Teens *Want* To Shop Ethically… But Do They?

Following a slew of fast fashion exposés and scandals, we checked in with Gen Z to see where they stand on fashion and ethics. Brands like Fashion Nova, H&M, Forever 21, and Zara are constantly making news for numerous environmental and social issues, but they’re also trendy, accessible, and affordable. 

Today’s teens find themselves at a difficult crossroads of an “eco-woke” culture and age of self expression through style. Honestly, we get it. Doing good is important, but so is looking good!

We wanted to know: if they had to choose, would they prioritize sustainability or fashion? We polled over 50,000 Gen-Zers for the answer and found understandably contradicting results: in theory, teens want to shop ethically. But, they struggle to do so realistically.

Teens Consider the Environment

A majority of teens have ethical intentions:

-55% say they consider the environment when shopping.
-61% care about a brand’s ethics.
-55% admit they’d rather be a “sustainable queen” than a “fashion icon.” 

Climate change is a front-of-mind issue for teens (91%, in fact), so it makes sense that when asked, they show support for the environment over material goods.

Fashion Takes Priority

While teens strive to shop ethically in theory, their shopping habits say otherwise. Only 38% of teens enjoy thrift shopping, even as its cool-factor has risen with the likes of trendy YouTubers who frequently post about their “thrifting hauls.” 

We also asked them to choose between a number of different retailers – some specifically known for ethical practices, and others who have weathered tremendous controversy.

On every occasion, teens chose the less ethical option:
-74% chose Nike over Outdoor Voices.
-70% chose Forever 21 over Reformation.
-73% chose Zara over Everlane.

But… There’s Hope

While these numbers seem depressing, we have hope for the future of sustainable fashion as an industry. Here’s why:

1. Many teens simply haven’t followed the news or controversy surrounding popular retailers. After we educated them on Zara’s unethical practices, 71% responded that they wouldn’t shop at the fast fashion retailer in the future.

2. Second-hand shopping has gotten a huge facelift in recent years. Brands like Depop and The Real Real are leading the charge. Shoppers can wave goodbye to the days of sorting through bins at Goodwill and hello to amazing, affordable vintage finds online!

3. As our culture leans further into the environmental movement, more brands are prioritizing their environmental and social impacts. A few examples of ethical retailers include Allbirds, Alternative, Everlane, Outdoor Voices, Reformation and Veja. Check sites like Good On You for updates and to see a rating of your favorite brand’s impact! 

From Good On You’s “Rated” page.

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