Retailers should listen more closely to their customers about their sustainable shopping preferences, according to a new report based on data collected from top retail executives and thousands of consumers in the US.


Research contained in the First Insight report found evidence of a profound sustainability knowledge gap existing between the two cohorts, which presents opportunities for retailers not only to bolster their reputations and strengthen their ESG posture, but also to enhance consumer loyalty and increase profits.

It came as a shock to those in retail to find that the modern consumer is willing to spend more for brands with stronger sustainability credentials, with two-thirds of shoppers saying they would pay more for greener products. By contrast, two-thirds of retailers said that consumers would not be willing to hand over more of their money for sustainable brands.

Just as eye-opening were the results on ESG reputation against brand name: almost 75% of consumers responding in the report said they valued product sustainability over the brand they chose. Meanwhile, almost all (94%) of the retailers said they felt brands were more important than ESG plus points to consumers.

Moreover, retail executives rank brand-operated resale/re-commerce programmes lowest when asked what type of sustainable shopping formats consumers would utilise the most. However, 41 percent of consumers say they already shop at brand resale/re-commerce programmes, such as those offered by Patagonia, Lululemon, or Levi’s.

Greg Petro, CEO of First Insight, said:

“This report clearly demonstrates that retailers are leaving money on the table. Brands and retailers must listen to the voice of the customer on issues as critical as sustainability.

“Consumers want more than performative measures from retailers and brands when it comes to ESG priorities, which will only become more important as Gen Z grows in influence,” Petro added.

Professor Thomas Robertson, Academic Director of Wharton’s Baker Retailing Centre, USA, said:

“It’s imperative for retailers to understand their customers’ values so that they can adapt for the future.

“For example, half of retail executives believe that price is the primary reason consumers shop across re-commerce formats. In fact, only 27% of consumers agree that price is their motivation, while a combined 54% say that they shop resale because they care for the environment and prefer sustainable or circular shopping. Brands such as Vestiaire Collective and Farfetch Second Life know that there is a big future in resale, even at luxury price points,” Professor Robertson added.