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Is society ready for a sustainable shift?

Let’s take a break from COVID-19-related talk and turn our attention towards responsible consumption. With the Québec government’s green plan for the economy and the ban on gas-powered vehicles by 2035, what concrete changes can we expect to see in retail?


What is consumers’ current mindset?

UQAM’s Observatoire sur la consommation responsable (OCR) has shown that 80% of Quebecers believe that responsible consumption is on the upswing. And nearly as many are convinced that it will have a positive impact on the Québec economy. However, two out of three people deplore the fact that businesses do not offer enough sustainable products. This activist mindset will force the retail industry to satisfy the environmental aspirations of young people. Today, Generation Z and millennials represent 40% of the world’s consumers. And they are not the only ones concerned about the impact our lifestyles have on the planet: while the majority of them are ready to pay 10% more for sustainable products, a third of Generation X and a quarter of baby boomers are willing to do so too.


Millennials and generation Z: Bringing eco awareness to the forefront

Their influence will continue to grow and dictate new ways to live in order to consume better. In step with millennials, 60% of Generation Z prefer to buy from brands that put sustainability first. And their purchasing power will increase as this cohort enters the labour force. Paradoxically, price still matters. Young people are the biggest consumers of accessible fast fashion, which sells at prices much lower than in the past. It is estimated that a person living in a developed country consumes approximately 3,000 fashion items during their lifetime. Going forward, retailers will need to address the huge challenge of balancing accessibility and environmental responsibility.


Three brands that caught our attention

The large chains are slowly getting on board, but leaders in the disposable fashion category still need to do much more. Despite brands’ efforts and the increasing desire to consume more responsibly, a big shift is required. This is the conclusion at least of a joint study by Lectra and Reviews released last July.


Uniqlo: Changing the world one clothing article at a time

Opening the doors to its Montréal store at the end of October, Uniqlo has come out strong with its promise “Unlocking the power of clothing.” While only 2% of its offer may be sustainable, the brand is still aiming to change the world in its own way, by how we make and wear clothes. The strategy of Mr. Yanai, the company’s president, is to offer accessible clothing that lasts longer.

Similar to the H&M’s fashion offering, the RE.Uniqlo service allows people to donate their clothing, which is then redistributed to non-profit organizations. The company has also begun to repurpose their most popular duvet products, in addition to developing DRY-EX, a high-performance textile made with polyester fibres from plastic bottles. The product is proudly worn by one of the brand’s global ambassadors, tennis player Roger Federer.


IKEA’s sustainable approach

Even bigger progress has been made in the home segment. IKEA surprised more than a few when it recently announced a new second-hand furniture and accessory concept. You read it right! And the Swedish brand chose an apt location: the ReTuna Centre. It’s the world’s first commercial complex dedicated to recycling, upcycling (reuse) and zero waste. IKEA wishes to use its visibility to encourage people to adopt a sustainable lifestyle. The company has always been an innovator and is now forging a path towards a true sustainable business model.

The second-hand store is part of a global innovation project at IKEA that aims to test and develop a profitable circular business model for the future. IKEA has also committed to making all its products using circular principles within 10 years. They will have a longer life, in addition to being made from renewable and recycled material.


Simons, an environmentally responsible model

The strategy at Maison Simons is by far one of the most interesting in terms of marketing. First off, the retailer offers a large range of sustainable items, whether clothing or household products. Earlier we said that consumers deplore the lack of availability of sustainable products. Is this true, or are these products simply not given enough visibility?

This is where Simons scores big points. Instead of lumping these articles together with its overall offering, the brand goes as far as to showcase them, to help us to consume better. An entire section on its website is dedicated to local artisans. Under the “La Fabrique 1840” name, Simons is building a local offer that allows us to discover the richness and fragility of nature. Even the packaging of some products is compostable and reusable, like Atoca’s ones.

With the holiday period upon us, why not start to adopt a more sustainable way of consuming? As Simons says: green gifts for happiness that lasts!