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How important is sustainability to apparel shoppers?

Many apparel/footwear shoppers seek sustainable products and practices.

A new survey reveals how much of an impact sustainability has on consumer purchase decisions for apparel and footwear products.

According to the new “2022 Retail and Sustainability Survey” from enterprise technology and outsourcing provider CGS, 79% of surveyed consumers believe that sustainability is “somewhat important” to “very important” when purchasing apparel/footwear products. This is a return to pre-pandemic levels, with only 51% of consumers saying they considered sustainability “somewhat important” when shopping in the 2020 edition of the survey.

In addition, almost seven in 10 (68%) respondents would pay more for sustainable products. Despite rising inflation rates and other global events, respondents are more in favor of paying more for sustainable apparel than in 2019, when only 47% would pay more, and in 2020, when only 56% would pay more.

Almost one in five respondents (18%) would pay 25% more for sustainable products. Age is also a major factor in sustainable shopping. Two-thirds of Gen Z shoppers were also more apt to pay an additional fee for sustainable products.

The survey also reveals growing consumer trust in brands’ honesty in revealing their sustainability practices. In 2022, more than one-third (34%) of respondents believed brands offered enough transparency into their sustainability practices, compared to 23% in 2020.

Other interesting findings include:

  • While many would pay more for sustainable goods, 56% of respondents are motivated by a lower price when deciding to purchase sustainable goods.
  • Almost four in 10 (38%) respondents would be motivated to buy more sustainable products if they received more information around sustainable initiatives.
  • Forty-two percent of respondents are choosing to wait longer to receive goods from online suppliers to help protect the environment.
  • When asked what environmental and social commitments brands should prioritize the most, almost 32% of respondents believed brands should commit to ethical labor practices. 
  • Thirty-four percent of respondents believe sustainable brands reduce waste and promote eco-friendly materials/items.

A recent survey from Sensormatic Solutions, a Johnson Controls company, confirms that many consumers will pay more for sustainable products. According to the survey, 70% of consumers say they are willing to pay at least 5% more for products that can demonstrate a fully sustainable supply chain—even though cost is the most cited barrier to sustainable shopping (55%), closely followed by consumers’ perception that the stores they frequent do not offer many sustainable options (47%).

However, the survey shows less trust in retailer transparency, as nearly 90% of respondents think that retailers don't do enough to showcase their sustainability efforts, and one-third of respondents don't trust the claims brands make about their green products.

“Our latest research shows that despite current world events and inflation, consumers are more willing than ever to shop sustainably,” said Paul Magel, president, business applications division, CGS. “To help consumers with their goal of shopping sustainable, brands must be more transparent and open around their sustainable business practices. Through our BlueCherry® software, brands can deliver on the promise of sustainability and transparency and help meet this increased demand for sustainable goods.”

To gauge consumers’ current sentiment around sustainable product and brand sustainability practices, CGS and Dynata surveyed more than 1,000 U.S. individuals ages 18 and up.

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