Bain & WWF report shows shift in fashion to sustainability

Report from Bain & Company and WWF Italy shows a shift in consumer behaviour to favour global fashion brands that are more sustainable

Consumer demand for more sustainable fashion is nothing new. Yet a new report from consultancy Bain & Company in conjunction with WWF Italy suggests the challenges and opportunities ahead may be greater than some fashion brands realise.

The research report How Brands Can Embrace the Sustainable Fashion Opportunity shows that while 15% of fashion consumers are already concerned about sustainability, there is a sharp increase in this figure on the horizon – going as high as 50%.

The report surveyed 5,900 fashion consumers in China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK, and the US), with almost two thirds of those (65%) saying they care about the environment but only some regularly prioritise sustainability.

“Sustainable shopping is an inevitable change. Concern for sustainability is strong among younger generations – and growing overall,” said Claudia D’Arpizio, a Bain & Company senior partner in Milan and the firm’s global head of Fashion & Luxury.

“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.”

Payal Luthra, Global Apparel and Textiles Lead at WWF added that the fashion industry is responsible for many damaging impacts to nature that actually put its own 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,” said Luthra.

Five sustainability personas for global fashion consumers

Bain and WWF identified five personas of global fashion consumers:

  • Sustainability Champions:  Highly concerned about the environment and regularly buy sustainable clothing. They are willing to pay a significant premium (84%) for sustainable products.
  • Idealists: Mainly millennials, they demonstrate a high level of concern for the environment but hardly ever purchase sustainable fashion goods.
  • Good citizens: Mainly a mix of millennials and Generation Z consumers who may gather sustainability information online. Willing to pay a premium price (64%) for sustainable products, but less than the Sustainability Champions.
  • Shoppers: Gen X and older consumers who usually get their information from in-store displays and word of mouth. They will occasionally engage in sustainable behaviour.
  • Indifferent consumers: Not really concerned about sustainability and rarely include it in purchasing decisions.

The report also highlights how hard it can be for consumers to tell the difference between sustainable and non-sustainable garments, with older generations in particular. Younger consumers, on the other hand, were more likely to be put off by higher ticket prices.

Brands can do more to tackle the information gap and make sustainable products more clearly labelled and attractively priced. Bain argues that this is the opportunity to make fashion brands more successful in the future.

READ the full report here.

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