More than two-thirds of respondents consider sustainability when making a purchase, and are willing to pay more for sustainable products, according to 2019 Retail and Sustainability Survey, a survey produced by CGS, New York. Gen Z shoppers make up some of the most conscious buyers, with 68% having made an eco-friendly purchase in the past year.

CGS surveyed over 1,000 U.S. individuals (ages 18-65 and over) on how sustainable products and business practices are driving their buying preferences. Despite price still being a big factor in purchasing decisions, consumers are putting an emphasis on sustainability, and are also increasingly focused on shopping with brands whose mission they care about.

Key findings from the survey include:

Buyers want sustainable products, and over one-third will pay 25% more for them.
Across the United States, businesses are implementing more eco-friendly processes and products. Nearly 70% of survey respondents said that sustainability is at least “somewhat important” to them when making a purchase, and 47% would pay more for a sustainable product.

Brands must revamp their strategies for cultivating customer loyalty
Brands are constantly looking for ways to retain customers. In fact, customers that continue to support a brand over time will spend 67% more than new customers. But, what’s driving brand loyalty? According to survey findings, consumers are most likely to return to a brand for the product’s quality. However, the second highest reason consumers return to a brand is its sustainable/ethical business practices. Brand name and brand mission closely followed in third and fourth place, respectively. Consumers today must feel a connection to brands that goes beyond cost and easy availability to drive true loyalty.

Younger buyers are more eco-aware 
While Gen Z is still a rising economic force, this generation is far more aware of the environmental effects of their purchasing decisions than their elders. The survey showed that Gen Z ranks ethical business/manufacturing as one of its top factors when purchasing, while the general public is more concerned about product price and availability. Yet, the general public is more likely to return to a brand based on the quality of the product, rather than sustainable practices. Additionally, more than 50% of Gen Z would be willing to pay more for a sustainable product, slightly higher than expressed by the general population (47.3%).

Sustainable apparel is only starting to become a priority
While recycling paper goods and plastics have risen in popularity since introduced in the 1970s, a report from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Washington, D.C., estimates that the average American throws away 81 pounds of clothing every year. The CGS survey found that only one-quarter of consumers care about sustainable apparel and footwear items, while almost half (42.5%) are concerned about eco-friendly paper goods. 

“Today’s buyers are driven by more than price – they’re looking for brands that align with their own values and needs,” says Paul Magel, president, business applications division, CGS. “To create a loyal customer base, brands must be transparent about the materials and development behind their products.”