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Higher prices are affecting consumers’ willingness to buy sustainably

Cost is the leading factor that keeps shoppers from buying more eco-friendly products, per our May 2022 survey. Consumers say sustainability is important and want to support sustainable brands, but when it comes time to buy, price often trumps other considerations.

A June 2022 CivicScience survey noted a 3% overall drop since January 2020 in the number of respondents who said sustainability was important to where they shop for clothing, falling from 57% to 54%.

Willingness to pay more for sustainable fashion has fallen the most among older millennial and Gen X consumers. The share of consumers who said they were likely to pay more for sustainable fashion also fell from 36% to 34%, per CivicScience. This decline was largely attributable to those ages 35 to 54, for whom willingness to pay more fell to 26% in 2022 from 33% in 2020.

Younger consumers are more amenable to paying more for sustainable fashion. Some 56% of Gen Z respondents ages 18 to 24 indicated they would spend more on sustainable products, along with nearly half (47%) of 25- to 34-year-olds, per CivicScience. But these consumers are also likely to have less spending power. That tracks with the finding that those who were most likely to purchase sustainable apparel made $50,000 or less.

Another paradox for sustainable fashion is the very consumers who are most concerned about the environment also consume more. According to GWI, over half of Gen Z and millennial consumers purchase clothing at least once every two to three months and are “far more likely” to report purchasing unnecessary clothes than older cohorts.

A McKinsey survey of UK consumers from October 2021 also noted consumers defined as “sustainability seekers” were more likely to refresh their wardrobes on a seasonal basis.

Read the full report.