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Most Consumers Not Willing to Pay More for Sustainability

Shoppers say they want ethically and sustainably produced goods, but are they seeking out those items in stores and are they willing to pay more for them?

The short answer: not really.

According to data compiled by Verdict Retail, while 60 percent of consumers say a retailer’s sustainability agenda is important to them when shopping for apparel and footwear, what they say is not necessarily what they do.

Only 15.6% of people surveyed by Verdict said they wouldn’t buy from a retailer that’s not upfront about its eco-friendly credentials. That leaves unsustainable retailers with little reason to change their ways.

Furthermore, while only 20.2% of consumers said they would not pay more for environmentally-friendly or sustainable products, just 3 percent would pay more than 21 percent extra. That means the majority of shoppers would choose a $6.99 T-shirt from a store with dubious ethics over a sustainably sourced one retailing for $8.45.

Though Verdict noted that this statistic signals how tightly consumers’ disposable incomes are being squeezed, it also highlights the huge disconnect between what people say they want and what their actions reveal.

It’s no surprise, then, that of those consumers who had not bought any sustainable or eco-friendly clothing in the last few years, 31.1% cited price as the main reason why. They said the products were too expensive.

Verdict said because prices are always going to be more on sustainable clothing, because of increased costs throughout the supply chain, retailers need to justify the higher price tag through quality, attention to detail and innovation. Do that, and shoppers will look past the price and understand they’re paying for something that will last.

Availability and range are important, too: 18.8% of those surveyed said didn’t buy any sustainable or eco-friendly clothing because they couldn’t easily find it, while 17.5% blamed a lack of choice.