An IFM-Première Vision research outlines a very worrying scenario related to green communication. It concerns consumer ignorance and how many, too many brands play havoc with the information that should combat it
Consumers are groping in the dark as they hunt for information to orient themselves in the tangled world of sustainable and responsible fashion. They do not find it, and if they do, it is often misleading, confusing, and incomplete. Thus, they are forced to rely on perception, emotion, cultural legacies, and incorrect messages. This is one of the salient aspects of the study conducted in April 2022 by IFM (Institut Français de la Mode) and Première Vision and based on 6,000 interviews with consumers in Italy, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Result: the emergence of a fog engulfing green communication. Often (unfortunately) voluntarily.
The fog that engulfs green communication
9 out of 10 people involved in the survey say they want to change the way they buy clothes and accessories but are disoriented because they cannot find the information they are looking for. The survey asks what obstacles exist to buying a responsible product. The most common answer is not the price (only in Germany it is), but the lack of information.
This is demonstrated by the answers to this question: which brands are eco-responsible? Here the ‘average consumer’ names the most well-known multinationals in the fashion industry, in particular sports equipment manufacturers and fast fashion chains. To the general public, the biggest names in the industry come to mind without delving into the real or supposed efforts of each of them. It results from a hammering communication campaign based on their (real or temporary) commitment to sustainable fashion.
Cotton and leather
According to the study, cotton is on the podium of the most sustainable materials because it conveys a robust symbolic charge related to childhood and softness. Hence, consumers are particularly forgiving of its production methods. “Cotton is judged rather positively, while we know that it has a significant impact related to water and pesticides,” observes Gilles Lasbordes, general manager of Première Vision. That respondents’ answers depend on cultural perception rather than an objective assessment of the true impact of materials becomes apparent when it comes to leather.
Despite being historically the first example of circularity as it reuses food industry waste, it is among the five most criticised materials. Why? Only one in two people know that leather comes from animals destined for meat consumption. Next: not everyone knows the difference between leather and fur. Again: respondents cite ‘animal suffering‘. And finally, there is the rise of the vegan movement that rejects animal products. A choice, the latter that sees Italy leading the other four countries with 35.1% of responses.
On synthetics, the public is quite informed. Among the materials cited as environmentally harmful are polyester, acrylic, and polyamide. The materials from which the garment or accessory was produced are often decisive criteria for consumer choice. 38.6% of Italians, the highest percentage, cited materials as the main reason for purchasing eco-responsible clothing. But alongside this, another belief is gaining ground: the made-in. If a product is made in the same country where it is sold, it is considered more sustainable than one from abroad. Reasons: CO2 released during transport, compliance with national regulations in terms of ethics and safety. Factors that also give reliability in terms of social responsibility.
The moral of the study
When buying clothes, the price remains the first purchase criterion in France, the UK, and the US. In contrast, product quality is in Italy and Germany. In all countries, comfort is in third place, ahead of design and even brand. But the IFM study tells us above all that the desire for sustainable fashion is a growing trend, but often not supported by the fashion system. There are high expectations from consumers, who are hungry for the clear and correct information to steer them towards items produced in a more responsible manner. Hence the great need for clarity on materials and production methods. The clarity that, perhaps, not everyone wants.
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