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Is there a gap between a desire to be more climate-friendly and the realities of consumption habits amongst Gen Z?

‘Sustainability’ is a real buzzword of the times and understandably too. Latest news this week talks about the expected migration of animals due to climate change and the risk this poses in terms of viral transmission between species, another potential future pandemic.

After living more than two years of their youth through a global pandemic, and as a generally vocal demographic when it comes to the topics of climate change and sustainability, we spoke with our Gen Z community about their concerns regarding these matters.

75% said they would boycott a brand that was found to be ‘unsustainable’

When asked about their biggest worries concerning climate change, wildlife depletion came out top – a very prevalent finding given the nature of the aforementioned media discussion this week. On the flip side, when it comes to how young people feel about brands in relation to climate change, three quarters, 75%, also reported they would boycott brands that are found to be ‘eco-unfriendly’ and ‘unsustainable’.

With fast fashion brands like Missguided and SHEIN leading the charge with their hugely amassed Gen Z audience, you would be forgiven, however, for questioning whether there is a gap in the aspirational morals and values of Gen Z in comparison to their purchasing decisions.

It is apparent that Gen Z does have the desire to live more sustainably and is actively engaging in conversations regarding raising awareness and discussions of this nature, but many of them are still young and starting out in their careers post-education. This comes hand-in-hand with less disposable income, and so while they may aspire to buy into brands with stronger sustainability credentials, could it be that at the moment, there is a gap between their intentions and actions?

Who really holds the responsibility here?
Gen Z is concerned about the future of the planet but is still shopping fast fashion as they cannot afford not to, so who does the liability remain with? Is there a gap in the market for a Gen Z-targeted brand to shake the industry up? Or can older brands also lead the charge here? Findings out this week from eBay’s re-commerce report showed Gen Z are a driving force in the resale and purchase of second-hand goods and platforms such as Vinted and Depop are also thriving.

While perhaps there is still work to be done to balance the desire for living more sustainably, with the practicalities of fast fashion, when it comes to sustainable practices that in the long term can support the wider work being done to combat climate change, Gen Z is championing this behaviour in other ways.

When polled for our Brutally Honest Gen Z report for 2022, less than a fifth of our UK respondents, only 18%, reported a want to drive to work, with more than half, 57%, opting to take the more climate-friendly, public transport route.

So what impact can Gen Z really have on brands when it comes to climate-friendly practices and products if they will still shop from brands with weaker sustainability credentials?

Short answer: They will still hold you accountable. They may still shop Pretty Little Thing, but if you start selling products at up to 100% off for Black Friday – they will have something to say about it.

If your brand makes a pledge to make changes, supports a charity or sets ambitious goals and targets regarding your supply chain then make sure it lives up to them. And, if you do falter to reach them or miss the mark, be honest about it with your target consumer, as they will undoubtedly point out when you are not.

We predict, as Gen Z grows, so will their spending and consumption habits, so ensuring your brand is ahead of the curve here can only be a positive thing.

In the meantime, if you are keen to implement smaller, more manageable changes to your own personal lifestyle check out our community consultant’s stance on plastic.