Customers demand sustainable fashion, but won’t pay extra for it

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Customers’ increasing demands for sustainable fashion put financial pressure on merchants’ businesses as the majority of shoppers refuse to pay extra to fund ‘green’ initiatives, says new research by Nosto.

The survey polled 1,000 consumers, each in the US and UK market in April 2019. The analysis aimed to understand shoppers’ attitudes towards sustainable fashion.

According to the report, more than half (52%) of the polled consumers want the fashion industry to become more sustainable. Shoppers are urging businesses to reduce plastic packaging and implement fair pay for fashion workforce. However, only 29% of these shoppers are willing to pay extra for sustainably-made versions of the same items.

‘It’s difficult to know which sellers are sustainable’

Despite many sellers already taking steps to become more sustainable, the message is not getting through to the public. Less than half (45%) of the respondents say that it’s challenging to know which fashion merchants are committed to sustainable retailing.

Top five sustainability concerns

Sellers need first to identify key areas to address the environmental footprint. The report says that the five vital areas cited by consumers are:

  1. Reducing the amount of packaging (75%)
  2. Providing fair pay and good working conditions (74%)
  3. Using renewable and recyclable materials (73%)
  4. Making clothes that are designed to last longer (71%)
  5. Using fewer resources such as power, water and materials (64%)

Demographic differences

The call for sustainability is present across the generations. However, Generation Z (18-24-year-olds) is the biggest (56%) advocate for sustainable fashion. This is possible due to the increasing exposure of the age group to the climate change crisis. A lesser percentage (51%) of Millennials (25-34-year-olds) also call for eco-friendly changes in the industry. This is followed by a larger percentage (55%) of 35-44-year-olds and 50% of those over 64.

Solving the sustainability issue

Those in favour of greater sustainability also pointed to the following actions sellers can take to encourage shoppers to buy clothes that are more sustainable when shopping online:

  1. Clearly label clothes that are made in sustainable ways (74%)
  2. Offer discounts on clothing ranges that are more sustainable (62%
  3. Do more to advertise and promote clothing that is made in sustainable ways (62%)
  4. Allow online shoppers to trade-in their used clothes for discounts on new items (54%)
  5. Automatically show people more sustainable alternatives to the items they are viewing online (43%)

Sellers have the power to solve the impact of unsustainable fashion on the environment. They can advocate for ‘greener’ fashion by leading an example of an eco-friendly retailing. This will make it easier and accessible for shoppers to make sustainable choices.


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