The newly published RetailX European Fashion Sector Report 2023 highlights that consumers want affordable fashion, but they want it to be green – giving birth to a new way of selling and delivering fashion.
One of the key sustainability considerations among European online fashion shoppers is the environmental impact of delivery. The propensity to ship to the door using diesel powered vans and lorries has become a vivid reminder of the environmental impact of ecommerce and shoppers are keen to address this.
Almost a third (27%) of both UK and Belgian consumers see delivery as one of the key environmental issues, making choices around what they buy based on the delivery options and their ‘green-ness’.
Interestingly, the Scandinavian nations of Norway and Denmark come out bottom of the list, being the least likely to pick delivery options for environmental reasons. This may seem counterintuitive since the Nordics were pioneers in championing environmental issues, however, it is that very early adoption of sustainability in all things that sees them give it less consideration. Put simply, they don’t have to consider it as, with local brands in the region at least, it is hardwired into their operations.
For sellers targeting these markets from outside, there are also such stringent environmental regulations to adhere to when selling across Scandinavia that again, shoppers don’t have to think about the environmental-friendliness of the things that they buy.
Outside of the Nordic region, many brands are looking toward delivery companies that offer electric or hybrid delivery vehicles, often as an extra that consumers pay for, but increasingly as the norm. With retailers increasingly aware of shoppers desire for sustainable products and services, many are forcing this shift on the logistics industry.
The report also highlight that consumers are looking to shop more sustainably in general. Across Europe they are buying fewer items, buying more sustainably produced items and looking at reselling and buying pre-loved fashion goods. Italy offers up 77% of consumers who say that they are planning to buy fewer things. French shoppers are the ones reigning in their spending on goods, with 73% saying they will buy less online, with the UK a close second at 69%.
Looking at the retailers efforts, the research found some brands have a long way to go to convince consumers that they are moving in the right direction on sustainability in fashion. The concept of ‘green washing’ – a form of advertising or marketing spin where green PR and marketing are deceptively used to persuade the public that an organisation’s products, aims and policies are environmentally friendly when they aren’t – may not be growing per se, but perception among consumers that it might be, is.
In fact nearly half (47%) of European fashion shoppers are sceptical of retailer and brand environmental claims. In fact, European fashion shoppers are much more likely to check companies’ claims about environmental and sustainability than their counterparts in China and the US.
And they are right to be wary. A study by the EU in 2020 found that 53% of sustainability claims made in 2020 were “vague, misleading or provided unfounded information about products’ environmental characteristics”. In the UK in 2022, the UK Competitions and Marketing Authority (CMA) launched a review of the sustainability claims of major UK fashion brands Asos, Boohoo and George at Asda. While it is yet to report, the CMA is consulting with government to make it possible to sanction companies under consumer law for green washing.
This feature was authored by Paul Skeldon, and originally appeared in the RetailX European Fashion Sector Report 2023.