Only 20 Percent of Consumers Trust Brand Sustainability Claims, Study Finds

Greenwashing has taken its toll, and consumers aren’t buying it.   

Today, just one-fifth of shoppers trust brand sustainability claims, according to new insights from London-based sustainability-focused transparency platform Compare Ethics.

“The world is at a crucial tipping point when it comes to sustainability and consumers increasingly want to align their spending to their values. Our report shows that without honest sustainability claims and readily available information, shoppers will soon discover the truth. The gamble of greenwashing does not pay off,” Abbie Morris, chief executive officer and cofounder of Compare Ethics, said in a press statement. 

Calling it a “crisis in consumer trust,” the study, which was conducted by market research firm Centiment, reveals trust is a key factor in consumer purchase decision-making. Consumers are growing ever-resistant to blame-shifting tactics by corporations, especially when the data is available. Just 100 companies have been the source of more than 70 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions since 1988, according to an oft-cited report from the environmental nonprofit Carbon Disclosure Project published in tandem with the Climate Accountability Institute, in 2017.

In fact, consumers are growing increasingly suspicious of sustainability claims made by high-street fashion retailers. 

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Eighty-three percent of consumers would be more likely to trust a product’s sustainability claim if it had been verified by a third party, and 53 percent of consumers see brands as having the most agency to positively reforming the garment industry.

The research also showed a dire need for improving communication on social sustainability criteria, as only 22 percent of consumers would associate sustainability with a brand paying workers a living wage.  

“As consumers move towards buying more ethically, substantive evidence will be required to verify brand practices. Honest, proactive sustainable brands therefore have much to gain,” said James Bartle, founder of Outland Denim, who also called for building genuine trust with consumers. 

Adding to that, London Fashion Fund adviser Wendy Hammett said, “In the wake of the coronavirus, consumer spending will tighten. Brands must consequently anchor trust into their sustainability credentials if they are to retain loyalty and market share.” 

The onus will be on brands to verify the claims they’re making, and more companies may go the way of Amazon’s Climate Pledge Friendly program, which utilizes third-party certifications like Cradle to Cradle and Textile Exchange to verify sustainable claims for products on its site.

Compare Ethics uses its verification technology to build trust in sustainability, helping to connect citizens with products deemed ethical and environmentally sound since its founding in 2018. Its sustainable ranking algorithms have verified more than 3,500 products from 50 brands. The company surveyed 1,250 members of the general public aged 18 to 65 split between male- and female-identifying respondents to uncover these findings.

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