Does Gen Z care about sustainability? Stats & facts in 2023

Gen Z girls graduating

Does Gen Z care about sustainability? Stats & facts in 2023

From teenage climate activists to youth-led movements fighting for a greener future, Generation Z is at the forefront of the climate change discussion. A generation that has grown up under the shadow of climate change and global warming, how much does Gen Z care about sustainability compared to older generations?

Is this generation walking the walk as well as talking the talk when it comes to building a green future?

Contents

Who is Gen Z?

Generation Z refers to those born roughly between 1995 and 2010. So, as of 2023, if you are between the ages of twelve and twenty-eight then you can proudly call yourself a member of Generation Z.

As this generation ages, the influence it holds will continue to grow. In many regions around the world Gen Zers are just coming of age to vote. The purchasing power the cohort commands is increasing as its members get older, paving the way for positive change in purchase decisions and among brand names.

Gen Z is on the cusp of being able to shape what the future of the world looks like and what values will be promoted over the next thirty years. Climate change and global warming are in a critical stage over this same thirty-year period. How this younger generation responds to the challenges that it has inherited will shape the future of our planet and set an example for future generations.

So, Does Gen Z Care about Sustainability?

Does the youth of the world care about saving its environment, climate and future? In short, yes. Youth activists like Greta Thunberg, Jamie Margolin and Xiuhtezcatl Roske-Martinez, to name just a few, are already taking up the fight against sustainable injustices before they have even hit twenty-five. Their peers are joining these movements to try and create a better future, demonstrating Gen Z’s influence on social issues.

Surveys have found Gen Zers list climate change and global warming as their top concern, showing their high expectations in terms of sustainability and environmental concerns. The group has also reported higher levels of anxiety related to the climate and environment than those that came before them. Reports have found a huge 71% of Gen Z find their future to be worrisome or frightening, reflecting the strength of feeling among younger consumers.

pexels-nathan-cowley-gen z boy
As of 2023, Gen Z is aged 12-28. Photo by Nathan Cowley from Pexels

When it comes to daily life, one study found that 90% of Gen Z members reported making changes in their daily lives to live more sustainably, reflecting their commitment to a more sustainable lifestyle.

This emerging generation also has a more comprehensive view of what sustainability means. 48% of Gen X claimed that sustainability meant, products made from recycled, sustainable and naturally-harvested fibres and materials.’ However, close to 50% of Generation Z also took into account sustainable manufacturing when defining what sustainable products are, showing their awareness of sustainable materials and supply chains.

Social values important too

This spotlight on environmental ethics also shines on social ethics and social responsibility.

75% of Gen Z respondents to one survey stated that they wanted to see brands ensuring employee and consumer safety demonstrating their demand for social responsibility from industry leaders. In another survey, 60% of respondents considered brands’ commitments to diversity and inclusion when making purchasing decisions. Furthermore, 70% were influenced by fair wages when choosing where to spend their money.

Gen Z girl protesting about sustainability
90% of GenZers have made changes in their daily lives to live more sustainably. Photo by Lewis Parsons on Unsplash

Which Generation Cares the Most?

From Baby Boomers to Generation Z, who cares the most about sustainability and environmental issues?

It may not come as a great surprise that reports point to the fact that Gen Z does care about sustainability more than its older counterparts. 37% of Gen Z in the United States claimed that addressing climate change was their top personal concern. This is compared to just 27% of Gen X and 29% of Boomers. Gen Z is at the forefront of climate action.

When it comes to sustainability in purchase decision making, Gen Z consumers also come out on top. 54% of Gen Z will pay 10% more on a sustainable product, compared to 50% of Millennials and just 23% of Baby Boomers.

And a 2023 study found that a whopping 68% of sustainable apparel revenue in the United States in 2022 came from Gen Z and Millenials put together.

Of course, like with any generation, there will be exceptions to this rule. Some Baby Boomers are most certainly doing their bit for sustainability and there are a few Gen Zs out there that are dropping the proverbial ball. However, overall, the reports all point to Gen Z caring more about sustainability than previous generations.

High cost of living

A 2023 report by 33_Zero found that the cost of living crisis is having a big effect on Gen Zers. This means they’re finding it harder to always live up to their values.

  • 96% said that the high cost of living was the reason that they were unable to choose eco-friendly products.
  • 53% indicated a preference for affordable items over sustainable options, as the latter were often way out of their budget.

The report also found that Millenials were more able to afford sustainable options: 

  • 52% of Millenials are less likely to buy from a brand found to be greenwashing
  • only 45% of Gen Z responded the same way.

How Social Media influences gen z

Gen Z is the social media generation, a generation of digital natives. The oldest in the Gen Z cohort was only seven when Facebook was invented while the youngest of the group would never have known a world without iPhones. Growing up in a world of social media has impacted how Gen Z shops and its relationship with fashion.

Social media and fashion are so intertwined in the Gen Z world that 97% use it as their primary source for fashion inspiration. However, while social media platforms are a way for young people to spread sustainable messages and information, living life online also has a dark side.

As dressing to go out is increasingly becoming dressing to be seen on social media, the pressure to avoid outfit repetition grows. 41% of 18-25 year olds have reported pressure to wear a different outfit each time they go out. This attitude has complicated the relationship with sustainable fashion and feeds into a fast fashion mindset.

What About Gen Z’s Relationship with Fast Fashion?

Where Gen Z’s sustainable outlook comes under threat is from the rise of fast fashion. Despite their sustainable outlook and desire for sustainable clothes, this conscious generation still has a love for cheap and convenient fashion. A 2020 study found that more than half of Gen Z in the study bought clothing from fast fashion brands.

However, the 33_Zero’s 2023 report found that when it came to their views on fast fashion brands: 

  • 47% of Millenials said they viewed them positively
  • only 34% of Gen Zers viewed them this way.

Gen Z’s fast fashion habits are in constant conflict with its sustainable ideologies. While 44% of Brits between 16 and 19 admitted to owning clothes they had never worn, 70% claimed that sustainability is an important factor in their consumer decision making.

So, is Gen Z all talk and no action? While the fast fashion statistics are troubling, there is no doubt that this is a group of people that care about sustainable practices, and want to have a positive impact on the industry.

An increasing number are seeking more sustainable shopping habits: Thrift shopping has become a booming trend in the Gen Z marketplace, while concepts such as the ‘shop stop’, also known as the ‘no buy’, movement have gained some traction.

Gen Z girl shopping for sustainable fashion
Fast fashion threatens Gen Z's sustainable outlook. Photo by mentatdgt from Pexels

Demanding Sustainability from the fashion industry

This younger generation is putting pressure on the fashion industry to change its unsustainable habits. Millennials and Generation Z are the most likely to make purchases based on values. One recent study found that 75% of Gen Z participants claimed that sustainability was more important in purchase decision making than the brand.

The pressure for sustainable purchases has even led some big-name brands to improve their sustainability activities. Levi’s has incorporated science-based practices to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, Burberry has participated in donating left-over fabric instead of burning it, and even ASOS has released recycled ranges, showing that industry leaders care about Gen Z’s demand for sustainability.

Money talks and the more the emerging Gen Z market demands sustainable options through their buying power, the more brands will be forced to update their business models to survive.

Living Sustainable Lives

Not content with just sustainable shopping, “generation green” is also striving to live a sustainable lifestyle.

Career choices

Gen Z shows an increased desire to work in sustainable fields, holds employers more accountable for sustainability and chooses to study sustainability-related topics. Studies in 2021 found that 64% of 18-22 year olds consider it important for their employers to act sustainably. Over half also claimed that they would stay with an employer longer if they acted responsibly.

The 2023 Gen Z and Millennial Survey by Deloitte, found that:

  • 42% have already changed or plan to change jobs due to climate concerns, and
  • 50% are pushing their employer to take more action on environmental issues.

Diet and family choices

Moving away from the work spectrum, Gen Z members are also more likely to adopt a plant-based diet to limit their environmental effects. Everything down to family planning is impacted by climate change in the Gen Z world. A study in England found that 41% of 16 to 24 year olds participants are hesitant to have children because of the impacts of climate change.

Gen Z in classroom learning about sustainability
Gen Z is making greener career, family and diet choices. Photo by Max Fischer from Pexels

Gen Z’s Green Future

There is no doubt that the climate crisis has played, and will continue to play, a significant part in the lives of Generation Z. From fires, floods and famines, the planetary damage that this generation will inherit will be something that will continue to shape their worldview and impact how they live their lives.

However, what Gen Z has emerged as is a generation that cares. While it may not yet have the perfect solution, the answer to the question does Gen Z care about sustainability is a resounding yes.

The more we all care about sustainable solutions, the closer those sustainable solutions become. With this generation forging a new sustainable future, clearer skies, greener forests and cleaner oceans are, maybe, within reach.

For more stats on Gen Z and ethical fashion see 101 ethical & sustainable fashion statistics and trends.

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