Ethical Retail & The Consumer

Ethical Retail & The Consumer

The Ethical Consumer

Without doubt consumers are becoming more environmentally conscious. The last few years has seen a steady rise in the ethical consumer. A report by Mintel [1] showed nearly half of all consumers surveyed preferred to purchase garments from brands who tried to curtail their impact on the environment. This figure increased to 60% among the younger generations.

Some customers actively search for brands who aim to create a more sustainable fashion world. A study by McKinsey showed that “sustainable fashion” online searches have tripled between 2016 and 2019 [2].

The Toluna research report also indicated that 37% [3] of US consumers stated they are willing to pay up to 5% more for environmentally friendly products.

The Successful Ethical Retailer

For some brands sustainability is central to their core business and strive to deliver products which are environmentally friendly and have a positive effect on the planet. Proving ethical retail can be a lucrative business. Illustrating you can simultaneously care about the planet and be financially incredibly successful [4].

Mainstream Changes

A growing number of retailers are recalibrating their efforts and steadily changing the way they do business in a bid to improve their sustainability and environmental track record and build a more environmentally conscious brand.

Products Made from Recycled & Sustainable Materials

Brands are introducing an increasing number of sustainably sourced and recycled materials into their product lines [5]. Introducing ethical clothing ranges, experimenting with innovative materials for example plant-based textiles like orange peel and pineapple leaves and producing garments from recycled materials [6].

A McKinsey study which surveyed global sourcing executives with a buying power of $100 billion stated more than half wanted at least half of their products to be made with sustainable materials by 2025 [2].

With some retailers going further and announcing self-imposed target deadlines to use sustainably sourced materials [7].

Sustainable Bricks & Mortar

The US green building council has also reported an increase in the number of international US retailers investigating how they can make their stores more sustainable [8]. With some retailers making moves to ensure factories are more sustainable by implementing renewable energy solutions for example solar panels and investigating techniques to absorb greenhouse gases [9].

Recycling, Repair & Rental Services

A growing number of retailers have implemented their own eco-friendly initiatives. Offering recycling programs which is some cases are linked to customer discount incentives. Or extending the life of their products by offering repair services. We have also seen a steady growth in rental services which is also trickling down to the more affordable mainstream market.


Retailers can focus on many areas of the business10 to both positively impact the environment and attract the ethical consumers from product creation and selection, supply chain management, eco-friendly stores, head offices, energy-saving devices and a range of eco-friendly initiatives.

This is not something to be taken lightheartedly when you consider the report by research company Toluna [3] stating consumers believe brands can play a considerable role in influencing consumer behavior and have more leverage than governments or local regulation.