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5 ways consumers want retailers to drive online sales of sustainable fashion

New research suggests over half (52 per cent) 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. 29 per cent of these consumers say they will pay more for sustainably-made versions of the same items.

And despite many clothing manufacturers and retailers already taking steps to become more sustainable, 45 per cent 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 was commissioned by Nosto and  reveals that many people who want greater sustainability in fashion are acting on their principles by modifying their own behaviour. Jim Lofgren, Nosto’s CEO, explains:

“Of those that want a more sustainable fashion industry, 57 per cent say they try to keep clothes for longer because it’s better for the environment – among women this rises to 60 per cent, while it’s 52 per cent for men. These numbers 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.

No. 1 was ‘Reduce the amount of packaging’ (ticked by 75 per cent of consumers who want greater sustainability in the industry). Second came‘Provide fair pay and good working conditions’ (74 per cent), followed by ‘Use renewable and recyclable materials’ (73 per cent); ‘Make clothes that are designed to last longer’ (71 per cent); and ‘Use fewer resources e.g. power/water/materials’ (64 per cent).

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

● Offer discounts on clothing ranges that are more sustainable(62 per cent)

● Do more to advertise and promote clothing that is made in sustainable ways (62 per cent)

● Allow online shoppers to trade-in their used clothes for discounts on new items (54 per cent)

● Automatically show people more sustainable alternatives to the items they are viewing online (43 per cent)

“Retailers are an important part of solving fashion’s sustainability challenge,” said Lofgren. “They can support the industry by making it easier and simpler for shoppers to make sustainable choices. 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 per cent of consumers we questioned agreed that they generally have a good idea what fashion brands mean when they say they are committed to sustainability”.

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