Victoria Gothard - ESG Foundation Graduate Researcher

Gen Z driving more ESG practices in the Fashion Industry

By April 10, 2024No Comments

The recent appointment of Chioma Nnadi as the new Head of British Vogue has made significant waves in the fashion world, particularly because she has signalled that she will be aiming to incorporate more sustainable fashion into Vogue. Widely seen as the standard setter for the fashion world, this change of track at Vogue seems to suggest that there may be increasing pressure on the industry as a whole to become more sustainable.

In her inaugural interview, Nnadi spoke of her love of vintage fashion. Nnadi is not alone in her love of second-hand clothing. It is particularly popular with Gen Z; according to the Guardian more than half of shoppers have bought something second-hand in the last year, but this figure rose to 67% amongst Gen Z and millennials. Moreover, it is estimated that second-hand clothing will constitute 10% of global fashion industry sales by 2025, highlighting the strength of this movement.

Much of this is driven by these generations’ preferences for shopping more sustainably is fuelled by their widespread access to the internet throughout their childhood, meaning they have grown up to be more environmentally and socially conscious than generations before them. Consequently, they are more likely to research a brand on their ethics and sustainability practices before purchasing from them. One only needs to look as far as TikTok to find videos titled ‘Fashion girlies don’t support genocide’ listing companies to boycott following the Israel-Gaza war to see these generations’ commitment to social, environmental and ethical issues.

Moreover, online second-hand shopping is easier than ever before, with platforms like Depop and Vinted facilitating this technologically savvy generation’s ability to buy and sell more sustainable clothes. However, there is no doubt that increasing financial pressures from both the COVID pandemic and the cost of living crisis have also driven the rise of pre-owned shopping amongst these demographics.

For generations looking to make ethical choices the fact that many mainstream brands have been accused of greenwashing only pushes them further to avoid them and thrift instead. For example, Zara’s Join life range, which is advertised as being more sustainable, has fallen short of many of the standards required to be classed as ‘sustainable’. This makes it nigh impossible for customers to make ethical choices if they would like to buy store-bought clothes. With many companies under increasing pressure to connect with Gen Z customers, their desire for more sustainable fashion could be an important driving force for companies to pay more attention to their ESG factors or else run the risk of being on a TikTok Boycott list!

Like much of the fashion industry, the activewear sector has also been flooded with fast fashion brands, widely known to have a subpar ethical track record. However, TALA, a sustainable active wear brand seems to be disrupting this market. Advertising to predominantly young millennial and Gen Z women, TALA is an example of how brands prioritising sustainability and affordability will attract mass support from these demographics, and see this reflected in their profits; the company hit £1 million in sales within an hour of launching their new puffer jacket.

The financial success of companies like TALA highlights the profitability of introducing more ethical business practices, upon gaining the support of Gen Z and millennials. Thus, there is a strong case to be made that for companies to remain competitive, clothing brands need to prioritise ESG and sustainability practices, to garner young people’s interest.