INSIGHTS / CONSUMERS & SUSTAINABILITY

”Today, the average consumer is stuck in old structures and is in the hands of the big e-commerce platforms”

AMANDA THORÉN
On how to help the customer make more conscious decisions
April 06, 2022

Two years ago, Thorén ended her permanent employment and decided to invest in her own business idea, entering the male-dominant tech industry with the company Bencha, launching this month.

— We bring together brands and consumers who we guide towards making more conscious and sustainable decisions together, she explains. By being the only digital, data-driven and completely independent comparison service for fashion in relation to sustainability on the market, we help consumers and brands reach each other in a completely new way around sustainability and fashion. We now have deep discussions with different partnerships working to drive change in the fashion industry. This year we will focus on taking our next steps with both helping consumers to follow their carbon footprint, dig deeper in style and how to use garments you already have in your wardrobe, and gamification to see how steps in the right direction can create a wiser and more insightful consumer. We are also developing the technology to work even more with automation, preparing to establish in more markets.

What’s your feeling? How much does the average consumer care about sustainability when buying new garments today?

— Looking at market research, we can see that 1 in 2 consumers actively tend to opt out of brands they do not consider acting sustainable. At the same time, 70% feel that one of the most significant barriers is that there is not enough information about how sustainable a product is. My take on this is that we need to make it easier to see and compare sustainability data in a clear and easily understandable way, so that I, as a consumer, can get access to sustainability information and more easily make choices based on my own preferences rather than only than price, says Thorén. She continues:

— Today, the average consumer is stuck in old structures and is in the hands of the big e-commerce platforms. These players drive the consumer into their system of discounts and a hunt for the lowest price; sign up for a newsletter, get 10% off, put some more products in the basket, free delivery… Instead, I want the question of a personal budget to be one of the starting points. I would say that the consumer buying fashion items is looking for a personal fit in terms of style, budget, and sustainability. When looking at market research, we can see that saving money is a vital question for today’s consumers, but also that it’s hard — close to impossible — to compare different types of sustainability information the different brands and companies provide. It’s also extremely time-consuming for you to do that research yourself, to be able to make the right choice, which is why I think services like ours are vital on the market.

The industry constantly talks about the sustainability issue. Is it also more important for the consumer today than, say, five years ago? Or is the price still decisive?

— From my point of view, consumers are now more focused on sustainability and the issues around energy consumption than five years ago. Before that, brands and companies that also worked with sustainability as a part of their business could be transparent, but those who weren’t didn’t need to put up the information for show.

— With that in mind, today’s consumers expect companies to tell them where and how they work with sustainability, but of course, the price is and will always be important in the consumer’s decision process. However, I think that consumers are starting to understand and are more open to paying more for products that are better, made with better working conditions in the factories, and have a lower carbon footprint.

”The brands want to create change, but they are scared that they will make the wrong decisions that could be devastating for their future”

How good are the brands to respond to these, slowly, more demanding customers? Are they, so to say, ’sustainable enough’? And when you meet the brands, what do you feel that they can do better in terms of sustainability?

— I would say that the brands want to create change, but they are scared that they will make the wrong decisions that could be devastating for their future. In addition, the brands think it is hard to know how consumers will respond to their investments. I think it’s important that the brands take a stand and decide what is important for them and then actively work with it, not because they should, but because they want to, Thorén shares, continuing,

— I would say that it’s just a fraction of all brands that are sustainable enough. The reason for this is that the fashion industry is such a complex market; The industry produces garments not only because there is a clear need for clothes. Garments are also such a clear signal about who a person is. People want to feel secure and happy with their style — it defines who they are. So it makes it essential for consumers to find the right products and brands. But that’s also the hard part for brands, as they manufacture products based on a behaviour of ’want’ more than a ’need’. My take on this is that consumers and brands need to come together and play the game together. Otherwise, they will both make bad and uninformed decisions because consumers and brands are not aligned enough.

Amanda Thorén.

And when you speak to the brands, do you feel any sense of urgency here, in order to improve and reduce emissions and impact? Or, is it more like business as usual?

— There is an urgency in finding a way to handle both the increasing demand from consumers and the requirements to reach the UN SDG goals. It’s a complex question because the brands working worldwide have different types of requests from consumers depending on the market. The brands that founded their company with sustainability in their DNA are calmer right now, while those that haven’t worked with sustainability before are a little bit more anxious. They need to make a whole transformation with everything from circularity to manufacturing to communication. 

On your platform, what would you say has the most impact on climate when the user compare the brands? The fabrics used? The production? Or anything else?

— There’s no straightforward answer here because it’s complex and there are different aspects to consider while deciding which product or brand is the best choice. First of all, sustainability means completely different things for all consumers out there. Some might think it’s organic cotton and that the brand reduces its carbon emissions, while someone else thinks that second-hand is the only way to go and take responsibility for work condition initiatives in the factories. You must compare and research to be sure you make a conscious choice. We think the biggest impact is when you make a choice based on aspects of the lifespan. You should buy a product from the perspective of wearing — and loving — it for a long time, not just for a trend of three months, Thoren states. She adds:

— If you make an informed decision based on both product and brand level, you can learn to make slightly better decisions each and every time. That’s when we can see a natural effect.

To get more stories like this, sign up for our newsletter here.

Related