influencers have influence. As wanky as the moniker is, they do. So when they pose like Kylie Jenner and show off their gorgeously aspirational lives, their followers are influenced to copy them.

Ethical blogging

It IS an influencer's responsibility to think about the ethics of whatever they are promoting. It IS their responsibility to think about what message they are sending their often impressionable audience. It IS their responsibility to ACTIVELY not promote harmful products, like real fur.

In 2017, WHY would you accept to promote such an item? When there are plenty of other options out there?

But it's not just fur that's the problem.

Not long ago, there was a controversy over a family planning app that was being touted as 'contraception' in paid for ads by bloggers.

Whilst some were enraged over the terminology, others were wondering  why anyone would promote such a thing. Especially when their audience was thought to be in their early 20s and not necessarily the target market for a family planning app.

With the promotion of this sponsorship, my worries didn't lie with the 'is it or isn't it contraception' question, more that some of the influencers had taken the street-wiseness of their audience for granted.

Whilst some of their audience, with their head screwed on (like me) saw the ad and thought, 'ooh I might check this out because FUCK THE PILL and I'm clean in the downstairs department', others may have taken the 'contraception' word for granted, downloaded the app, sucked on the thermometer and then sucked on a random dick without any further thought to STIs.

The controversy, this time, could've been avoided with a little bit more awareness raising around the purpose of the app and a little bit more thought towards their influence of their audiences.

And what about the slew of other questionable products being touted across all platforms?

We only have to blink through one day's scroll of Instagram to be inundated with Tummy Flattening Tea that only slims you down by making you shit yourself.

Or a face-mask that is so harmful for your skin that it effectively rips it off as you peel it off?

Or those toothpastes that have been proven to make your teeth MORE sensitive whilst not even offering a shade or two whiter?

What is the influencer's thought process here?

Are they now so far removed from their audiences, that they don't even care that the products they promote can be actively harmful, as long as they can make a quick pay check?

Am I being unfair though?

For every influencer that is anti-fur, could they be pro MAC or companies that test on animals?

There are certainly bloggers who were anti-contraception app but pro designer leather handbag.

So where is the line drawn? Can we be ethical about fur but turn our heads to the side when selecting our newest perfume?

Ethical blogging

Products tested on animals, leather accessories, clothes made by children for 8p an hour in sweat shops.

These are all things often unwittingly promoted by influencers who love to show off what they've bought, review what they've been given or share what they're favouriting at the moment.

So am I (hypocritically) saying that all bloggers need to be 100% ethical at all times?

No. Because I know this isn't realistic.

Whilst we can control our own ethics, we can't control other people's.

Whilst we know that promoting real fur is abhorrently wrong, we can't force other people to see things in the same way.

And whilst we would never promote fur, can we really say we'd never promote a fast food restaurant or our latest Primark buy?

So what can we do?

Develop Our Own Code of Ethics

I woke up one day and wanted to be a totally cruelty free, ethical, vegan at the click of my fingers. I'd watched so much Cowspiracy, Blue Planet and What The Health? to think that living my life the way I was living it was anywhere near 'right'.

But I just couldn't do it. I couldn't give up everything - the Nando's, the Starbucks takeaway cups or the ASOS spends.

Whilst I had all of the tools to lead a completely ethical life, I had none of the will-power or execution. And I know it's a shitty, weak effort BUT I DID DECIDE TO MAKE SOME CHANGES.

For example - I drastically cut down my meat intake, I drastically increased my recycling efforts and I began donating all of my old belongings to women's shelters rather than throwing them out.

I also started to make the switch to cruelty-free beauty products and I haven't bought a product tested on animals since February (or my last Jo Malone splurge).

I decided that whilst I'm unable to do it all, that it shouldn't be my excuse to do nothing at all.

So I decided on the causes I could get behind and to support them. They include;

  • Special Needs Education and Awareness
  • No Leather
  • Cruelty Free Make Up (however sometimes I fuck up because I haven't dug deep enough into a company's practise which I endeavour to do more of)
  • Unfollowing all influencers with shitty ethics

Perhaps your causes could be; veganism, recycling, anti Lena Dunham, LGBTQIA+ or Cancer Awareness - whatever you are most passionate about.

And then once you have your causes SHOUT ABOUT THEM.

Unfollow those who go directly against your ethics.

Raise awareness for your issues through your own blog and platforms - hey if one influencer, with a million followers wants to be 'pro-fur' then why don't you and a million others use your platform to be 'anti-fur'?

Retweet and share posts from people who ARE smashing the ethical life. When they raise awareness about topics you want to get behind but aren't quite the expert on yet, promote their words until you find your own.

You're making a start to live a more ethical life - GET YOU

Finally - If You're An Influencer, How Can You Do Better?

Next time an 'exciting email' lands in your inbox, perhaps ask yourself a few of these questions:

  • Are my audience going to genuinely like this product?
  • Can it kill or potentially harm them?
  • Has someone (even an animal) been killed or harmed in the making of this product?
  • Is it potentially dangerous to consume or use?
  • Do I really need the fucking money that much?
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21 Comments

  1. November 21, 2017 / 8:32 am

    This is great Vix, excellent to promote a “we can’t do it all but there’s not bloody harm in doing some” approach to ethical living. Trying some small swaps myself and hoping to incrementally be a better/more ethical person over the next few years!

  2. November 21, 2017 / 8:53 am

    Love this! I agree that influencers need to take some respnsibility!

  3. November 21, 2017 / 10:37 am

    Yes to all this. I abandoned my hard-core animal rights activist past but I still believe in the importance of cruelty free products and eating less meat (I only eat meat once a week and even then it’s usually chicken or fish).
    The fur thing really bugs me as it’s so unnecessary, there are so many fantastic alternatives out there. It’s just not like we’re living in the Arctic circle where it might be more justified if we were also Native people.

  4. November 21, 2017 / 10:48 am

    Absolutely, I think this definitely needs to be said. Like you acknowledge it’s difficult (or perhaps impossible) to be 100% ethical all the time, but it’s important to have some kind of personal code and really consider what you’re promoting. I’ve unfollowed a few bloggers/instagrammers where I felt like they were just CONSTANTLY advertising things – even if the individual products themselves weren’t horrendously bad, I find it hard to get behind the constant encouragement to buy shit you don’t need.

  5. November 21, 2017 / 10:53 am

    This is an awesome post, Vix. It can be hard to make sense of what we’re supposed to- or not supposed to- buy into, particularly when it feels like swimming upstream against a tide of influencer marketing. You’re right in that we should start with the causes closest to our hearts- tackle something you feel passionately about and the rest will follow.

  6. November 21, 2017 / 11:25 am

    Yes yeeeeeeeees Vix this is absolutely GREAT. Ethics in blogging / ‘influencing’ needs to be chatted about far more often. I am so saddened to see the recently outreach promoting real fur – it is shocking. I definitely analyse each brand that approach me – e.g turning down Nestle as their ethics is an absolute shit storm. I am veggie going on vegan, but there is definitely more I can do in terms of plastic / recycling (especially after watching the heart breaking Blue Planet episode). Thank you for these pointers lady. Hope you are doing well x

    http://www.immymay.com

  7. November 21, 2017 / 11:32 am

    This is a really good post Vix! The whole fur coat thing got me thinking – At first I was outraged but then I thought ‘My shoes are leather, I eat meat and I own a couple of MAC products….Does that make me a big fat hypocrite?’. And the truth is that yes it probably does. I think the whole debacle was a bit of a wake up call for a lot of bloggers and I think a few of us (myself included) are going to be trying a lot harder to be more ethical overall – I’m planning on going CF, reducing my meat consumption and being more mindful of my plastic use.

    Jess xx
    alrightblondie.com

  8. November 21, 2017 / 11:37 am

    I love important blog posts like this. Not everyone is going to agree about everything or about what is ethical so we all just need to decide what we stand for and then bloody well stand for it. We should definitely not lose our morals for the sake of a few quid.

    Steph x
    http://www.wanderlustpulse.com

  9. November 21, 2017 / 1:03 pm

    I wholeheartedly agree with this post Vix. And even small swaps make a huge difference. Example, If everyone in the US did a meat free Monday (literally just 1 day a week!) the US would reduce greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to 1.2 million tons of CO2, as much as produced by all of France. I reduced my meat and animal product consumption gradually over the years and have been eating a vegan diet over the past 6 months. But by no means do I think that a vegan diet works for everyone. It’s the small changes that really add up.

    What upset me most about the fur controversy is that there’s no reason in this day and age to buy fur. There are some absolutely brilliant faux alternatives out there. And for people who worry that they are hypocrites because they eat meat but are outraged by the fur, I think the difference is that fur is an absolute luxury. There’s absolutely zero reason why you’d need to wear real fur. And if you do have an innate obsession with real fur, why not by a vintage piece that’s sitting in a charity shop somewhere so that no new animal needs to die?

    But influencers do need to be better. I’m not sure any of us are exempt. (And don’t get me started with those f*&%ing teas. I have blogged about being treated for an eating disorder and when I do in the days afterwards I’m always inundated with weight-loss tea emails)

  10. November 21, 2017 / 3:46 pm

    Such a great post! I especially agree with the sentiment that doing something is better than nothing – it can be SO easy to get sucked into the black hole of thinking that there’s nothing you can do because you can’t do it all, but you absolutely can! Everything counts, and if everyone just did their bit, the world would be so much better already. xx

    Laura // Middle of Adventure

  11. November 21, 2017 / 4:50 pm

    Yes yes yes yes yes.

    I was naive enough to think that real fur wasn’t being sold any more, I thought it was illegal! I’m very surprised that anyone would endorse that. Funnily enough I’d never actually heard of that particular influencer until shit went down the other day. It’s also not difficult at all to get faux-fur or faux-leather bags/jackets/shoes, so I don’t understand why real leather etc is even purchased – there’s no need for it. It’s also pretty grim to be walking around wearing a dead animal IMO.

    I think it’s great that you’ve come up with a list of causes that you care about, I’d thoroughly encourage other bloggers to do the same!

    Personally, I care a lot about recycling, caring for the planet by reducing CO2 emissions etc, and helping the homeless, among other causes of course. I’ve been reducing my products to limit waste, and support cruelty-free brands. My favourite blog posts to write are ethical ones that feature charities, and ways to help others / the planet. Unfortunately they usually get the least engagement, but people like you and Laila have been inspiring me to keep pushing it.

    Hope you’re well,
    Emily x

  12. November 21, 2017 / 8:07 pm

    Yeeeeeesssssss.

    I’m obsessed with this post. Your ethics are so on point. I love how you talk about not having to be the perfect person either! I’m a vegan, but I still eat the vegan options at chain restuarants, and vegan Ben and Jerry’s (according to some that’s like a cardinal sin).

    I often unfollow influencers who are promoting silly shite, or just making stupid arguments for the sake of it like not redirecting the issue and stuff

    Love this!

    Ysabelle x
    http://www.thegrahamsmiths.com

  13. November 21, 2017 / 10:25 pm

    I love this post! I blooming love it! I am a non meat eater, have been since I was 14, yet I do have leather handbags and shoes. I totally admit I haven’t got all my ducks lines up and I do feel guilt over it. I have made effort to be more conscious of the brands I buy from, and my last make up purchases have been from cruelty free brands. Im trying. I was upset that the “influencer” that sparked all this was promoting fur, she isn’t someone I follow or have intention of following, but I know she has a huge following so should be more accountable for her actions. I get mad that they don’t answer to the negative. I love the idea of setting causes that are important to me, and you have inspired me to follow suit

  14. November 22, 2017 / 9:11 pm

    Completely agree with this post. Nobody can do it all, all the time, but there’s no harm in making some improvements! I unfollowed said influencer after they promoted real fur as it turns my stomach – why is there a need for real fur anyway when faux fur looks beautiful? Completely unnecessary.

    I’m quite conscious of takeout coffee cups as they’re not easily recyclable, so am looking into getting a keepcup for when I don’t have time to sit in a coffee shop to try and stop myself from adding to the problem. It seems so small, but like you say, what we can realistically do, we should definitely do!

    Really thought provoking, I love the way you write!

    Paige – pagetwentyfour.co.uk

  15. November 23, 2017 / 3:24 pm

    I agree with this post, I do agree that influencers need to take responsibility and be aware of what they post online. Having a code of ethics would be great practice.

    Chichi
    chichiwrites.com

  16. November 25, 2017 / 8:15 pm

    Such a brilliant post, and I think the conversations that influencer has sparked have been so interesting! It’s not about being 100% hippy, but making better ethical choices, and taking one step at a time to be more conscious of what we’re consuming. If everyone did that, we’d see the benefits enormously. Alice xxx

    http://www.woodenwindowsills.co.uk

  17. Erin
    November 26, 2017 / 2:16 pm

    Haha I LOVE this post, its such a grey area, and so many influencers are ok with some but dead set against the rest, I believe as long as they are crystal clear about the realistic of the product and if they would actually part with their own money to buy it, and genuinely like it then I am ok with it – even if I disagree. I was FURIOUS with the Natural Cycles app, the way it was being sold was SO misleading, and maybe because I had a whoopsie on the pill that caused my son, I just don’t – and cannot agree with it at all for anyone who doesn’t actually want to get pregnant or end up with an STI. – but that aside ethically its a hard one, everyone has different beliefs, I don’t agree with the fur, but somehow I am ok with buying MAC, Primark etc, so maybe I’m wrong? What I firmly disagree with is the influencers deleting comments from people who disagree with them, trying to hide the fact people have a different opinion, to influence others that it is totally OK – everyone is ok with it and saying how nice it is. That to me is wrong, so wrong. And I think they should be making themselves so clear. But meh, sorry for ranting all over your comments !

    Erin || MakeErinOver

  18. November 26, 2017 / 9:13 pm

    This is such an amazing post Vix! Sometimes it feels like there are so many bloggers out there who don’t care about what they buy and the way they promote them. It was almost an eye opener when you said that you sometime mess up with beauty choices I think this needs to be shown more. People will tear you down for a single mistake if you didn’t realise a company tested on animals or whatnot but I think appreciating that fact people are trying to do something better for the planet often goes without endeavour. I am by no means the perfect ethical blogger or the worlds best vegan but reducing is the key it’s really not something you can do over night. This post was so inspirational like you and it’s brilliant to see influencers like yourself putting the message out there ❤️ Hope my comment made sense! Running on very little sleep so please excuse any typos! Have a wonderful week xxx

  19. November 27, 2017 / 1:16 am

    This is great, Vix! I think influencers would be great voices to advocate for a more ethical life. I just question why it’s always fur so many people care about. I’m so happy that you also talk about other products as well to make people aware of more ways to live ethically 🙂

    http://www.malinhanssen.com

  20. December 5, 2017 / 11:50 am

    Love this! Can’t stand people promoting MAC. People can do what they want, it’s just upsetting. If these influencers when and saw how their makeup was made or their fur coats they wouldn’t promote them. ( I hope)

    Love this post.

    Thankyou

    Molly

    http://www.themollyellis.com

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