New Survey Finds Sustainability, Ethical Practices Weigh Heavily in Retail Purchasing Decisions

Brands across the fashion, apparel and footwear categories are working to meet consumer demand for more sustainable offerings. However, a new survey by global business applications provider CGS showed that respondents identified Nike and Toms as their top two brands associated with sustainability.

The 2019 Retail & Sustainability Survey spoke to over 1,000 consumers about the relevance and impact of sustainability regarding to their retail purchasing decisions. With 68% of respondents listing sustainability as an important factor in their purchasing decisions, and Gen-Z the most willing to pay 50-100% more for a product that is sustainable, investment in this area could be a smart strategy for success.

“To retain customers, footwear companies must move toward sustainable business practices across the supply chain, while being transparent about the process,” said Paul Magel, president of business applications and technology outsourcing at CGS. “While there is still work to be done, several brands are making a difference, including Nike and Toms, which were top of mind for consumers in our survey.”

These two brands aren’t alone in building sustainability into their process. In this month alone, Adidas launched its new Futurecraft Loop sneaker, designed to be fully recyclable, and Everlane entered the sneaker market with a carbon-neutral style. Rothys and Allbirds have successfully positioned themselves as eco-friendly brands, while Nisolo and Taylor + Thomas provide options for those looking for sustainable leather or vegan leather products, respectively.

Adidas Futurecraft Loop
The Adidas Futurecraft Loop is made from a single material so that it can be completely recycled post-use.
CREDIT: Adidas

This development can partly be attributed to the rise of millennial and Gen-Z consumers, who prioritize sustainability more than previous generations. Having a brand associated with sustainable and environmentally conscious practices could boost customer loyalty — and, perhaps, revenue along the way. The survey found that 28% of consumers selected this as a driving factor to return to a brand. Yet CGS also found that it wasn’t just recycled fabrics that were attracting customers.

“Today, sustainability efforts go beyond recycling, ensuring fair wages abroad or using biodegradable materials,” said Magel. “The next generation of buyers are also looking for ethical practices.”

Sustainability has traditionally been a challenge for the footwear industry, as shoes typically contain materials that are hard to separate and decompose and may also use a number of harmful chemicals during a lengthy production process. Yet with the innovations occurring in textile development, manufacturing and supply chain management, footwear brands are increasingly identifying themselves as leaders in the sustainable market.

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