Study: Fashion Facing Onslaught Of Sustainability Demands

Stella McCartney's vegan clothing

Many people are already concerned about the environmental impact of the clothes they wear. But new research from Bain & Co. says those numbers are set to snowball, creating new levels of demand and expectations for sustainability.

Its study finds 65% of apparel consumers currently say they care about the environment, but just 15% routinely make buying decisions that lower their impact on the environment. Bain analysis shows this proportion will likely climb to 50%, creating challenges and opportunities many companies aren’t ready for.

The research, done in partnership with textile experts at WWF Italy, also outlines current obstacles. It finds consumers are increasingly challenged by a small selection and limited assortment of greener clothing, as well as difficulties in deciphering product claims.



Higher prices for eco-friendly choices continue to be a barrier, especially for younger people.

The findings are based on a sample of 5,900 fashion consumers in China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the U.K. and the U.S.

Calling the change “inevitable,” Bain unearthed five distinct personas:

*Sustainability champions: These people already buy sustainable apparel, and they are willing to pay more -- up to 84% more -- to make sure clothes are made in a way that is more sustainable.

*Idealists: Primarily made up of millennials, these shoppers have high levels of concern but seldom buy sustainable clothes.

*Good citizens: Mostly made up of Gen Z and millennials, this group does its homework, gathering information before buying. They are willing to pay up to 64% more for environmentally sound apparel.

*Shoppers: This group represents older (Gen X and above) consumers who are occasionally willing to shop sustainably.

*Indifferent consumers: The environment seldom factors into their purchases.

“Concern for sustainability is strong among younger generations -- and growing overall,” says Claudia D’Arpizio, a Bain & Company senior partner in Milan and global head of its fashion and luxury division, in the report. “Fashion brands need to embrace the sustainability conversation and make sustainable purchasing easier for all consumers. Brands that proactively design sustainability into their strategy and operations will cement their relevance and capture a windfall of unmet demand, now and into the future.”

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