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What Consumers Really Think About Sustainability

In a recent article by Sarah Willersdorf and Robbin Mitchell, at Business of fashion (BOF) look at 'Consumers’ mixed signals on sustainability and how those pose tough but surmountable obstacles for fashion brands'

Image: Unsplash / Sebastian Unrau

Consumer demand for sustainability is at an all-time high and isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. A recent survey of American consumers by Boston Consulting Group found that 75 percent view sustainability as “important” or “very important” with more than one-third reporting they have at some point switched from their preferred brand to a more environmentally friendly alternative. And far from diminishing amid the pandemic, environmental concern is actually on the rise. Seventy percent of respondents are now more aware that our climate is affected by human activity than they were before the crisis began.

But if shoppers are increasingly cognisant of the ecological costs of their purchases, rising to the challenge is easier said than done for the brands targeting them.

Despite growing consumer demand for sustainable goods, it’s not always clear what consumers are actually demanding. Sustainability remains a nebulous concept that means different things to different people and continues to shift as a priority over time. Many consumers struggle to identify what makes a brand or product sustainable to begin with. Some are unwilling to pay a higher price.

"Sustainability matters to consumers, but not at a premium."

Fashion companies have their work cut out for them. They must address an increasing (albeit uneven) demand for sustainability, while also delivering products their customers want to buy. In order to be successful, brands will have to better understand what matters most to consumers, and just as importantly, empower and incentivise them to shop sustainably.

What Is Sustainability Anyway?

This is a seemingly simple but rather complex question whose answer lies in the eyes of the consumer, whose own interpretation might differ from her peers and will likely evolve over time.

Mounting fears of global warming — and, more recently, the pandemic — are contributing to the growing demand for sustainable products. For example, the past few years have brought an increased public interest in water conservation and climate impact. These concerns now receive as much attention as recycling and waste reduction, long-time hallmarks in the broader conversation on safeguarding the environment.

And though consumers worldwide most commonly define sustainability in terms of materials usage and production processes, from there, the disparity in their views is striking. Definitions vary across product categories and market segments, particularly by age and nationality.

Read the full article HERE





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