How much do consumers care about fashion’s impact on the planet?

More than you may think

Lindsay Trombley
2 min readSep 9, 2020

There’s a sharp disconnect between the way the fashion industry talks about sustainability and the way consumers think about it. It’s not that fashion brands don’t understand that consumers care about the planet. But the gap is in understanding how consumers think about sustainability and just how savvy they’re becoming to the industry’s impact on the planet.

It seems like every day, another fashion brand launches a flashy new sustainability initiative. But these initiatives tend to focus on fabrics instead of on the enormous volumes of clothes that are produced every year, many of which are never sold and go to straight to landfills or incinerators.

I’m a co-founder of Wovn, a company that helps fashion brands gather real-time consumer insights so they can produce only the items people actually want to buy. We recently polled our database of consumers to find out how they’re thinking about sustainability when it comes to fashion, and the results may surprise you. 99% of respondents told us it’s at least somewhat important to them that their fashion choices be sustainable.

The evidence suggests that consumers are increasingly attuned to greenwashing; Google searches for the term have increased steadily over the past few years. Searches for “fast fashion” have increased even more sharply:

Google searches for “fast fashion”, 2016 — present

The consumers we polled also seemed fairly savvy to greenwashing. When we asked them what changes to their shopping habits they’ve made to reduce their impact, the most common answer was not buying better fabrics; it was buying fewer clothes.

We asked about everything from the details of how much consumers care about their own impact to whether they’re willing to pay more for sustainable fashion, and the results make us feel hugely optimistic.

Make no mistake: individual consumers changing their personal shopping habits will not solve the climate crisis. But we’re hopeful that if fashion brands start paying attention to how consumers collectively feel about the industry’s impact on the planet, this can become a precipitating force for real change.

You can find the full report with all the insights here.