It’s time for sustainability to get spiritual

type - big idea
Big Idea
category - society
category - sustainability
sector - fashion
sector - retail
CogDis is an ethical consultancy with spirituality and imperfection at its core. Here’s how its founders are guiding brands on their quest for better

What’s the concept behind CogDis?

Florence Huntington-Whitely: The concept of CogDis came about through a frustration where we all were in the [fashion] workplace. Our personal values weren't aligned with our work. So, the core of CogDis is aligning internal purpose with external output. We want to work with companies that just want to make a change, and that's the bottom line. We don't have a dream brand or talent that we want to work with, because it has to come down to intention.

As a creative ethics consultancy, what type of services are you offering brands?

Florence: We’ve split our services into three pillars: educate, create and facilitate. We meet brands where they are on their journey.

Educate is the first pillar to indicate where we need to help. This could be research, or team alignment. Then we create. This could be marketing campaigns or real-life events. Lastly, we facilitate. One of our values is collaboration over competition ­– people want to impact the world, and that that's going to happen quicker if we come together. I've come from a background of companies being pitted against each other for market share, and we want to dismantle that with our networks and partnerships.

You all describe experiencing cognitive dissonance while working in the fashion industry. Will your approach aim to overcome this disassociation or leverage it for good?

Claire Yurika Davis: Before CogDis, I felt a lot of cognitive dissonance in running my brand Hanger. I was championed as a sustainability label, but I was navigating this internal tension between not being perfect and needing to speak because the space needed different voices. But you don't have to be perfect to move forward. The idea of perfection is such a colonial toxic attitude. In sustainability, we must be at home with hypocrisy and imperfection. Know what you're good at; communicate that. Then let’s draw a roadmap. We have to celebrate positive action, and not wait until the finish line, because it may be in 60 years.


Published by:

4 August 2021

Author: Holly Friend

Image: CogDis



How do you think the pandemic has transformed attitudes towards sustainability?

Faith Robinson: In our society, the emotional side of sustainability has been sidelined – the fear about climate change, the outrage about social injustice. There’s never been space in the industry to acknowledge how that feels. But the Covid lockdown has made space in our lives physically and emotionally to hold the grief or fear, or even excitement and joy. The results of our ‎Manifesting Utopia study showed that finding a sense of spirituality has become more important to the lives of 71% of Virtue Seekers in the past year. That’s why the time is now for creatives like us to come together.

Spirituality has historically been intrinsic to sustainability, particularly among Indigenous communities. How are you introducing it to brands in a way that is both accessible and culturally sensitive?

Claire: Indigenous cultures have always had spiritual practices because it's a way of life. In our societies, spirituality is either something you recognise or ignore. It isn’t owned by anybody; it’s a language, you either know how to speak or you don't. When it comes to brands, it depends on their level because a lot of people are scared of spirituality. But at the end of the day, it’s about human connection. They’re probably using in some way, just unconsciously. What we're doing is activating it.

You avoid the term consumers in favour of 'virtue seekers'. Why is this change in language necessary to further the sustainability movement?

Florence: I come from a brand background where the teams were split into men's, women's, this sport and that sport. And I thought: I buy these products, but I don't fit anywhere in your consumer profile. It’s so one dimensional, calling people consumers, when people do so much more than consume. To shift away from this consumer narrative, we went back to this idea of a sliding scale and came up with the term Virtue Seeker. You're either a static, steady or super seeker. We truly believe that everyone is trying to do something for the greater good – let's not see them as buying machines. It all comes back to unlearning to relearn.

‘In our society, the emotional side of sustainability has been sidelined’

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