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The rise of responsible business: Law of Diffusion of innovation

In this article, ethical brand consultant Sarah Greenaway considers the role of innovation and sustainability in the future of fashion business.

Do you know someone who queued all night to be one of the first people to have an iPhone? Or bought an electric car even though the technology still has flaws?

Download the ‘Law of Diffusion’ model as a PDF

Innovative ideas and products are adopted in very different ways and at very different rates. Some people love to try new things and can’t wait to be the first amongst friends to own a new gadget, or try something new. Others would rather wait until others have tried and tested new things so they can be sure it’s a worthwhile investment, and others just hate anything that requires them to do things differently.

The ‘Law of Diffusion’ model shows that at a macro level, people can be classified according to their willingness to adopt newness and innovation. If you are familiar with the product lifecycle curve you will see that the two are based on the same founding principles.

Maloney’s 16% rule refers to crossing ‘the chasm’ – the point when a product, trend, idea or market transitions from being in the Innovator/Early adopter stage to the Early Majority stage. This requires a market penetration of between 15-20%.

Considerable momentum is required for a product, service, idea or market to make this transition across the chasm, and this is why so many start-ups and new ideas fall at the first hurdle.

As fashion businesses aiming to work in a sustainable way we are all natural innovators and early adopters, and our businesses most certainly occupy this territory. Until recently sustainable business was truly niche and really lacked in critical mass. However in the last few years, thanks to many determined and committed people and organisations, sustainability has rapidly gained momentum and today the world of sustainable business, from start-ups to giant corporates, is poised to make the transition across the chasm.

There are multiple reasons for this momentum, including the growing dissatisfaction with the corporate capitalism model as it stands today; a rise in awareness of personal responsibility impact and influence; growing interest in personal values; and of course, the power of the internet to make global connections and tell global stories.

Here are some of the things that you can do to ensure that your business is a part of the new paradigm, where sustainability is crucial to the future of fashion business:

Connect and support

Use social media to connect widely with like-minded businesses, trade organisations, NGOs, consumer groups and influencers. Support them all by helping to share messages and information. Get out and meet likeminded people – network in person and online constantly.

Reveal and educate

Talk to your customers about the ethical and sustainability challenges you face and how you resolve them. Be bold in revealing the difficulties and problems in your industry, but always temper the bad news with good news about how you are working towards change, and the actions they can take to make a difference. Be outspoken if it fits with your values, or quietly and consistently provide information to improve people’s understanding of the issues if this is more your style.

Ensure your business lives your brand and business values

Be unrelenting in your focus on integrity. Be sure that your business values shine through in everything you do so that customers are left in no doubt about your beliefs and intent. They will buy into your business because your values resonate with theirs, and if your products meet their needs they will choose your brand over others because of your values.

Pay it forward

We are all operating in a demanding market – support from one another is essential in order to maintain momentum and morale when it comes to working in a sustainable way – share learning, knowledge, and inspiration and it will come back to you in abundance.

© Mysource Ltd
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How to Build a Sustainable Fashion Business

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