global megatrends

Andrea Oyarce

The growing interest of young people in sustainable fashion

Younger generations and their new approach to consumption

The term Sustainability is “used to indicate that economic, social, and environmental needs of today are balanced with the needs of tomorrow’s“ (Wang et al., 2017).  Today´s consumers are becoming more conscious about the need to protect the environment and that their clothes are made in a more responsible and transparent way throughout the production process from design, production, logistics, distribution, and disposal. 

“After the oil industry, fashion is the second most polluting sector. At present, over 100 billion garments are produced annually, with consumers purchasing an estimated 60 percent more clothing items compared to fifteen years ago and keeping them for only half as long”

(Moorhouse and Moorhouse, 2019). 

About Generations Y and Z

According to McKinsey & Company (2018) generation Y includes people born between 1980 and 1994, and the previous generation Z or Millennials correspond to people born between 1995 and 2010.  These young generations are more sensitive to these issues and demand greater transparency.  They were born with the internet and therefore are strongly impacted by the values and features of the net.   According to the report “Fashion & Sustainability – UK – 2021” carried out by Mintel, the rising social media usage and time spent on media devices have increased the interest and concern about sustainability.

They are more idealistic and less materialist and more interested in experiences than in possessions.   Data from Mintel´s report (2020) “Fashion Online: Inc Impact of COVID-19 – UK” shows that 22% of shoppers have shown interest in the environment triggered by the climate change protests. Awareness is even higher among Gen Z, with 43% aged 12-19 saying they have been inspired by the student environment protests, as shown below.

Figure: Gen Z environmental behaviours, June 2019

A source of differentiation

Many fashion leaders have realised that including this issue in their strategy can mean as a real source of differentiation.  Brands like Levis have launched marketing campaign to encourage their customers to “Buy better, wear longer” (Mintel, 2021) to promote slow fashion.  Other brands like Marks&Spencer have been recognised by people for investing in ethical initiatives.  However, according to the survey carried out by Mintel (2021) although brands such as Primark are making efforts to implement sustainable initiatives, customer evaluation is not good as their high volume/low price approach creates a contradiction.

Despite the increased interest about general sustainability issues within these generations, in the short term this behaviour doesn´t necessarily reflect in the same level into the fashion business, as “It is obvious that consumers’ buying decisions happen to be rather irrational and are not always connected with their values” (Kusa and Urmínová, 2020, p.5).  However, research carry out by Mintel shows is important to take into account the long-term impact of COVID-19 pandemic “where the environment will become a key priority for many customers and their purchase habits” (Mintel, 2021, p.2).

Young consumers expect the product offer of sustainable products to increase, but beyond this, sustainability will evolve from fragmented marketing-focused initiatives to an integral part of the strategy, addressing the entire fashion value chain, enhancing the efficiency, transparency and value creation to the customers.

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