A report published in March by Retail Week and Infor labels H&M as the most sustainable fashion brand in the UK. Voted by 1,000 UK consumers, H&M is not the only fast fashion brand to top this list, Nike, Primark, M&S and Amazon take the top five positions as the most sustainable fashion brands. If this sounds ironic to you, you are not alone.
At the beginning of 2022, Retail Week, a provider of global retail news and Infor, a software company came together and carried out a consumer poll, which questioned 1,000 UK fashion consumers on what sustainability means to them. With the report published mid-March, how UK consumers truly feel about sustainable fashion has been revealed.
Titled ‘Green is The New Black’, this report reflects on how UK consumers view sustainable fashion. Labelling H&M, Nike, Primark, M&S and Amazon as the top five most sustainable fashion brands, this report also found that members of Gen Z (aged 18-24 years old in the survey) are most likely to be sustainability-conscious, whilst Baby Boomers (aged 65 years old and over) are the least likely.
By the consumers featured in this report selecting five of the fastest fashion brands as the five most sustainable fashion brands, the hard work sustainable fashion brands put into their ethical practices are ignored. Sustainable fashion brands are transparent, they work to change the industry and to change the disposable narrative fast fashion brands have created for the fashion industry. But what fashion actually classes as sustainable? Sustainability is a subjective term that is difficult to define and even more difficult to apply to fashion brands because of how broad the term is. It is no wonder then that 35% of consumers who took part in the report said that they either didn't know, couldn't think of a brand or were not sure which brand was the most sustainable.
The answer to the consumers confusion here may lie in a concept called greenwashing. Greenwashing is the term used to describe fast fashion brands using green labels and phrases to appear sustainable, when in matter of fact, these are empty phrases which convey a false sense of sustainability. So, who can blame these 1,000 individuals who took part in this report, when there is such a thin line between greenwashing and true sustainability?
Fast fashion brands seem to be the first in line to use sustainable phrases, green stickers and sustainably charged phrases, but this does not come as a shock especially as this report highlights that Gen Z are prioritising sustainability. Brands in turn rather than adapt to the consumers wishes, use greenwashing as an easy way out of true sustainability.
Despite this difficulty in defining sustainability, 55% of consumers polled within the report are more likely to buy from a retailer or retail brand with ethical and sustainable credentials. This suggests that there is hope as, even though sustainability as a concept is ambiguous, it is still recognised and respected.