The influence sustainability has on the global market is rapidly increasing. As more and more people value the environmental impacts of their purchases, demand for sustainable fashion is quickly increasing. Companies that incorporate sustainable initiatives into their products have the potential to grow significantly in the near future. As of 2022, 78% of consumers in the Netherlands incorporate sustainability into their purchasing decisions. Additionally, younger generations value sustainable products more than earlier generations, with Generation Z valuing them the highest. 75% of Generation Z value buying sustainable products over purchasing name-brand products.
The top driving forces behind these sustainability shifts are mainly environmental concerns, such as a desire to reduce waste production, carbon footprint, factory admissions, and water waste. There are also other factors, like wanting an increase in fair and ethical working conditions and animal welfare, that play a significant role.
Fashion is an example of a relevant industry currently making many sustainable shifts. The fast fashion industry contributes significantly to many environmental dilemmas. The fast fashion industry accounts for over 10% of the world’s total carbon emissions and is the second leading cause of pollution globally, only below the oil industry. Along with this, the fashion industry is accountable for using over 79 trillion liters of water and 92 million tons of clothes in landfills annually.
As a result, many shoppers are starting to switch to more sustainable alternatives, such as shopping at second-hand apparel stores. The global second-hand apparel market has grown by almost 50 billion dollars since 2021 alone. The market is projected to reach 218 billion dollars by 2026. As of 2019, the second-hand apparel market was only a third of the size of the fast fashion market. However, the competition between these two markets continues to grow, and it’s estimated they will produce very similar outputs by 2030.
The automotive industry also significantly negatively impacts the environment. The mass amounts of people driving cars emit an unsustainable quantity of carbon dioxide and greenhouse gasses, polluting the air. 80-90% of these adverse effects are caused by the fuel consumption that cars require. That is why many automotive companies, such as BMW, a manufacturer of luxury vehicles and motorcycles based in Germany, offer multiple options for electric cars. BMW is not alone; Tesla, Nissan, Chevrolet, Ford, Volkswagen, and more are examples of some of the top electric car manufacturers in the world.
On the other hand, one challenge of incorporating sustainability into the fashion industry is that it is more expensive. In Poland, the biggest barrier to adopting sustainable spending practices is the additional costs that come with doing so. For example, the average electric car costs $10,000 more than a gas-powered car. However, buying an electric vehicle is the most economical option for long-term investment because it costs less than half as much per year to maintain.
This trend of long-term saving is also apparent in the fashion industry. Fast fashion creates the illusion that consumers save money because the clothing is priced cheaply. Some companies like ZARA, a fast fashion apparel company based in Spain, have production costs of as little as $4 for a singular clothing item. However, one of the reasons that clothing costs so little is that it is made with cheap materials that don’t last as long, perpetuating the cycle of new trends arising and then quickly dying. In contrast, buyers that shop sustainably don’t have to continuously buy new clothes, as sustainable clothing is better quality and will last longer.
If companies across industries continue implementing sustainable initiatives, it will benefit us and the environment in the long run.