Sustainability in Retail - Which Initiatives Consumers Value

13. February 2020

With nearly half of retailers implementing sustainability initiatives in the next two years to meet consumer demand for sustainable products, what sustainable initiatives do consumers value? Well currently, we are witnessing fashion brands and retailers vying to become sustainable. The main reason for this change is the informed and conscious consumer. To successfully engage them, brands and retailers need to understand what sustainable initiatives are essential to their current and future customer base.

Maker/Sights, a product decision platform for retail, recently shared their findings when it comes to bridging the discrepancy between what brands think consumers want and what consumers value. Focusing on sustainability in retail and product creation, Maker/Sight found out that 73% of consumers prefer to purchase eco-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,” explains Maker/Sights

If we were to look at numbers, research has found that consumers are willing to spend more for sustainable apparel, but not significantly more. 53.5% of consumers will spend 10% more on their clothing to be sustainable. 27% of consumers are willing to accept a price increase of over 25 percent for products to be sustainable. 6.3% are even willing to pay a significant premium for sustainable goods at over 50% increase. These numbers are encouraging. It shows that if fashion businesses invest in becoming more sustainable, they could, in theory, increase their appeal to consumers.

When it comes to the importance of clothing buy-back programs, Maker/Sights explained: The Silent Generation is the least likely to be willing to spend more money on sustainable apparel with 35% saying they would not pay any more than a similar non-sustainable item. Adding: 65% of the Silent Generation were willing topay at least 10% more, but none of them was willing to pay more than 50%.


It is important that Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is driven by self-regulated guidelines. It is the pink elephant in the room that is most talked about – but for some reason change is slow. Researchers found that GenZ and the Baby Boomers most highly value Corporate Social Responsibility programs. Millennials, GenX and the Silent Generation value CSR much less.
Exploring by generation, Maker/Sights found that the majority of the generations agree that making clothes using recycled materials to be the most critical sustainability initiative, except GenZ. They value ethical-sourcing above all else in importance in their garment’s materials. GenZ values ethical sourcing 126% more than the Silent Generation.

Maker/Sights researchers said: “The Silent Generation being 66% more likely than GenZ to rank recycled materials as being the most important sustainable initiative”. Furthermore, from the GenZ onwards, each generation becomes progressively more likely to say recycled materials are of utmost importance. “Baby boomers and GenX are nearly neck to neck in their support for recycled materials with baby boomers being 5% more likely than GenX to rank it most important.”

Maker/Sights reports that when it comes to sustainable materials, 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”, explains the research. Although GenX and GenZ are closely aligned when it comes to sustainable manufacturing, GenZ values sustainable manufacturing 106% more than Millennials do and 110% more than the Silent Generation.

Well, Maker/Sights concluded that 73% of consumers prefer to purchase products from environmentally friendly brands and that 80% of retailers said the reason for their sustainable initiatives is a “more positive perception of our company by consumers.”

An article by Muchaneta Kapfunde, CEO at FASHNERD.COM