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Report: Consumer Expectations for Sustainability in Retail

September 2022

Report summary

Retail and e-commerce brand leaders face immense pressure to bring their organizations into a more sustainable future. To help with that decision-making, we measured and defined the importance of sustainability from the shopper’s point of view and identified the actions retail and e-commerce brands need to take to ensure their sustainability initiatives hit the mark.

Key Takeaways

  • Consumers are most concerned about manufacturing’s impact on climate change: Consumers are broadly concerned about climate change and sustainability, but shoppers have trouble naming specific actions they can take to be more sustainable. Product manufacturing is shoppers’ leading retail-centric sustainability concern, while individual behaviors and online shopping are a lower priority.
  • Shoppers don’t think their behaviors harm the environment: Fewer than 1 in 4 shoppers think their own shopping behaviors have a major impact on climate change. Those shoppers who do see themselves having a major impact are much more likely to shop from brands that share their environmental values. People also tend to engage in behaviors that have environmental benefits, but that doesn’t mean sustainability is their primary intent.
  • Resale and sustainability go hand in hand: Even as more brands enter the resale market, there’s substantial growth potential to bring more shoppers in based on the value brands can offer. Consumers who have shopped secondhand in the past are significantly likely to do so again in the future, meaning retailers entering this market should have dependable repeat customers.


This report draws from a survey conducted June 24-28, 2022, among a representative sample of 2,200 U.S. adults, with an unweighted margin of error of +/-2 percentage points.The resale survey was conducted May 27-29, 2022, among a representative sample of 1,711 U.S. adults who have shopped secondhand, with an unweighted margin of error of +/-2 percentage points.

About the author

Claire Tassin is a retail and e-commerce analyst. She conducts research on shifting consumer behaviors and expectations, as well as trends relevant to marketing leaders in the retail sector.