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Is hashtag activism powerful or pointless? Lisa Corneliusson weighs in on the debate.

There’s a lot of corporate hashtag activism going on lately.

What do you think of hashtag activism in general? Is it positive in the sense that it introduces an issue to people otherwise not engaged at all? Or, does it lower the bar to really engage in an issue and hence lower the impact? Is there enough connection between online activism and real-world results, are there long-term goals involved with launching a hashtag, and can marketing money be better spent?

Awareness–which is usually the ambition of a hashtag–is indeed hard to measure (the best example I know of a hashtag that has really brought awareness is #BringBackOurGirls). But despite this “first kiss” potential of a hashtag, I think there are other positive aspects in the togetherness of a #.

Like when it offers opportunities for participants to join a conversation.
#BlackLivesMatter

And when it manages to create a sense of unity for people in devastating times.
#JeSuisCharlie

No doubt, the hashtag has recently been taken hostage by the creatives at marketing and pr agencies. In the fashion industry, an increasing number of brands choose to launch hashtag campaigns encouraging the consumer to give their best sustainability tips. Sometimes fun and functional, and sometimes a very easy way out of not focusing on one’s own production processes. (And yes, Make it last is also sometimes to blame and shame here.)

I’m trying to figure out when I follow a hashtag. It’s either when there’s a specific event going on and the best real-life way to follow it is via a hashtag. Or, when there’s a real conversation going on and getting richer by the hashtag.
I’m also thinking about when I think a hashtag campaign is a good one. Mostly, it is when the hashtag is a part of a bigger initiative, possibly like a gathering tool.

One good example from my little window of the world is the #whomademyclothes campaign, launched by Fashion Revolution. It’s activated yearly on the day of the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh, 24 April, and it encourages participants to take selfies showing the label on their clothes and ask the brand #whomademyclothes. It’s had some major impact when it comes to Google hits. Then, some brands answer, most don’t. But either way, the campaign, initiated by senior fashion professionals, has led to collaborations with e.g. the European Union and the Fair Trade Advocacy Office in Brussels. It’s team also work across different industries to make their voice heard–only this month, they will travel across five UK universities to galvanise student support over pressing issues regarding sustainable practices in the fashion industry. (Read more about the campaign here.)

One of the founders of Fashion Revolution is Orsola de Castro and she’s become one of my role models since I started learning more about sustainable fashion. Look her up!

Emma and I joined another hashtag campaign this week. By signing/hashtagging #EarthStatement, we support a call from scientists to world leaders to act on eight essential elements to be included in the global climate change agreement. This agreement will be on the agenda at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris in December (“COP21”), which is an event that we’ll write more about here on Make it last.

And oh, there’s one more use of the hashtag that I really like… It’s whenever Jimmy Fallon says it. Yes I’m indeed that old. Good night.


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