Summary: The motivation-impact study throws light on whether sustainability in fashion brands has an impact on consumer purchasing decisions, and what motivates the customers to make such decisions. Such data can help retailers and manufacturers to improve their supply chain and understand the gap between attitude and impact to enable a greener approach.
The fashion industry makes up for 2-3% of global emissions. Based on the research conducted, consumers have a positive approach toward sustainability in fashion, but green fashion makes up less than 10% of the entire fashion market. The affordability of fast fashion brands has created a paradox between the acceptance of sustainability in the fashion industry and the lack of actual purchasing behavior known as the attitude–behavior gap.
Fashion is often used as a tool of self-expression by consumers, where the motivation to be trendy prevails over their motivation for sustainable fashion purchases. This has led to a conflict between the desire to purchase and efforts to stop overconsumption due to a lack of understanding of environmental sustainability. Moreover, factors including price and brand status are important elements in fashion.
Even for consumers who are aware of ethically manufactured products, the impulse for new and trendy clothes trumps their awareness. The role of fashion as a function vs a social media influence, status symbol, and familiarity with fashion products also add to the conundrum.
Consumers who have developed this awareness about the principles of sustainability are moving toward conscious clothing. Ethically manufactured clothes with the benefits of fast fashion are the only way brands can sustain themselves in the long run, but the lack of social support and high prices are still bottlenecks to achieving this goal.
Some sustainable fashion brands are trying to address the conflict by creating environmentally and socially responsible clothing. However, even with these options available, many consumers still experience a conflict between their desire to be fashionable and their desire to reduce overall consumption. This conflict often leads to less impulse buying, as consumers are more thoughtful about their purchases.
Since consumers associate sustainable sourcing of materials and improving fair wages with higher prices in fashion, the price of the product can be a barrier because even these self-aware consumers may not be able to afford it. Furthermore, elements such as personal style, trends, and availability also play a role in purchasing these fashion products.
Sustainability in the fashion industry is easily defined by the below factors:
Now that sustainability is emerging as a megatrend, fashion brands have begun to use keywords such as "eco-friendly," "organic," "natural," and "environmentally friendly" in their marketing messages. Although brands benefit from this clear communication about their sustainable practices, a lot of them are guilty of greenwashing, which is a practice of misleading advertising, using eco-labels and logos. The challenge is to convince consumers about the benefits of sustainable fashion and encourage informed buying decisions.
The important factors affecting consumers are the quality and longevity of clothing, which is ranked first followed by the price of clothing; ranked at the bottom is fashion brand, which is considered the least important factor when buying. The second least important factor is the sustainability of a particular product. This suggests that the sustainability of fashion brands is not a key criterion in deciding to buy a garment made by that brand and that it does not have a direct impact on consumers’ purchasing decisions.
The data also showed that the participants’ positive attitude toward sustainability cannot always reflect their purchasing behavior. The data also reflects that the concern about the environmental impacts of fashion among consumers is not high enough, and even the ones who are aware do not follow through. Despite this, a majority of consumers are not ready to pay a higher price for sustainable fashion products and would prefer if were priced the same as any other fast fashion brand.
Choosing sustainability means avoiding the fast fashion model, which can lead to a decrease in overconsumption and a further reduction in material throughput. Hence, it requires change at both the business level and the consumer level.
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