Eco-Aware Consumers Value Sustainable Options, CGS Report Reveals

The mission-driven shopping trend among consumers is growing, according to a new report from Computer Generated Solutions (CGS), a business-applications provider that counts Tommy Bahama, Vix Swimwear, Tea Collection, Velvet by Graham and Spencer, Paige Denim and Livie and Luca among its clients. As more consumers are making purchasing decisions guided by their principles, many are considering the impact of buying from companies that engage in sustainable practices.

For its “2019 Retail and Sustainability Survey,” CGS received feedback from more than 1,000 consumers across the United States between the ages of 18 and approximately 65. The New York City–based firm queried respondents about the importance of sustainable products and business practices when these individuals make purchasing decisions. Regardless of age or gender, 68 percent of those consumers surveyed felt sustainability influences their spending to some degree.

“Today’s buyers are driven by more than price—they’re looking for brands that align with their own values and needs,” CGS President of Business Applications Paul Magel said in a statement.

Consumers surveyed ranked the apparel industry as the third most critical for sustainable and eco-friendly options, following behind paper goods in the top spot and toiletries in the second. A major challenge faced by manufacturers of sustainable goods has been convincing shoppers to pay higher premiums for these items.

While 62 percent of overall respondents felt that price is still the most important factor influencing their buying decisions, they are willing to consider paying more for sustainable options. Of the consumers surveyed, 35 percent would pay 25 percent more if they were offered a sustainable version of a product, while 7 percent would pay up to 50 percent more, and 5 percent would pay a markup of 100 percent. When looking at Generation Z—defined as respondents ages 18 to 24—the survey found that this group is more likely to spend 50 percent to 100 percent more for sustainable goods than other age groups.

In the report, CGS also revealed the company values that most resonated with respondents. While the term “sustainable” can be broad, respondents to the survey were asked to clarify the areas of sustainability they felt were most important. Thirty-one percent prioritize brands that manufacture goods using eco-friendly materials when defining practices as sustainable. Other areas of sustainability that ranked as important to consumers were following ethical practices (15 percent), philanthropic efforts (8.8 percent), rejection of animal testing (8.8 percent) and having a strong purpose (8.4 percent).

“To create a loyal customer base, brands must be transparent about the materials and development behind their products,” Magel explained.

When asked to name apparel brands consumers connect most with sustainability, 11 percent mentioned Nike, 8 percent named Toms, and 4 percent thought of Patagonia. Despite the shift away from brand loyalty in consumer buying habits, manufacturers do have an opportunity to capture the interest of shoppers and retain their business over time. While consumers value a brand’s higher quality as the most important reason to return to a label, according to the survey, the second most important factor these consumers consider is a company’s sustainable or ethical practices.