Consumers Demand Sustainable Fashion But Won’t Pay More For It

A new survey identifies top five ways consumers want fashion to become more sustainable

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

What consumers expect from sustainable fashion brands

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 was commissioned by Nosto, the ecommerce personalisation and retail AI platform used by thousands of retailers globally. It 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% 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. 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.

Photo by Jess @ Harper Sunday / Unsplash

Consumers want fashion companies to do these 5 Things

1. Reduce the amount of packaging
2. Provide fair pay and good working conditions
3. Use renewable and recyclable materials
4. Make clothes that are designed to last longer
5. Use fewer resources e.g. power/water/materials

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

The voices behind the sustainability issue are only going to get louder according to Lofgren:

“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”.

Download a full report of the findings of the Nosto Sustainability in Fashion Retail survey here: The survey is part of a wider review by Nosto of the key trends transforming the future of fashion shopping; from visual search to virtual clothing samples, social influencers to sustainable fashion. Find out more by visiting the Future of Fashion Shopping microsite at

About the survey
Nosto commissioned an online survey of 2,000 consumers (1,000 each in the US and UK) through online survey company Maru / Usurv in April 2019.

Main image Photo by Francois Le Nguyen on Unsplash

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