UK consumers don’t think it’s their responsibility to ensure a sustainable fashion industry

A new study by Streetbees, the global intelligence platform, reveals the truth behind consumers’ attitudes towards the fashion industry. Is sustainable and ethical manufacturing a true consideration, or do people say they care but let the responsibility of compliance lie with someone else?
The research, which included 1,552 people across the UK, finds that the debate around fast fashion continues to raise more questions than it does answers. Over half of respondents rate sustainability as important or very important to them when buying clothes but when it comes to taking responsibility, Brits appear to shy away from the spotlight. 

Most people put the role of ensuring a sustainable fashion industry onto the brands themselves, with only 13% of the UK believing it is the consumer who should drive it forward. For instance, almost two in five (38%) respondents do in fact believe fast fashion can be sustainable – but that’s because they don’t feel the need to come up with the solution. 

Scott Kneller, VP of growth at Streetbees says: “We’re noticing a recurring theme when it comes to consumers and sustainability – what they say and what they do don’t match up. This is putting a lot of pressure on brands to come up with innovative ways to be kinder to the environment, while providing the same quality as before.

“Just because ethics and environmental impact are hot topics right now, doesn’t mean they’ll drive sales. While this should still be a priority for companies across industries – not just in fashion – brands can’t assume it’s enough to increase market share.”

Consumers want to at least be given the choice to shop sustainably – which means brands need to figure out how to provide environmentally products without pricing themselves out of the market. Many companies are already on their way to achieving this though – with the secondhand market is set to overtake fast fashion in the coming years. Brands ranging from Pretty Little Thing to Asda are trialling ranges using secondhand or recycled products – is this the answer to consumers’ sustainability concerns?
Elsewhere in the world, our findings include:

  • 69% of Thai respondents trust eco labels and green certificates, compared to just 48% in the UK
  • Less than 1 in 4 people in China believe that fast fashion can be sustainable, compared to 60% in Thailand
  • The UK places more emphasis on the sale of leather and fur than other countries surveyed – 34% of the UK use it to determine whether a brand is ethical, compared to 24% of Thailand and 22% of India