As consumers increasingly turn to online shopping, end-to-end “sustainability logistics” will be fundamental for brands and retailers to master.
The information was revealed in a second annual report on retail and sustainability from CGS, which surveyed over 2,000 individuals in the U.S. and U.K.
“Looking back on 2019, we witnessed a different kind of sustainability movement in the retail space through a surge in fashion rental and subscription services being offered by retailers and brands,” said Paul Magel, president, business applications and technology outsourcing division, CGS.
Secondhand shopping was sought for its affordability and environmentally sustainable appeal, with a majority, or 64 percent, of Gen Z consumers saying they would pay more for sustainable products.
“However, in just a few short months, the economy and the conditions have changed for this market,” said Magel, adding that secondhand clothing retailers will need to focus on the safety of their products. As the survey noted, the majority of female consumers, at 53 percent, versus males, 47 percent, say that — at the very least — they “sometimes consider” a retailer’s shipping and packaging when shopping online.
As the report noted, retailers and brands will be tasked to “articulate their process of receiving product, holding and decontaminating and shipping safely.” While the survey did not outline best eco-friendly and shipping practices, it stressed the need to adapt as more shoppers aim to stick with e-commerce, even post-pandemic.
That’s not to say brick-and-mortar isn’t a testing ground for sustainability initiatives. Magel went on to cite brick-and-mortar experimentation, including Veja’s Darwin project in Bordeaux, France, as exciting new sustainability initiatives, “beyond sales of products.”
On that much-coveted sustainability premium consulting firms have tracked for years among consumers, Magel added that a majority of consumers are “willing to spend more, even in the current recession,” with age and gender playing an important role in that enthusiasm. CGS’ survey found that 56 percent of U.S. consumers and 59 percent of U.K. consumers will pay more for a sustainable product.
But the year-over-year data tell a different story. The firm found that the “importance” of sustainability has shown a 25 percent decrease in the U.S., “which we assume is a result of economic conditions,” as Magel said.
“We will see physical and financial safety impact the sustainability movement,” he added.
When WWD asked if sustainability can be bought, Magel was quick to point out the limits of the survey being that various lifestyle choices were discounted, with the intent being on purchasing and ongoing company-led initiatives.
“The current requirement for companies and where they can get a competitive edge goes beyond sustainability; it speaks to the broader area of compliance,” he added, citing smaller carbon footprints, reduced tonnage in landfills, ethical sourcing of raw materials and compliance around labor and fair business as must-haves by consumers.
While the majority of respondents demand more transparency from apparel brands, a departure was noted in how U.S. and U.K. consumers viewed government oversight. With Boohoo a real-time case study, U.K. consumers opted for greater government regulation on sustainable practices, while U.S. consumers charge brands with leading.
The report regarded supply chain technology solutions as key to conveying transparency to the consumer.
“The technology can provide compliance data and KPIs around where garments are made, the cost of the labor that went into them, the origin of the fabrics, and the route the garment traveled to get to the consumer, etc. These are all data points that more forward-thinking brands are tracking and what the consumers are looking for,” Magel reiterated.