A perennial challenge for brands is to recruit new consumers and retain existing ones. As we move from one generation of consumers to another against changing values & interests, brands must reconcile what they stand for and to whom.
Consumers are looking for brands to be a force for societal change and they’re voting with their wallets. 9 out of 10 Gen Z consumers believe companies have a responsibility to address environmental and social issues. In contrast, millennials were more focused on the environmental challenges.
Gen Z & Millennials have a combined spending power of $3 trillion and the fashion industry has leaned in, some with greater success than others. As of August 2020, Fast Retailing, the parent company of Uniqlo, has donated 41,110,000 pieces of clothing across 75 countries & regions. Madewell collects old jeans from consumers for Cotton’s Blue Jeans Go Green™ a program to turn them into housing insulation for communities in need. Sometimes good intent is overshadowed by inconsistencies in the business operations. As we have learned through PRIDE, some brands produced Pride-themed t-shirts in countries including China, Turkey & Myanmar where it is illegal to be gay. Consumers see through the difference between one-off marketing tactics and a steadfast commitment to a purpose that translates to business decisions.
In a survey by Morning Consult across Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK, 50% or more of consumers in every country say fair conditions and wages for workers are important to them. Environmental concerns like protecting biodiversity and low water use, meanwhile tend to have less buy-in, particularly in the UK. While customers, particularly the Gen Z cohort, care about sustainable fashion and the environment, they’re not willing, or perhaps do not have the means to pay that much more for it. A majority of consumers with the exception of Germany, spend less than two minutes researching the sustainability of clothing prior to purchasing. In the UK, 45 per cent of adults spend no time at all doing so.
As brands and parent companies set sustainability agendas and identify initiatives, it is only as meaningful and relevant in response to societal shifts and consumer values, largely driven by millennials and Gen Z. They are demanding real action. There is an obligation on brands to solve, not just sell.
Being a Citizen Brand takes commitment, tenacity and a long-view on the balance between profits and people & planet. Better than just having it both ways, brands can have it three ways.