The silver lining in the lockdown is that it has had huge ecological benefits to the world; the ozone hole above Greenland is showing signs of recovery, marine animals are returning to the water canals of Venice and there has been a 40% carbon emission reduction in dozens of countries.
The retail sector has long pledged to make greener products and services, all in an effort to continually curb environmental concerns. From reducing the amount of plastics in the oceans to more sustainable cotton farms, all of these environmental considerations have been accelerated by the lockdown of many countries across the globe. Brands have realised their efforts need to be highlighted at an authentic and emotional level so that they can better engage with their customers and respond to their needs, this is part of the supply chain that has often been the missing link. Is that now all about to change?
A good or cheap product is no longer enough for today’s consumer. More of us are expecting brands to reflect our ethical and sustainability values and this becomes part of the decision-making process. Neilson reported that the U.S sustainability market will reach $150 billion in sales by 2021, this comes as a result of many U.S. consumers wanting to commit to a decent proportion of their spending power to this cause. The fashion industry has been one of the biggest pollution, as estimated by the EPA, there was 16.9 million tonnes of textile waste. But realistically people won’t stray from fast fashion, but they’re willing to change their shopping habits as a result. Many consumers are seeing the retail industry as a guiding light as to how they should act in their everyday purchases. Shoppers ultimately want to be part of the movement to provide a better, greener world. Shoppercentric highlight that 80% of shoppers consider themselves ‘environmentally friendly’. Just like becoming vegan or turning the standby switch off your television, everyone has a part to play.
Education is also important. Consumers are often unsure what “sustainability” means or how to identify sustainable brands. A survey of corporate representatives across over 100 European firms shows consumers are often swayed by misinformation or lack of information. Still, as awareness has grown, so has the quest for knowledge. Internet searches for “sustainable fashion” tripled between 2016 and 2019.
We welcome the efforts of brands to pay more attention. These are just a few:
Adidas; a brand synonymous with sport, has collaborated with Parley to help with the ever-increasing problem of plastic waste in our oceans. This initiative sparked many other high-profile companies to put resources in place to eradicate this global issue.
Dr Martens focuses on developing and manufacturing sustainable products that are safe for consumers and have a minimal impact on the environment. For instance, they audit the tanneries they work with to ensure that they follow stringent criteria around, for example, emissions, energy consumption, water consumption.
Tommy Hilfiger, is a household name in the fashion world striving for sustainability across their product lines by aiming to produce all clothing by 2030 that is “Produced in facilities where water, energy and chemicals are sustainably managed”. They work closely with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation one of which many global brands are involved with. The foundation is based on the concept of a Circular economy, this is “based on the principles of designing out waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use, and regenerating natural systems”, with a focus on a combined effort of a more eco-friendly business structure.
Ecommerce brands are also finding ways to incorporate sustainable thinking in the experiences they offer shoppers. ASOS initiated their ‘responsible edit’ which allows them to recommend sustainable product recommendations to shoppers. Similarly, a number of ecommerce brands are starting to introduce search filters for recycled fabrics. This type of badging or labelling is important as often consumers don’t know what to look for in identifying sustainable products, and this helps them discover new options and make purchase decisions based on this.
Brands in the fashion industry have endeavoured to commit sustainable offerings and experiences across their product range and brand experiences. These values are clearly important to shoppers. We celebrate this and look forward to seeing how brands track and trace their environmental impact as well as help educate consumers on and offline about their sustainability values as well as the products and services they offer to support this.