Chapter Two: Clothes and How to Nudge Consumers to Buy Sustainably

Overview of the Episode

Episode 2 of the podcast focuses on the textile industry. Fashion represents 10% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions and uses about 20% of our annual freshwater consumption (Ro, 2020). To better understand what the industry is doing to improve its climate footprint, I interviewed Kutay Saritosun, Head of Marketing and Communication at BlueSign Technologies. Mr. Saritosun has a career in the textile industry, often focusing on sustainability. BlueSign is working with brands such as Patagonia and Adidas to improve the sustainability of their textile supply chains. For example, by reducing the need for harmful chemicals and decreasing water use. We also discuss how consumers can make active decisions to buy sustainably and how gen z is increasingly demanding brands to emit fewer greenhouse gases.

How Fashion Brands can use Nudge Consumers to Buy More Sustainable

As Mr. Saritosun mentions, it is vital that fashion brands clearly explain how their products are sustainable, for example, by providing information on the production process of each product. It is also essential that brands align their sustainability communication with their brand; otherwise, consumers will “see through” the marketing. When brands have products that emit fewer greenhouse gases, they are often priced higher to make up for, for example, organic cotton. Then, the brands can use a behavioral economic tool: nudge. In this chapter, I will evaluate how brands can use the concept of a nudge to convey consumers to purchase more sustainably and pay the green premium.

  1. Simplifying product information of making specific product characteristics more salient to activate green behavior
  2. Integrating peer comparisons or status competitions
  3. Exploit passive choice with purposefully set defaults (Schubert, 2017).
Figure 1: The Fogg Behavior Model (FBM) highlights three principal elements which affect behavioral response to nudges.
Figure 2: British online clothing store Sports Direct can improve its nudges by iterating the text choices and reducing the number of messages.
Figure 3: Patagonia uses a green nudge to strengthen its brand identity and direct consumers to trade in their old clothes.

A Neurological Explanation for Preference of Sustainable Nudges

While consumers often have positive attitudes about green marketing, fashion purchases are seldom linked to sustainability. It reveals an unbalanced psychological state among consumers (Newman et al., 2014). At the same time, environmental priming can increase consumer preferences for fashion products with green logos. Lee et al. (2020) used fMRI to examine whether green badges that nudge consumers to purchase sustainability activate brain regions related to reasoning. Their findings implied that exposure to environmental priming messages (the nudge) increased brain activation in the superior parietal lobe and the bilateral lingual gyri. The activation in these areas supports how the nudge increased the participants’ preference for sustainable fashion products. The results show how companies should use green nudges, such as green “organic”-badges, to increase the sales of more sustainable products. It influences people to pay the green premium, which can make companies invest more in sustainable clothing as it becomes more profitable. In the longer term, increased investments can drive down green premiums, which is the goal (White et al., 2019). Customers are clearly an important part of the equation — but companies should use the available psychological tools to convince them.

References

Hankammer, S., Kleer, R., & Piller, F. T. (2021). Sustainability nudges in the context of customer co-design for consumer electronics. Journal of Business Economics, 91(6), 897–933. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11573-020-01020-x

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Johannes Frosteman

Johannes Frosteman

Publishing my book on “Green Premiums”, analyzing the podcast episodes in Green Premiums Podcast. Student at Minerva University. Contact me: frosteman@gmail.com