61% of people choose value over sustainability: what does it mean for business?

For some time there has been a push for sustainability in the fashion industry. However, rising inflation and economic turmoil over the past few months have forced a change in shopping habits. How is inflation affecting consumer sentiment around the sustainable fashion industry, and what should retailers prioritize as consumers tighten their spending? Nosto’s latest study attempted to find the answer.

The past few years have seen significant climate action by humans around the world. Governments and organizations take certain measures, while ordinary people take certain measures. For example, sustainable fashion has seen a lot of interest over the past decade as public awareness of the industry’s impact on the environment has grown. Mindless consumerism has drawn heavy criticism from activists and governments. At the same time, consumers are also reevaluating their values ​​and focusing on sustainability.

All this while, the past few months have seen significant disruption to the global economy. Several factors have caused inflation to rise, and people are already feeling the effects. Experts are predicting a recession here. Consequently, consumers around the world are forced to change their spending habits.

So, how is the economic crisis affecting consumer sentiment around the sustainable fashion industry? Is it sustainable? And as consumers tighten their spending, what should retailers prioritize? Nosto recently conducted a study to find the answer.

Value comes before sustainability

According to the survey, 57% of respondents still want the fashion industry to be more sustainable. This means that 61 percent are more concerned about inflation. Even high income groups agree with this. In addition, 55% felt that sustainable fashion products are too expensive. Only 39% said they would pay a higher price for sustainably made fashion items.

Does this mean that retailers need to offer more accessibility to help consumers embrace inflation?

See more: Resilience and sustainability in the post-pandemic supply chain: Is AI adoption the answer?

Consumers are prepared to wait longer for green offerings.

One way retail businesses can provide consumers with sustainable products at an affordable cost is through their delivery services. For example, 41% of consumers pay for greener delivery on online orders. But 54% said they would have no problem with slower deliveries if it reduced the number of freight trips by reducing carbon emissions. Given the fashion industry’s expectation of fast delivery, it’s encouraging to see consumer readiness for sustainability.

People don’t want to pay for returns, but they accept ways to prevent them

Returns are one of the most pressing issues in the fashion industry and the environment. Returns cost retailers and the environment heavily. Many brands have started charging for returns to discourage customers.

However, for consumers, charging returns is the least desperate route. That said, 49% of shoppers agree that returns are bad for the environment. Other ideas that do not involve the cost of preventing returns have also been well received. Some of these ideas are:

  • Displaying User Generated Content (UGC) to better reflect products
  • Making sure the product information is clear
  • Making it easy for buyers to inquire about items online. For example, live chats.

More than 60% of respondents rated each of these methods as feasible, indicating that return problems can be solved without affecting sales.

Customers want to keep clothes longer, but retailers don’t think they can do it

While returns are a problem, most people don’t consider keeping clothes, the survey found. 58% of consumers want to keep clothes longer to help the environment. However, 54% of them think that they are not made to stay. This seems to have increased the demand for repair services. 42% said they had to throw away their clothes because they couldn’t repair them and 60% thought that providing repair services would make fashion more sustainable.

Should retailers create or push for maintenance? Will they come up with a way to solve the current problems associated with providing maintenance services?

Fractured Sustainability promises consumers to look to others for guidance.

Consumers always scrutinize claims made by brands. Even many well-known brands come under the lens for green washing. Last year, the Dutch CRA investigated H&M and Decathlon for not adequately explaining or verifying the sustainability claims they made about their products. Naturally, consumer confidence has been declining over the past few years.

According to the survey, 54% of consumers do not believe fashion brands’ claims regarding their commitment to sustainability. 68% of those who expect fashion to last pay more attention to what others say than what brands say. There is consumer skepticism, and people want proof of sustainability before buying a product. With people trusting other consumers, brands may consider using social proof to dispel consumer skepticism.

Consumers need more clarity on product sustainability

Lack of clarity on what is sustainable does not help consumers’ skepticism. According to the survey, 55% of them found it confusing to understand which clothing items are sustainable. Even 68 percent of people who look for sustainability and have a better idea of ​​what to look for cannot identify whether a product is sustainable.

The problem for brands is that sustainability encompasses many complex issues, from where the raw materials are sourced to how the clothes are packaged and shipped. Brands can’t label goods as “sustainable” without knowing every step in the supply chain. Additionally, they are rightly concerned about misleading consumers.

So, how can brands clearly communicate which of their products and ingredients are sustainable to help consumers identify them?

See more: 5 user-generated content ideas to turn customers into fans in 2021


Overall, rising inflation has exacerbated the financial barriers to supporting sustainable fashion. Clearly, in order to encourage consumers to embrace sustainable fashion, retail and fashion businesses must increase affordable options and accessibility, especially as prices increase.

Consumers want fashion to be sustainable. While they are looking for brands to make it possible, they are willing to take on the responsibility if relevant options are accessible.

Fashion retailers can take the following steps to respond to consumer needs:

  • To enable green deliveries, retailers can offer options that take longer delivery times.
  • Instead of asking for returns, brands can find other ways to reduce returns.
  • To help customers keep products longer, retailers can promote repair services or improve awareness of such services.
  • Brands should look to use UGC to ease skepticism and build trust.
  • Retailers making sustainability claims should look at other methods of building relationships with consumers.
  • Retailers need to be clear in their communication about what is sustainable and what is not in their products.

Taking these unique steps will help consumers continue to support sustainable fashion and allow the industry to grow.

What steps have you taken to support consumer awareness around sustainable fashion? Share with us Facebook, TwitterAnd LinkedIn.

Image source: Shutterstock

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