What sustainable initiatives do consumers value?
1,457 total respondents
Respondents by Generation:
Silent - 3%
Baby Boomer - 22%
GenX - 25%
Millennial - 30%
GenZ - 20%
Respondents by Geography:
Northeast - 22%
Southeast - 27%
Midwest - 22%
Southwest - 11%
West - 18%
Respondents by Gender:
Men - 44%
Women - 54%
Insights Across All Demographics:
73% of Consumers prefer to purchase from environmentally friendly brands.
14.5% of Consumers prefer not to purchase from environmentally friendly brands.
When consumers think about sustainable apparel they value the materials above all else. Most important to consumers are recycled materials, followed up by sustainable materials and ethically-sourced materials. Consumers view Low-emissions transportation, clothing buy-back programs, and vegan materials as the least important sustainable initiatives.
The following are in order by total consumer preference:
- Recycled materials (formerly used for other purposes and now becoming clothing)
- Sustainable materials (grown/raised using less water, chemicals, or waste)
- Ethically-sourced materials (respect indigenous people and cultures while providing acceptable wages)
- Operations powered by renewable energy (production facilities powered by wind, solar, geothermal and other renewable sources)
- Sustainable manufacturing (how materials are formed into garments, including water usage, waste, emissions)
- Corporate Social Responsibility (self-regulated guidelines for how the company will act)
- Low-emissions transportation (shipping goods using low-emissions energy methods)
- Clothing buy-back programs (textile recycling initiatives that ask for donations or purchase of previously used garment)
- Vegan materials (not produced from any animals)
Consumers are willing to spend more for sustainable apparel, but not much more. 53.5% of consumers will spend 10% more for their apparel to be sustainable. 27% of consumers are willing to pay more than a 25% increase for their products to be sustainable. Only 6.3% of consumers are willing to pay a significant premium for sustainable goods at over 50% increase.
Consumers have a wide ranging view of which brands they think are most sustainable. Patagonia is the number one brand consumers identify as sustainable, followed by footwear brands Nike, Adidas and TOMS, and then Levi’s. Additional brands were frequently mentioned by consumers for being sustainable include Everlane, Reformation, Rothy’s Alternative Apparel, Good and People Tree.
While consumers identify apparel and footwear as leaders in sustainability, many consumers also identified other segments as leaders in sustainability. In the second largest category, Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG), cleaning products dominate the list with Seventh Generation, The Honest Company, and Method topping the list. Within the food category the leaders in being recognized for sustainability are Starbucks, Ben & Jerry’s, Great Value, Pepsi and Coca-Cola. Within the beauty category the brands thought of as the most sustainable include Love, Beauty & Planet, Burt’s bees, L’Oréal, Lush, Simple and Honest, Sephora, and Alima Pure.
Insights By Generation:
Ethically-sourced materials (respect indigenous people and cultures while providing acceptable wages)
All generations find making clothes using recycled materials to be the most important sustainability initiative, except GenZ who put ethical-sourcing above all else in importance in their garment’s materials. GenZ values ethical-sourcing 126% more than the Silent Generation.
Recycled materials (formerly used for other purposes and now becoming clothing)
Consumers value recycled materials more the older they are -- with the Silent Generation being 66% more likely than GenZ to rank recycled materials as being the most important sustainable initiative. From GenZ up, each generation becomes progressively more likely to say recycled materials are of utmost importance. Baby boomers and GenX are nearly neck and neck in their support for recycled materials with baby boomers 5% more likely than GenX to rank it most important.
Vegan materials (not produced from any animals)
All generations agree that the least important sustainability initiative is utilizing vegan materials, GenZ appreciates vegan materials the most at 130% more than the Silent Generation. Each generation values vegan materials slightly less than the generation before.
Sustainable materials (grown/raised using less water, chemicals, or waste)
Behind GenZ, GenX is most concerned with sustainable materials production. Other generations, including Millennials, do not value sustainable materials as much as GenX does. GenZ is 85% more likely than the Silent Generation to value sustainable materials.
Operations powered by renewable energy (production facilities powered by wind, solar, geothermal)
Production facilities run on Renewable Energy are of utmost concern to the older generations. The Silent Generation values facilities run on renewable energy facilities, being 84% more likely to rank renewables above GenZ’s viewpoint.
Sustainable manufacturing (materials formed into garments, including water usage, waste, emissions)
GenX & GenZ are closely aligned when it comes to sustainable manufacturing. Likewise At 1% difference, Millennials & Baby Boomers have very closely aligned opinions of sustainable manufacturing. GenZ values sustainable manufacturing 106% more than Millennials do and 110% more than the Silent Generation.
Corporate Social Responsibility (self-regulated guidelines for how the company will act)
Corporate Social Responsibility programs are most highly valued by GenZ & the Baby Boomers. Millennials, GenX & the Silent Generation value CSR much less. GenZ is 112% more likely than the Silent Generation to value the importance of a brand’s corporate social responsibility program.
Low-emissions transportation (shipping goods using low-emissions energy methods)
The Silent Generation and the Baby Boomers believe that low-emissions transportation is more important than the younger generations do. The Silent Generation is 136% more likely than GenZ to highly value low-emissions transportation.
Clothing buy-back programs (textile recycling initiatives that ask for donations or purchase of previously used garment)
Clothing recycling programs were the second least important sustainability initiative for all generations. GenZ is 112% more likely than the Silent Generation to value the importance of clothing buy-back programs.
The Silent Generation is the least likely to be willing to spend more money on sustainable apparel with 35% saying they would not pay anymore than a similar non-sustainable item. 65% of the Silent Generation were willing to pay at least 10% more, but none of them were willing to pay more than 50%.
GenX was willing to spend the most on sustainability with 10% saying they would pay 50% or more increase for sustainable products. Millennials followed closely behind at 8% and GenZ at 6% saying they would spend a lot more for sustainable goods.
The Baby Boomers are willing to pay 10% more for their apparel to be sustainable with 71% agreeing they would spend at least a modest amount more. Similar to the Silent Generation, nearly 30% of the Baby Boomers say they will not spend another penny on sustainability.
GenZ is most willing to pay a moderate uptick for sustainable apparel. 36% of GenZ respondents agreed they would spend at least 25% more for their products to be sustainable.
Only 13% of Millennials wouldn’t pay any more for sustainable products. Most agree they will spend more for sustainable products with 52% saying it should be around 10% more.
Insights By Gender or Urbanity:
Paradoxically, men are both 129% more likely than women to pay nothing for sustainability efforts and 2x more likely than women to spend 50% or more for sustainability.
Women outrank men in their willingness to spend 25% more for sustainable garments.
Men value sustainable manufacturing more than women, along with renewable energy and low-emissions transportation and corporate social responsibility programs. Women value materials that are sustainably, ethically-sourced, recycled or vegan more than men do.
For those living in an urban vs rural area have some splits on how they rank sustainability initiatives.
Urban areas value renewable energy production facilities much more than rural areas by 108%.
Rural areas value a business’ corporate social responsibility, vegan materials, and low-emissions transportation more than in urban areas.
Whereas urban areas value sustainable, recycled and ethically-sourced materials more than residents of rural areas. Rural & urban areas equally value sustainable manufacturing.
Insights By Region:
All geographic regions besides the southeast find garments made from recycled materials to be the most important sustainable initiative for apparel brands. The southwest and west coast find recycled materials to be more important than the rest of the country.
While all regions are pretty closely aligned on the importance of sustainable materials, the southwest and west value sustainable materials the most.
The southwest cares the most about ethically-sourced materials, followed closely by the west. The midwest cares about ethically-sourced materials the least.
Production facilities run on renewable energy is more important to residents in the midwest and southwest. Renewable energy is much less important to those living in the west & northeast.
Sustainable manufacturing is most important to residents of the west coast and least important to those in the northeast. The west values sustainable manufacturing 113% more than the northeast.
The regions are consistent with their lower value placed on corporate social responsibility programs. The southwest values CSR programs the least.
Low-emissions transportation is more important to members of midwest and northeast. West coast respondents value low-emissions transportation far less than the northeast.
The midwest and southeast value clothing buy-back programs more than the west coast. The midwest thinks clothing buy-back is 112% more important than the west coast.
The north and south agree, the East Coast is much more interested in vegan materials in their clothing as compared to anyone to their west. With the northeast finding it 105% more important than the midwest.
Despite 74% of respondents preferring to buy from environmentally friendly brands, the midwest and northeast are the least likely to spend any more for that sustainable apparel with 26% and 20% of respondents respectively.
The northeast and the southwest are willing to pay more for sustainability. They are twice as likely to fork out a considerable increase (50% more) for sustainable goods than the midwest and west.
Every half of region agrees that they are willing to spend 10% more on their apparel with each geography garnering around 50% of respondents willing to pay a 10% increase for sustainable goods.