If you’re like us, you can’t get enough of sustainable fashion statistics. That’s why we’ve gathered the latest sustainable fashion stats to share with you in one place. We’re breaking down everything from the impact of your current wardrobe to the growth of sustainable fashion brands and how the fashion industry is working to reduce its impact on the environment.
The fashion industry has harmed both society and the environment globally. Most fast fashion industries don’t even pay their workers a living wage. What’s more, textile production contributes immensely to climate change. More than aviation and shipping! It is also difficult to recycle clothes made from synthetic material, and thus the value of these clothes is lost.
However, now more than ever, people are switching to sustainable brands.
Sustainable Fashion Industry Statistics
Sustainability is much needed today to combat the rising negative effects of climate change and poverty. The trend of overconsuming clothes has dire consequences on society and the environment. This is exactly the aim of the fast fashion industry – getting consumers to buy endless clothes.
The amount of carbon emissions from the fashion industry is appalling. However, there are brands that have committed themselves to sourcing sustainable products. People are also paying more attention to eco-friendly products.
Sustainable fashion is geared at minimizing the impact of sourcing, manufacturing, and designing clothes. It aims to benefit the community, environment, and fashion industry by using eco-friendly materials.
We all love clothes! So why not wear both stunning and sustainable clothes that do not harm the environment and our communities?
Let’s look at statistics that give us hope for the future.
1. Interest in sustainable fashion has been steadily growing in the US.
Sustainable fashion, put simply, is about making clothes that have as little impact on the environment as possible. That means that all factors of production—from choosing sustainable materials to manufacturing, shipping, and disposal—are taken into account when creating clothes.
Sustainable fashion refers to clothing that is designed, produced, and delivered with consideration for environmental impact. This can include everything from using organic cotton or recycled materials in production to cutting down on travel pollution while shipping products around the world.
It’s no secret that the fashion industry has a reputation for being one of the most polluting industries in the world. From the enormous amount of clothing we produce (and throw away) each year to the chemicals used in textile dyeing and processing, it’s clear that our collective love for fashion has come at an awful cost to the planet.
Fortunately, more and more people are beginning to understand this. Data shows that interest in sustainable fashion has been growing over the last five years, and it’s easy to see why: with environmental concerns on everyone’s minds and a new health crisis on our hands, people are looking for ways to reduce their negative impact on the Earth.
The data on sustainable fashion is in. Consumer interest in sustainable fashion has been on the rise, and the trend shows no sign of abating anytime soon.
According to Google Trends, interest in the topic “sustainable fashion” has been growing steadily since 2015. In fact, it hit its peak in July 2020. That was the month when interest in sustainable fashion was at its highest point over the last five years. The pandemic and rising health concerns may be the reason why sustainable fashion was such a popular topic during this time period.
2. 35% of US consumers are willing to pay significantly more for sustainable fashion.
In a recent study, 35% of customers in the United States reported that they would be willing to pay significantly more money for clothing that is either biodegradable, recyclable or sustainably produced.
That’s a huge number of people! It’s almost like we’re reaching a tipping point, where people are starting to consider sustainability when they make their fashion choices.
This news is exciting for a lot of reasons, not just because it’s great for the environment. It means that customers are also willing to pay more for fair labor conditions, which is good news for companies that are committed to treating their workers well and making sure they’re not being exploited.
3. 66% of consumers consider sustainability when they buy clothes.
McKinsey US Cohort conducted a survey, and its findings indicate that 66% of people consider sustainability before purchasing a product. Around 88% of consumers want brands to be more eco-friendly. There is more awareness regarding the impact harmful materials like plastic, and unsustainable cotton have.
Around 60% of the clothes we wear are made from plastic. Some of these materials are polyester, nylon, acrylic, and other synthetics. It is no secret that a lot of our plastic ends up in the ocean. What you probably do not know is that a lot of this plastic comes from synthetic fibers. These synthetic fibers come from the material used by brands to make low-quality and cheap clothing.
The fabric is synthetic and contaminates the environment just by being washed. These fires lead to the ocean and add to microplastic pollution. These fibers are then ingested by wildlife. Fast fashion clothing comprises synthetic and cheap materials that do not last long. These materials rarely break down in landfills.
4. Unsustainable fast fashion has seen almost a 50% decrease in sales
Fast fashion is slowly being replaced by slow fashion. Consumers are more aware of the importance and ethics of sustainability. So much so that there has been an estimated 50% decrease in fast fashion sales. Consumers are steadily opting instead for eco-friendly and reusable, or recyclable clothing.
However, fashion brands still have a long way to go to meet the needs of consumers. At least people are making an effort to search for more sustainable fashion options. It is estimated that between 79 and 93 billion cubic meters of water are used annually to make clothes. Approximately 2700 liters of water are used to make one t-shirt. The amount of water used is shocking considering the globe’s water scarcity, especially in developing countries.
Cotton uses the most water of all materials but is half of the carbon footprint of polyester. Cotton requires around 10 gallons per plant, thereby pulling away water that is much needed by communities. When making one cotton shirt, the release of carbon emissions is the same as driving your car for 56 km. Thus, cotton’s carbon footprint is extremely high. The decrease in sales means people finally pay attention to the chemicals released from making cheap and fast clothing.
A garment worker in Ethiopia makes around 26 USD per month. The fashion industry has had a major impact on achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by the United Nations. Fast fashion is destructive, and it is important to address this issue as quickly as possible. Not only does the fashion industry contribute to climate change, but it also negatively impacts people’s basic human rights.
Approximately 0.6% of the price goes to the garment worker. The exploitation of workers is a common practice in the fashion industry. Many people, especially low-skilled immigrants, are forced to work for these companies. This is despite the fact that they get paid below the minimum wage. Because of this, workers are trapped in a cycle of poverty. Thereby making it impossible for these people to have a reasonable standard of living.
Viscose is a common fiber used to create clothing. Approximately 150 million trees are cut down every year to produce the wood pulp needed to manufacture viscose.
5. Sustainable fashion is a growing industry, currently worth over 6.35 billion US dollars.
(Business Research Company)
Many people seem to be finally paying attention to the environment and communities instead of only their wardrobes. Sustainable fashion has been receiving a ton of awareness in recent years.
According to statistics, the fashion industry is worth over 6.35 billion USD. It is expected to grow to 8.25 billion USD by 2023. Therefore, sustainable fashion barely accounts for 0.33% of the global fashion industry, which is currently worth over $1.9 trillion.
The annual growth rate of sustainable fashion is expected to be around 8.7% to 9.1%. The growth is great news since the environment is negatively impacted by unsustainable fast fashion.
The ethical fashion market can be divided into eco-friendly, animal cruelty-free, and charitable brands. Of these three, 40% is made up of the animal cruelty-free market (meaning, of course, that it does not involve animal testing or the use of animal products).
Still not sure what we mean? Think about it this way. If you’ve ever eaten a hamburger, chances are you’ve also bought a leather jacket. The leather jacket was made from an animal, and the animal was tested on before becoming your jacket. This is one example of how fashion can be cruel to animals.
In contrast, if you wear vegan leather shoes, you’re wearing a sustainable product that hasn’t hurt any animals in the process of getting to your feet. Not only will you look fabulous, but you’ll also feel good knowing that nothing suffered for your outfit choice!
If you love fashion and want to help keep everyone safe in the process, look into cruelty-free options that are available near you. You might be surprised at all the different options out there!
What’s more, the projected growth rate of eco-friendly markets is higher than that of other sectors in the sustainable fashion market. It is set to grow fastest of all at an annual rate of 11.6%.
7. One in three Americans would shop at a sustainable clothing store if one existed nearby.
US consumers are looking to make environmentally-conscious choices regarding clothing. A survey of 2000 adults and teens indicates that one in three consumers would purchase all their clothes at a sustainable clothing store. However, it is difficult to find such a store.
Let’s face it: we all love to shop, but it can feel like a guilty pleasure. That’s why people are always on the lookout for a sustainable clothing store nearby—a place where you can shop guilt-free. They want to feel good about their purchases, without worrying that their favorite items were made unethically or at the expense of human and animal rights.
This is great news for the environment! Being more environmentally conscious has never been easier, and it’s never been more of a priority.
8. 86% of American consumers express an interest in sustainable products.
Studies show that 86% of consumers believe that sustainability is a good goal. Consumers in the United States are more aware of issues that plague the environment and communities caused by the fashion industry.
When it comes to purchasing goods, it isn’t enough just to have a product that is functional or aesthetically pleasing. Consumers today are increasingly looking to align their purchases with their values, and sustainable practices are one of the most important factors that consumers take into account when making purchase decisions.
This is fantastic news, especially considering that the majority of Americans are not aware of the negative environmental impact their daily lives have on the planet.
By increasing awareness and access to sustainable options, we can have a big impact on reducing carbon emissions and the waste produced by outright trash or clogging landfills with items that could be recycled.
9. 48% of US consumers are unsure where to find sustainable clothing.
Since fast fashion is such a cheap and speedy industry, most consumers (48% of them) do not even know which stores sell sustainable clothes.
We don’t know if you’re one of them, but if we had to guess, we’d say that you probably are. And that means you’re entering a minefield whenever you go shopping for clothes because most of the clothing sold at all major retailers is made by underpaid workers with no rights or protections.
The results do show that brands have some work to do in making it easier for consumers to shop in a more environmentally-friendly way, but they also show that we have reason to be hopeful!
10. 55% of shoppers want clothing brands to help them understand how their products are more sustainable than alternatives.
People are realizing more and more how important it is to make sustainable choices when it comes to purchasing clothing. More than half (55%) of shoppers surveyed say they would like their clothing brands to help them understand how their products are more sustainable than alternatives. On top of that, 50% say that a sustainability label would help them identify sustainable clothes while shopping.
So what does this mean for your business? Does it mean you should start adding a sustainability label to all your products? Well, maybe, but there are a lot of reasons behind why people want sustainable clothing, and those reasons might be different for everyone.
Consumers don’t just want the options—they want the info. The study found that shoppers want more information about their clothing, including details on where it was made and how it was manufactured, as well as insight into how the brand has worked to lower its carbon footprint and reduce water waste during the manufacturing process.
So if you’re going to use a sustainability label, it may also be important to give people more information about what makes your products sustainable—to explain it in terms all customers can understand.
11. One-half of consumers consciously make choices to be more sustainable.
Around 52% of US consumers are consciously making sustainable choices and know the importance of giving up on fast fashion. The more people know the importance, the more can be done to recycle and utilize clothes.
A lack of recycling and utilization has led to the loss of 500 billion USD of valued clothes per year. While many donate to charities or thrift shops, almost none of these clothes are recycled. Nearly 60% of all clothing ends up in incinerators or landfills within years of being made.
12. 88% of consumers are wary of so-called “greenwashing” brands that claim to be environmentally friendly.
If you’re tired of brands that claim to be eco-friendly but fail to deliver, we’ve got good news! You’re not alone.
Recent studies indicate that 88% of consumers are wary of so-called “greenwashing” brands. That’s right—88%. That’s almost 9 out of every 10 people.
There’s more to being green than slapping some leaves on a logo and calling it a day.
It’s no secret that we’re in the middle of an environmental crisis, and consumers are getting more and more savvy about what makes a business really environmentally responsible—and what doesn’t.
The term “greenwashing” refers to companies that claim to be eco-friendly, but whose products and practices don’t actually contribute to a healthier environment. Customers are wary of this kind of marketing because they recognize how important it is to support businesses with genuine sustainability practices, not just ones who put on a good show.
So keep your green products green and your greenwashing practices at bay!
13. 42% of Americans are confused about what makes clothing sustainable.
Almost half of US consumers do not understand sustainability or what it entails. People should be made more aware of the importance of sustainability. There are dire consequences for people who work in unsustainable clothing supply chain stores.
77% of 71 clothing retailers are likely to have forced labor in their supply chains in the UK. Only 2% of garment workers earn a living wage. These people are also paid less than the minimum wage and stay in an unending cycle of poverty.
Labor issues are prominent at big brands such as Gap, Puma, Prada, Shein, and Fashion Nova. Minimum wages, forced labor, forced child labor, gender discrimination, and unsafe working environments are among the top issues. Australia’s Ethical Fashion Report of 2019 indicates that only 5% of 130 companies pay a living wage to their workers.
Most garment workers in the UK are women. Due to their working conditions, they had the highest COVID-19 death rate, at an estimated 65 per 100,000 people. Those who had symptoms of COVID were threatened with being fired and ordered to keep working. By being made aware, more people will attempt to make the switch to sustainable brands.
Only buying clothes because they are the cheapest is an issue because of the impact synthetic clothes have. Microfibers released when washing synthetic material stand at 1,174 milligrams. These microfibers travel to local wastewater treatment plants. Approximately 40% of these microfibers can end up in rivers, lakes, and oceans.
This water is then ingested by animals and people, which can have adverse health effects. Polluting the water in this way also contributes to the high death rate of marine animals.
70% of clothing donated in Europe end up in Africa. These synthetic and low-quality clothes can damage Africa’s environment and economy.
14. In 2021, OVS was ranked first among fashion brands for transparency.
Fashion is a notoriously murky industry, where consumers are often unaware of the conditions under which their clothing was produced.
This past year, OVS (78%) was ranked as the highest-scoring fashion brand in terms of transparency, beating out giants like H&M (66%) and Calvin Klein (59%) among others.
The ranking is conducted by Fashion Revolution, an organization that aims to increase consumer awareness of garment production through its annual Fashion Transparency Index. The organization ranks brands based on how transparent they are about their supply chains and working conditions.
Brands are given a score out of 100 for their policies and actions on key areas like: policy and commitments, governance, traceability, know-your-suppliers, and worker’s voice. The score also takes into account whether there’s a process in place for workers to share feedback with management.
15. 36 major fashion companies have vowed to use only sustainable cotton by 2025.
The following brands have pledged to switch to 100% sustainable cotton for their clothing by 2025:
- Burton Snowboards
- Days like This
- EILEEN FISHER
- F&F at Tesco
- Green fibers
- Hanky Panky
- House of Fraser
- Indigenous Designs
- Mantis World
- Otto Group
Many brands are aiming to eliminate emissions by 2050 and using sustainable sources. Some of these companies include Adidas, Stella McCartney, etc. Other companies have already answered the call. The following companies are sustainably leading the way:
- Eileen Fisher
- Amour Vert
- People Tree
16. The ethical clothing market in the United Kingdom saw a 19.9% increase in 2018.
Due to the increase of awareness on sustainability, the ethical clothing market has risen by 19.9%. It has also been found that more people go thrifting instead of buying new clothes.
People have realized the detrimental impact of fast fashion. Fast fashion refers to clothing produced on a mass scale. It is made quickly, cheaply, and in styles that are trending. The purpose of fast fashion marketers is to get runway styles that can be sold to shoppers quickly as possible. The quality or external cost does not matter.
Fast fashion has dire consequences for communities and our environment. The industry accounts for the release of more carbon dioxide than international flights and maritime shipping combined! Yes, you read that right. It makes up 8 to 10% of carbon emissions. It makes sense that fast fashion produces this much carbon emissions, given the clothes’ short lifespan.
If this continues, greenhouse gas emissions can increase up to 50% in 10 years for the fashion industry alone. The production of polyester production alone emits approximately 700 million tons of greenhouse gases annually. We need to do more by consuming less, purchasing quality and sustainable clothes, washing our clothes less, and recycling it.
We hope you enjoyed this deep dive into the state of sustainable fashion. We were surprised by a few of the statistics in here (for one, how fast the industry is growing!). As we learn more about the state of the planet and its people, it seems like a lot to take on—but small changes can make a big difference.
One of those small changes is paying attention to where your clothes come from and how they are made. You can make a little effort to buy clothing from brands that give back and make their clothes sustainably.
Small changes add up, so let’s all do what we can to protect our home for future generations—and look good while doing it!
This is a topic that is going to be so important in the future of our planet, and it’s great to see how much progress we’ve already made.
Thank you for reading!