5 areas retailers must address to become more sustainable - Just Style
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5 areas retailers must address to become more sustainable

By Giacomo Lee 07 Jun 2019 (Last Updated June 7th, 2019 14:30)

5 areas retailers must address to become more sustainable

More than half of consumers in the UK and US want the fashion industry to become more sustainable with calls for reduced packaging and fair pay for workers among their top demands. 

According to a survey commissioned by e-commerce personalisation and retail AI platform Nosto, 52% of shoppers would like to see a more sustainable sector, but only 29% of these are prepared to pay more for sustainably-made versions of the same items.

And despite many clothing manufacturers and retailers already taking steps to become more sustainable, the message is not getting through to the public. 45% of the 2,000 consumers who were polled agree that it is difficult to know which fashion brands are really committed to sustainability.

The survey found that many people who want greater sustainability in fashion are acting on their principles by modifying their own behaviour, says Nosto CEO Jim Lofgren.

“Of those that want a more sustainable fashion industry, 57% say they try to keep clothes for longer because it’s better for the environment – among women this rises to 60%, while it’s 52% for men,” he explains. “Although the research reveals many people aren’t willing to pay extra for sustainability, these numbers do underline the strength of feeling on the issue.”

Nosto’s survey identifies five individual areas that consumers consider important for fashion companies to address in order to be more sustainable.

  • ‘Reduce the amount of packaging’ was ticked by 75% of consumers who want greater sustainability in the industry;
  • ‘Provide fair pay and good working conditions’ was selected by 74%;
  • ‘Use renewable and recyclable materials’ by 73%;
  • ‘Make clothes that are designed to last longer’ by 71%; and
  • ‘Use fewer resources e.g. power/water/materials’ by 64%.

Interestingly, the call for more sustainability in fashion is present in broadly similar numbers across the generations. The research suggests 56% of 18-24 year olds (Generation Z) want the fashion industry to be more sustainable, 51% of 25-34 year olds (Millennials) and roughly half in the other age groups, including 55% of 35-44 year olds, 47% of 45-54 year olds and 50% of those over 64.

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

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

“Retailers are an important part of solving the sustainability challenge,” said Lofgren. “They can support the industry by making it easier and simpler for shoppers to make sustainable choices.”

And the voices behind the sustainability issue are only going to get louder, he added.

“Although brands are aware that consumers are increasingly concerned about sustainability in the fashion industry, they need to be more transparent and get better at communicating how they’re addressing it. For example, only 23% of consumers we questioned agreed that they generally have a good idea what fashion brands mean when they say they are committed to sustainability”.