Older Australians are the least likely to buy into ethical fashion, but Gen Z support suggests an industry seachange is coming

Older Australians are the least likely to buy into ethical fashion, but Gen Z support suggests an industry seachange is coming
  • Australia’s Generation Z shoppers have the highest ethical fashion consumption index score of any age cohort, a new report states.
  • Baby Boomers and older Australians ranked lowest, according to the 2021 Baptist World Aid Australian Ethical Consumption Report.
  • The findings suggest major manufacturers and retailers will need to adjust their practices to keep up with changing tastes and ethical mores.
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Australians in Generation Z are far more likely to focus on ethical fashion consumption than their older counterparts, according to a new report, suggesting retailers and manufacturers may have to alter their business practices to keep up with changing consumer demands.

In its latest Australian Ethical Consumption Report, released Monday, not-for-profit Baptist World Aid and research firm McCrindle state Aussies under the age of 26 had the highest ‘ethical consumption index’ score of any age cohort at 69/100.

The score ranks how likely respondents are to consider issues like child labour, environmental impact, and the use of living wages when considering their next fashion purchase, and how likely they are to match those beliefs with actual spending.

Generation Y and Generation X, spanning between ages 27 and 56, registered scores of 67 and 62, respectively. Baby Boomers notched a score of 58, while Australians over the age of 76 registered an index score of 55.

“We see younger generations, and women, more open to changing their habits” to align with the values of a “fair go for all”, said McCrindle spokesperson Ashley Fell.

The findings comport with consulting giant McKinsey’s State of Fashion 2021 report, which found the most successful firms will “be those that get a grip on the trends shaping the fashion landscape”.

Those firms will emphasise the “importance of sustainability through the value chain” and ” treat their workers and the environment with respect”, the report states.

The Baptist World Aid report also echoes the rise of online secondhand marketplaces in Australia, which bill themselves as facilitators of circular and sustainable fashion.

Depop, a digital marketplace which lets sellers list pre-loved designer garments, claims one in four Gen Z Australians have already signed up.

Competitor Poshmark, which launched in Australia early this year, claims to have kept more than 90 tonnes of jeans from landfill.

Three in five consumers have become more aware of the real-world impact of their fashion purchases in the past three years, Baptist World Aid states.

Survey respondents overwhelmingly said corporations are responsible for ensuring ethical practices in the fashion industry.

68% of those tallied said manufacturers and retailers are on the hook for those guarantees, while just 41% said the main responsibility falls on consumers.

But as younger consumers tailor their spending to mirror their beliefs, major roadblocks are keeping Australians from wearing their hearts on their sleeves.

A full 87% of those surveyed indicated they want to alter their spending habits to consume fashion more ethically, but just 46% said they regularly give their money to brands with ethical and sustainable bona fides.

Not knowing which brands use ethical sourcing, the cost of purchasing those goods, and the perceived difficulty of accessing ethical threads in-store are all keeping Australians from making good on their beliefs, Baptist World Aid states.