Gen Z Leads the Sustainable Purchasing Charge - Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

Gen Z Leads the Sustainable Purchasing Charge

March 10, 2022

In this article:

It’s no secret that purchasing decisions play a significant role in global emissions trends. Depending on their sourcing, manufacturing, shipping, and lifecycle management practices, every brand’s version of a product has a unique environmental footprint. 

In this article, we will dive into consumer data, seeing what preferences different generations hold when it comes to the sustainability of their favorite brands and products. This analysis should give retailers a good idea as to why they should improve the sustainability of their products. 

About Gen Z

Generation Z is the population born between roughly 1996 and the early 2010s. They are regarded as digital natives, meaning they’ve been exposed to the internet since childhood. Now emerging into their teens and twenties, this generation is growing in purchasing power and influence. As some of the most values-driven consumers, members of Gen Z are not only changing trends in purchasing themselves, but influencing their parents and grandparents to do the same. 

What the research shows

In July of 2021, retail analytics company First Insight and the Baker Retailing Center at the Wharton Business School conducted a study focussed on sustainability preferences among different age group consumers. They polled 1,000 participants with questions about considering sustainability in purchasing, the meaning and importance of sustainability, and expectations for retailers. 

The researchers’ findings are cause for celebration for environmentalists! There are eight main takeaways drawn from the report, three of which will be highlighted here. 

  1. Across four age groups, sustainability was ranked as a more important consideration than brand name in choosing a product to buy. Not only does this spell good news for small businesses in competition with large companies, but means that customers – especially young ones – may even seek them for sustainable practices. 
  1. The vast majority of all respondents expect retailers to improve the sustainability of their products. With any luck, this sentiment will motivate an even greater preference for sustainable brands over big-names. 
  1. Around three quarters of Gen X, Millennial, and Gen Z customers consider their own values when making purchasing decisions. These values are environmental, social, or otherwise personal. Baby boomers agreed at a lower rate of 58%, but nevertheless agree with the trend that retailers should encourage value driven purchasing by improving their products’ impacts. 

Why does this matter?

The results are clear: consumers (and Gen Z especially) want sustainable options. Retailers that will succeed in the coming years now need to start considering their sustainability while designing products. 

Instead of seeing this change as a potential threat to current business, consider the opportunity for growth in producing and marketing sustainable products. For reference, finding three of the Wharton study says that consumers are willing to pay up to 10% in premiums for sustainable products!

How can my business adapt?

There are a number of ways in which a retail brand can improve its environmental impact – and profit in doing so. 

First, work on your materials sourcing; fair trade and cruelty free materials are a plus. Next, during manufacturing, try to minimize resource use and waist. Also be sure to look into streamlining your company’s shipping practices, including your packaging and delivery. As a matter of fact, the study’s sixth finding says that customers across generations believe in the value of sustainable packaging. 

Inevitably, your business will reach a point where it cannot cut further emissions from its operations. Don’t stop: this is where emissions offsets come in! Otherwise unchecked emissions can be made neutral through investment in emissions removal projects (which Neutrl can help your business arrange).

The culmination of these efforts will be products with significantly improved sustainability measures. Potential customers, as we have learned, will surely appreciate this.  

In conclusion

As Gen Z grows in purchasing power, retailers will see a shift in business to sustainability-focussed products and brands. Moreover, Gen Z is leading older generations to understand their impact on the environment through their consumption. All in all, now is the time to push your retail company into its sustainable future. 


Want to learn more?
Gen Z Shopping FAQs

Does Gen Z value sustainability?

Yes! Gen Z buyers are driving a huge change in consumers’ preference for sustainable products. In fact, it’s been recorded that roughly 60% of Gen Z prefer to shop from sustainable brands.

How do older generations respond to sustainable products?

Like Gen Z, consumers across the board prefer sustainable products. In fact, they expect them from their trusted brands. As far as the numbers go, roughly 60% of Gen Z and previous generations rank sustainability as an important decision factor.

How can my retail business adapt?

Consider the lifecycle of your products, like the way you produce, package, and ship them. After reducing emissions there, consider offsetting your company’s carbon footprint.

Why do buyers prefer sustainable products?

Studies demonstrate that perceived quality, environmental concern, and value are among the top reasons consumers shop with sustainability-focussed retailers.


First Insight/ Wharton Study 

McKinsey on Gen Z Purchasing Power