Are Consumers Actually Buying ‘Green’? - Benjamin Bellwether Trends

Are Consumers Actually Buying ‘Green’?

A Bellwether Insight

Photo: Micheile Henderson
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We’ll jump right to point here: nope. Consumers aren’t overwhelmingly buying green. But, we are seeing some interesting trends in the right direction. People are searching for sustainable products more; and, we are seeing brands step-up and present consumers with more options to go green, making it a whole lot easier to buy green.

Here’s what we know

The below fact sheets show some statistics on consumer behavior, or why people buy stuff. In short, we know that more and more people care about sustainability, but aren’t necessarily putting their money where their mouth is.

It’s (still) up to the brands

As we talked about in our Sustainability Trends in the 2020’s, it’ll be up to the brands to give consumers the greener option. As we said…

While consumers are increasingly saying they want sustainability, they aren’t actually buying that way. According to the Global Fashion Agenda’s Pulse Survey, across 5 countries, 75% of consumers view sustainability as extremely or very important, but only 16% consider sustainability when making a purchase.

We believe education is a big part of why a consumer doesn’t buy sustainable. Simply not knowing the impacts, and having fear that they don’t know much about sustainability, is pushing them to just buy a previous unsustainable purchase. We must also remember that the consumer is not Chief of Operations at the companies they shop either. It’s impossible for a consumer to know, much less control, the sustainability practices of a company outside of simple boycotts to influence the basics of supply and demand.

So, what does this mean? That brands have a moral obligation to become more transparent and institute sustainable business practices to benefit and inform the consumer. A company controls their budgets, supply chains and impacts; and, owns the levers to make real change. We understand that consumers want sustainability, shouldn’t we make it easy for them to buy it? Wouldn’t that make our products inherently more valuable?

So…what do we do?

The first thing you can do, as a brand, is make sure you are on a path towards sustainability. You have to be authentic if you are going to get your customers to buy a greener product. Next, you’ll need to convince everyone in your organization that sustainability—and not just being ‘green’—matters, including your customer. And then, you’ll need to transform your marketing messages to convince your customer to purchase.

The new marketing mix (highlighted in our courses), helps future-proof your marketing. It’s not only great for selling sustainable goods, but helps you think differently about about the way you talk about your brand and its products.

A look at the data

Sustainable fashion keywords have been growing steadily over the last 5 years, all over the world, as the chart below shows. More interest in rental, secondhand and sustainable fashion brands can be seen in the last couple of years, especially.

Lyst, the popular online fashion marketplace, publishes an annual report using data from their own website searches, as well as other brand’s media coverage and social media stats. They noted that ‘sustainability’ as a keyword increased 75% YoY, especially in the denim and footwear categories. Searches for sustainable materials like tencel, organic cotton and econyl rose by 42%, 102% and 52%, respectively. Rental and resale also made a bigger splash. According to a ThredUp report, 26% of luxury consumers shop secondhand. A Mintel’s Sustainability Report states that over half of millennials have either rented fashion or considered doing so.

A look at our intuition

We, of course, know that sustainability will be what every fashion brand is talking about over the next few years. We also know that nearly all industry publications are writing about sustainability more and more, while fashion brands continue to give consumers more options to buy green. This perfect storm is what will make consumers actually buy green products regularly. In our opinion, it ultimately comes down to supply. If brands continue to provide great product, and educate consumers about why they should buy it, they will follow through and purchase.

For more information on how you can create a more sustainable brand, check out our Sustainability Bundle for Fashion Business. Four courses will give you a strong foundation in sustainable product development, marketing and organizational structure; and, it comes with a free textbook and certificate of completion. You can also download some free Business Tools including a checklist for end-to-end product development and a resource guide for creating a take back program.