According to a study organized by trend forecasting company WGSN and presented at Project New York, 94 percent of respondents aged 18-25 believe we are currently experiencing a climate crisis—and the generation is fueling positive global change as a result.
“Gen Z, having lived in an era of overall progress when it comes to social issues such as marriage equality and body positivity, is now forging new territory and having more robust conversations about climate emergencies,” said WGSN Mindset director Jennifer Edwards.
The cohort, which WGSN defines as those born between the years 1995-2015, is the demographic that’s bound to be most affected by the epidemic, as rising sea levels and catastrophic weather events are only projected to get worse as time goes on.
Anxiety surrounding the phenomenon is so widespread that it’s actually been given a name: eco anxiety.
Though scientists have warned of climate change for years, it got the world’s attention in 2019, and much of that could be attributed to Gen Z. Last year, Oxford Dictionary’s Word of the Year was “climate emergency,” and Time’s Person of the Year was activist (and Gen Zer) Greta Thunberg.
For the fashion industry, this means there’s an increased pressure to produce more responsibly.
According to the same study, Gen Z consumers hold brands to a standard higher than their own government: 75 percent of respondents consider brands more effective than governments in fighting climate change.
Thunberg, among others, wishes to change that, as environmental regulations set by governments could push the industry to adopt more sustainable practices on a larger scale. The activist sparked a movement when she regularly left school to protest outside of the Swedish parliament for stronger action on climate change. Soon after, crowds of Gen Zers and millennials followed her lead around the world to demonstrate the severity of climate change.
“Widespread activism is empowering more young people to turn their protests into political action,” said Edwards, “from pressuring lawmakers and businesses to energizing suffrage among voters and exploring legislation, such as the Green New Deal.”
The study also found that 95 percent of respondents are willing to change their habits to combat global warming, and 84 percent are willing to spend more on sustainable products. To connect with these consumers, brands don’t necessarily need to lower their prices or make any grand gestures—Edwards noted that it’s as simple as being authentic and eco-minded.
“Small, authentic strides in terms of climate crisis really resonate with this cohort,” she said. “Now is the time for companies to create constructive dialogue and action plans that consumers can participate in. This will not only help to educate young consumers on the state of the climate, but will allow them to take positive action which can in turn mitigate their eco anxiety.”