A new survey by clean manufacturing producer Genomatic shows sustainable fashion remains elusive for many shopper due to the lack of availability and trustworthy information from brands on what makes clothing more (or less) sustainable.

42 percent of shoppers unsure what makes garments sustainable

A survey of 2,000 teenagers and adults in the U.S. set out to understand consumers awareness, perspectives and behaviours around sustainability in fashion, finding that 86 percent of consumers believe sustainability is a good goal, yet nearly half (48 percent) don’t know how or where to find sustainable clothes and 42 percent are confused about what makes clothing sustainable.

Consumers are aware of environmental issues in the fashion industry

Nearly 3 in 4 (72 percent) consumers have heard of environmental sustainability issues in the fashion industry — having awareness of excess consumption, carbon emissions and water pollution from dye processes.

Half (51 percent) believe that Americans’ clothing purchases each year result in substantial greenhouse gas emissions. The pandemic may have helped grow consumer awareness: 38 percent who are aware of sustainability issues in fashion have only become aware of them over the past year.

Consumers want to make better choices, but they’re confused about what makes clothing sustainable and how or where to find it

Half (52 percent) of consumers believe sustainability is important and they consciously make choices to be more sustainable and 47 percent want to make more sustainable clothing choices, but they give into what’s more convenient.

55 percent are interested in purchasing so-called “sustainable clothing,” but 48 percent don’t know how or where to find sustainable clothes and 42 percent are confused about what actually makes clothing sustainable.

Over a third (34 percent) say, “If there was a store for sustainable clothes, I’d do all my shopping there,” about the same number (33 percent) who say availability in chain clothing stores would make them want to purchase sustainable clothing. 31 percent would even support a “fast fashion tax” on clothing that’s unsustainable.

One respondent said it plainly: “It’s somewhat difficult to make sustainable choices because I’m never really sure what sustainable means, particularly with clothing.”

Consumers weary of greenwashing

Nearly 9 in 10 (88 percent) consumers don’t immediately trust brands that say they’re sustainable and half (51 percent) believe “greenwashing” is common in the fashion industry. 55 percent want clothing brands to help them understand how their products are more sustainable than alternatives. Half say that a sustainability label would help them identify sustainable clothes while shopping, and 38 percent say clearer information about sustainability features would make them want to purchase sustainable clothing.

“Consumers are demanding more sustainable options and we’re seeing time and time again that it’s information and availability that would help shoppers make the choices they’re seeking. There’s a significant opportunity for fashion and apparel brands to show real leadership and make a substantive impact by providing consumers with the clear information they desire on the sourcing and environmental impact of their products,” said Christophe Schilling, Genomatica’s CEO. “With consumers on the side of sustainability and renewably-sourced options for common apparel materials like nylon becoming available, the choice for brands should become easy.”

By Don-Alvin Adegeest from Fashion United.

June 16, 2021