Circularity may be the word du jour for eco-conscious fashion players, but consumers are still grappling with whether retail is doing its part to encourage recycling, reuse and reducing waste.
Though 72 percent of shoppers are interested in re-centering their own consumption habits around these principles, “organizations are not providing the convenience, access, information, and affordability to enable them to do so,” according to the Paris-based Capgemini Research Institute, a digital think tank which surveyed nearly 8,000 global shoppers and 20 industry experts on their interest in circularity.
“In contrast to the ‘take-make-waste’ linear model, a circular economy is regenerative and aims to gradually decouple growth from the consumption of finite resources,” Capgemini said. Thoughtful designs that reduce the use of raw or virgin materials can utilize existing components and inputs, while planning for the recovery and reuse of products and packaging offers a pathway for reuse. But half of all shoppers surveyed said they don’t believe brands are doing their part.
More than half (54 percent) of shoppers expressed interest in cutting down on unnecessary purchases, while 72 percent said they are interested in purchasing more durable products that last. Along those same lines, 70 percent of shoppers are compelled to learn more about maintaining their purchases so they last longer. Consumers, in large numbers, also reported moving away from fast fashion (37 percent), repairing and repurposing (34 percent), and donating or giving away used products (46 percent) to avoid sending them to landfill.
Given growing shopper appetites, it’s time for businesses to accelerate the development of products and business models that facilitate these goals, Capgemini said. Shoppers believes the industry’s shortcomings are impeding their ability to consume more consciously.
A lack of sufficient labeling on products explaining their origin, recyclability and content contributed to 60 percent of respondents’ reasoning for not taking a more active role as circular consumers. Meanwhile, 55 percent of shoppers said repairing products is too costly for them to do on their own, while 53 percent don’t want to compromise on convenience.
“This is an inevitable result of the e-commerce boom of the last 10 years,” Capgemini said. Digital’s rise has “instilled a great desire and expectation for convenience and low-cost through major retailers that offer next-day or even same day delivery services,” it added, and old habits are hard to break. Shoppers are aware that they have been conditioned to expect low prices and convenience above all else, and 67 percent said they now expect organizations to reframe advertising to discourage excess consumption.
Capgemini pointed to Patagonia’s efforts to go against the grain in by actively encouraging shoppers to buy less, citing its 2011 Black Friday campaign that led with a simple directive: “Don’t Buy This Jacket.” The compelling advertising, which aimed to deter the rampant holiday season overconsumption, has been followed by continuing efforts to change consumers’ habits. During Black Friday last year, Patagonia encouraged shoppers to “Buy Less, Demand More”—like sustainably sourced materials and repair options. Allbirds followed suit, bucking the tradition of discounting during Black Friday weekend and raising prices by $1 last year to donate to environmental causes. Its “Break tradition, not the planet” campaign matched those $1 donations.
Capgemini’s past reports show that, despite their frustrations with retail at large, consumers are shifting their spending to companies that prioritize circularity, especially when it comes to high-awareness sectors like food. Forty-four percent of recent respondents said they increased their spending on food and beverage companies that focus on recycling, reuse and curbing plastic waste, while 40 percent have taken the same steps with personal products and household cleaners, the think tank said.
By contrast, only 30 percent said they were upping their spend with fashion brands that invest in promoting a circular economy, and only 24 percent have done so for furniture companies. “The lower shifts in spending can also be attributed to the lower frequency of purchases of consumer electronics, fashion, and furniture products, compared to products in the food and beverages and personal and household-care categories,” Capgemini said.
While consumers are already making greener decisions, they can only choose from what brands and retailers offer, said Roshan Gya, managing director of intelligent industry at Capgemini Invent. The winners must secure a “deep transformation” in three key areas, he said, including “minimizing the impact of their existing products and services, developing the products of tomorrow that will embrace circularity principles by design, and reinventing their operations that include new sustainable business models.”
“These companies will be the new leaders of tomorrow on their markets with a strong consumer relationship and loyalty,” he added. “In a sustainable journey, the circular economy is an investment today for how we should do business in the future.”