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EFF SOURCE Fashion business success without compromise

19 April 2016

Shifting Mindsets: Consumer attitudes towards sustainability

Contributor Sarah Ditty

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Recent research has shown that consumers are beginning to demonstrate a shift in thinking, favouring brands that people feel are more authentic, accountable and trustworthy. Here is an excerpt from Fashion Revolution's White Paper investigating how mindsets are changing.


Public trust in brands is in crisis at the moment. This has been spurred on by major events like the 2008 financial crisis and its subsequent ripple effects, the Rana Plaza factory collapse, the angora fur scandal, the horse meat scandal, FIFA corruption – to name a few.

Havas Media’s Meaningful Brands report (2015) interviewed 300,000 people across 34 countries about their attitudes and behaviours when it comes to over 1,000 brands in 12 countries. The research showed one big thing: for the most part, consumers are now sceptics.

People want to know that we’re not getting a bad deal, whether it’s value for money, quality, utility or the ethics of products we buy from brands. Shoppers want a good price and convenience but we also want authenticity and provenance.

People expect that business exists to serve society: on an individual and collective level. People expect brands to help make our daily routines easier — by helping us stay healthy, by better connecting us to our loved ones and by helping us make informed, smart decisions.

But people expect brands to play bigger roles in our communities too – through event sponsorships or social impact initiatives that help support our collective wellbeing. Individual value at the expense of society or the environment is increasingly seen as an empty trade-off.

According to the annual BrandZ report, consumers in all regions of the world say that it is important that companies act ethically. In fact, the 2012 Edelman Good Purpose report surveyed 8,000 consumers in 16 countries and found that 80% of Chinese respondents and 71% of Indian respondents are willing to pay a premium for brands with a social or environmental commitment, compared to just 28% in UK and 40% globally saying they’d be happy to pay more.

But things are beginning to change in the UK and Europe and indeed around the world. In the past two years, Fashion Revolution has seen hundreds of thousands of people take to the Internet to try to discover the hidden supply chain behind clothing.

While the average shopper may not yet be invested all the detail behind a product, mindsets are beginning to shift. Even in the luxury world, shoppers have become more discerning, appreciating luxury goods for the design and craftsmanship rather than as ostentatious display to demonstrate status.

People want to trust that what they buy was not made at the expense of someone’s life or by trashing the environment. They want to trust that brands are doing business in an ethical and sustainable way. They want to trust too that governments are making sure that business is accountable, wherever they do business.

However, at present, there is very little transparent, credible or reliable information available to the public about what people buy. Fashion Revolution is rallying people worldwide to demand that there is better access to information about how companies operate and how things are made, where and by whom. Fashion Revolution exists to catalyse the debate around public trust in the fashion industry and its many players.

Millenials will drive sustainable consumption

The millennial generation is driving this shift in thinking. McKinsey (2013) estimates that millennials will account for one- third of total global spending by 2020 and already account for one quarter of the U.S. population who together wield about $200 billion buying power. Although millennials (those age 17-34) will soon be the largest consumer generation in history (Advertising Age, ) young people have a different outlook than previous generations. Elite Daily interviewed 1,300 millennials and 75% said that it’s either fairly or very important that a company gives back to society instead of just making a profit.

Technology makes it possible for more voices to be heard.

Jamie Gailewicz wrote in The Next Web (29 March 2014): “millennials are children of the ’80s and ’90s—most becoming aware of their impact on society in the late ’80s through the early ’90s. They learned about responsibility to the environment, tolerance and acceptance of others, and that an individual can make a difference. Millennials are the recycling generation, raised on the idea that sorting garbage minimizes waste. They learned about global warming and how dependency on fossil fuels can have a dire effect on the world. They were taught to be conscientious of what they consume and how they live in a way that generations before them were not.”

Millennials are a technology-driven generation. Social media is an integral part of their everyday life. Mobile phones and Internet access lets information travel faster than ever before. The digital space allows for people to be more engaged with brands and governments alike. Technology makes it possible for more voices to be heard. Fashion Revolution is tapping into this, using the power of the Internet to change more mindsets, to ask questions, to debate the issues, to demand more transparency about the products people buy.

Download the full White Paper: ‘It’s time for a Fashion Revolution’ here.


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