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Oct 21, 2022
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Fashion's sustainability gap still huge says Bain report

Oct 21, 2022

The consumer shift to products and labels that are embracing sustainability has created both opportunities and challenges for global fashion brands, a new study from Bain & Company and WWF Italy claimed on Friday.

Photo: Pixabay/Public domain

It’s inevitable that "shopping trends among global fashion consumers will shift in favour of buying decisions that favour more sustainable practices". But at present, only 15% of consumers consistently make buying decisions to lower their environmental impact.

That’s despite 65% of consumers saying they care about the environment with that 50% gap being a big chasm to fill but also offering a massive opportunity for eco-based growth.

For the new report, How Brands Can Embrace the Sustainable Fashion Opportunity, Bain/WWF spoke to nearly 5,900 fashion consumers in six countries (China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and US) and found that concern for the environment is running ahead of current shopper behaviour and that’s often because shopping sustainability can be hard.

Claud D’Arpizio, a Bain & Company senior partner in Milan and the firm’s global head of Fashion & Luxury, said: “Sustainable shopping is an inevitable change. Concern for sustainability is strong among younger generations – and growing overall. Hence, fashion brands need to embrace the sustainability conversation and make sustainable purchasing easier for all consumers. Brands that proactively design sustainability into their strategy and operations will cement their relevance and capture a windfall of unmet demand, now and into the future. Everyone will benefit from a commitment to sustainability from the fashion industry.”

Payal Luthra, Global Apparel and Textiles Lead at WWF, added: “The fashion industry is highly dependent on nature and biodiversity. A great deal of the raw materials used in fashion and to make textiles come from nature, and the production and processing of these materials wouldn’t be possible without natural resources like water. 

“But despite all of these dependencies, the industry’s practices are responsible for many damaging impacts to nature that put the sector's survival at risk. The time is now for brands to take action on sustainability – they'll not only benefit from enhanced resilience but will have incredible opportunity to build brand loyalty with increasingly conscious consumers.”

As mentioned earlier, there’s still some way to go before consumers fully switch on to shopping with sustainability front-of-mind.

The report said the despite being among the top six purchase drivers for most global fashion customers, “sustainability is an explicitly lower priority than other, more tangible factors, such as product quality and durability,” although these factors do have links  to sustainability.

And it identified the obstacles that consumers face if they wish to purchase sustainably. Issues include assortments that are often limited, and the difficulty at times of distinguishing between sustainable and non-sustainable items. These barriers are seen by every generation of fashion consumer, but with younger consumers also saying that higher prices are a deterrent too. 

Federico Levato, senior partner at Milan’s office and EMEA Leader of Fashion & Luxury at Bain, said: “Fashion brands are on the cusp of a great opportunity but are often overwhelmed by complexity, especially along lengthy supply chains. Brands have a social role in this epoch-making change: they are called to address the information gap, engage consumers on product durability and impact; and make sustainable purchases more convenient and appealing. This will make them successful, while help shifting consumers toward more sustainable consumption.”

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