Fashion blogger Susie Lau said there are still negative connotations about influencers. MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP

According to research conducted by Unilever, a staggering 84 per cent of content creators on social media feel that they have to refrain from posting about sustainability.

The study, which questioned 232 global content creators across platforms including YouTube, TikTok and Instagram, found that while 76 per cent of 'influencers' want to speak about climate issues on their social platform, more than a third (38%) are afraid to do so.

Critics have slammed the almost 40 per cent of content creators for being afraid of "greenwashing" their large number of followers.

The criticism comes after a separate Unilever study found that a staggering 78 per cent of content consumers reported that social media influencers had the biggest impact on their sustainability choices.

In regard to getting advice on green choices online, the same investigation found that more than 80 per cent (83%) of the consumers questioned, think that both Instagram and TikTok are useful sources.

With more than 80 per cent of content consumers favouring influencers for green advice, it has been estimated that the number of people using social media for sustainable information, outnumbers those who turn to TV, news and governmental campaigns.

Rebecca Marmot, Unilever's Chief Sustainability Officer, acknowledged: "We know that sustainability content on social media has the potential to drive more sustainable behaviours, with over three-quarters of consumers claiming influencers have the biggest impact on their green choices today. But it needs to be informative and meaningful content."

Out of the 232 global content creators who were polled, many reported that, in addition to 'greenwashing' fears, they felt that they were not educated on sustainability enough to produce legitimate advice.

Others also said that they were afraid of being 'cancelled' by their followers for being involved in controversial climate issues.

Cancel culture has become a trend that calls to boycott a person with a large following on social media whose behaviour has been perceived as wrong.

The fear of being 'cancelled' by followers is "because many of them rely on sponsorship for a living," according to Kai.

For the influencers that choose to promote a sustainable lifestyle, trends that de-influence food waste chefs and fast-fashion hauls have been increasing.

A number of content creators have also been promoting low-carbon lifestyles, which has since been dubbed 'green-led creator content'.

The de-influencing trend sets out to encourage more conscious consumption.

According to Brennan Kai, who creates plant-based and sustainable lifestyle content for more than 12,000 followers, "de-influencing, at its core, is a push for more minimalist principles to become mainstream".

"It's simply a rebranding of the principles we've been advocating for since day one. Encouraging people to simply take a hard look at their consumption habits and be more mindful in their day-to-day lives is one of the most effective ways to advocate for a liveable planet," she added.

Kai called the trend a way of "getting influencers back to where they started", noting that "most influencers didn't start out to become a brand or a driver of consumption; they started out because they had something to say, they had a personality and they built a community around that – the paid posts come later".

The fear of being 'cancelled' by followers is "because many of them rely on sponsorship for a living", according to Kai.

To address the fears of 'greenwashing', in a coalition of partners including sustainability specialists from Count Us In, Unilever is calling on brands and technology companies to collaborate with them to assist content creators with delivering more sustainable content on social platforms.

Unilever has also announced that it is currently developing a framework that will provide content creators with guidelines to ensure that the advice given to their followers is in line with the latest climate science reports.