More and more conscious brands are popping up in the fashion industry. Sustainable fashion is no longer limited to hemp sacks and sandals. Consumers have more options than ever to shop ethically and the number of brands is still on the rise. While this is great for the environment and the women who make their clothes, it brings up the question whether consumers really care about ethical fashion and the makers at the bottom of the supply chain. Is it fashion brands or a groundswell of consumer demand driving the fashion industry toward social change?
We won’t sugarcoat it.
It can be difficult to get people to care when they are so far removed from the problems. A really cute top that costs less than your lunch is appealing to our closets and wallets; it can be a hard offer to turn down. When most people shop, they don’t automatically think about the woman at the sewing machine sewing the hem of that really cute top for well below a living wage.
However, studies show that more and more, people want to shop ethically and are willing to spend more for clothing responsibly sourced than that made in poor or unknown conditions. According to a study done by Nielsen, 55 percent of global online consumers across 60 countries said they would pay more for products provided by companies that support positive social and environmental impact.
In the U.K., 51 percent of people surveyed by Morgan Stanley said that ethical credentials were “somewhat or very important” when making a purchase, compared to just 13 percent who said they were “somewhat unimportant or not at all important.” Morgan Stanley has been collecting the survey results since 2010 and within that time, good ethics has had the largest increase among categories that influence shopping habits, next to brand popularity.
Furthermore, shoppers are willing to pay more for goods that were produced ethically. They will spend 10 to 15 percent more, according to Marshal Cohen, retail analyst at NPD Group.
Most exciting, however, is that younger generations in particular consider ethics when making a purchase.
According to Nielsen’s survey, among those who said they care about sustainability and ethics, more than half are millennials. They represent 51 percent of those who will pay extra for responsible products and of those who check packaging for sustainable labeling. Morgan Stanley’s research concurs with this; 58 percent of 16 to 24 year-olds said ethics are “very or somewhat important” compared to 49 percent of those 55 and up.
When facing the global scale of issues within the fashion industry can feel like standing in front of the entire ocean, it is a great inspiration to know that the future is bright.