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Creating Authentic Commerce Experiences for Sustainable Fashion

Fashion has always been the epicenter of what’s trending. It’s how we show individual identity, as well as belonging. In the traditional consumer-to-brand relationship, designers and brands told consumers what to wear and how to belong. And they used that influence to create fast fashion, where styles only last for a season and materials were sourced by whatever means necessary to produce products quickly.

However, the tides have turned and consumers are telling brands what they want. I’ll let you in on some important insight – it goes beyond product price and quality. Consumers want to spend money with a brand that aligns with their values. For millennials – the generation with the most buying power – and Gen Zers, environmental sustainability is one of their most commonly shared and highest values.

The Importance of Sustainable Fashion

A major shift we’re seeing in retail is the value millennials and Gen Zers place on sustainable fashion. According to a survey from McKinsey & Co., 66% of all respondents and 75% of millennial respondents say that they consider sustainability when they make a purchase. And thanks to Mintel, we know that 74% of consumers agree that “it’s the responsibility of brands and retailers to be more environmentally friendly.”

Additional survey responses from Mintel’s Sustainability Barometer helps us further understand the modern shopper:

  • 63% of consumers agree “I feel better about my shopping decisions when I buy environmentally friendly products.”
  • 54% of consumers agree “I am willing to pay more to buy sustainable products.”
  • 31% of consumers look for environmentally-focused labels

The importance on sustainability is also being recognized outside the retail sector. Financial investment firms are beginning to shift their strategies to take ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) into consideration when developing their portfolios, as it is becoming a widely recognized fact that the future for all industries lies in sustainable practices.

Examples of Sustainable Fashion

Before your brand works out the logistics of sustainable commerce practices, visit your brand values to ensure that they align with all of your business practices. Consumers will notice everything from where materials are sourced, to what partners you work with, even your hiring practices. Today’s consumer is smart, and they aren’t looking for a gimmick to sell products. They are looking to spend their hard-earned money on brands that genuinely care about the environment and are authentic with their practices.

Here are a few considerations for becoming more environmentally friendly as a brand.

  • Responsible sourcing and materials (less pollution in production, less water waste, and more)
  • Products made from recyclable materials
  • Products shipped in recyclable packaging
  • Carbon-zero shipping
  • Become a certified B Corp
  • Donate a percentage of sales to environmental causes

Once you establish a strategic roadmap for more environmentally friendly fashion production, it’s time to communicate your efforts with consumers. Brands that are going the extra mile for sustainable fashion and are transparent about their practices are having better conversations with consumers. In the next section, we’ll go over practical examples to communicate sustainability with your commerce strategy.

Brands That Do Sustainable Fashion Well

A handful of brands were early adaptors to sustainable fashion and provide great examples for how sustainable fashion can be done and integrated into your commerce platform and strategy.

Gap – has a Responsibly-Made Shop on its commerce website where online shoppers can look at all of the sustainable clothes at once. The product images and descriptions of responsibly made items are also all tagged so they are easy to spot no matter how someone finds them on the website. Lastly, each responsibly made item has a detailed explanation for what makes it a sustainable product in the product description.

Reformation – is upfront by stating its “mission is to bring sustainable fashion to everyone.” And the brand goes into detail to explain that the products are more expensive in order to pay fair wages, create good working conditions for all employees, responsibly source fabrics and materials, and ship products in sustainable packaging.

Adidas – carries a line made from recycled materials to eliminate fast fashion, and more specifically, plastic waste. Its commerce site also has a tag for products that are sustainable, an explanation for what qualifies their vegan and sustainable products, and names its sustainability partners.

Patagonia – famously donates “1% for the planet,” by giving 1% of all sales to preserving and restoring the environment. Patagonia is also conscious about materials used for all of its products and how it does business, i.e. where its facilities are located and who the suppliers are. The brand also consistently supports small nonprofits and activists groups. All of which is clearly communicated throughout the website with dedicated pages and tags on individual products.

What do these brands all have in common? They all have a clear and concise point-of-view for their brand values. They follow through on authentically demonstrating a commitment to these values through sustainable business practices. And they consistently communicate how they live up to these values to their consumers across all their channels. As consumers continue to consider sustainability in their day-to-day purchases, brands who invest in this effort now will see the benefit for years to come.