Today we present the latest official sustainable fashion statistics, verified and updated for 2022.
Our research reveals the current state of the industry, the demand for clothes made from sustainable materials, and the projections for the future in this sector.
We also look at the scale of the waste, pollution, water consumption, and environmental damage caused by fast fashion, which demonstrates just why a change to sustainable clothing and circular business models is necessary.
Sustainable Fashion Industry Statistics
Sustainable fashion refers to brands that source, manufacture, distribute and sell their goods in a way that minimizes their environmental impact.
This might include reducing carbon emissions, using organic or recycled materials, biodegradable packaging, and paying workers a fair wage.
These sustainable fashion facts highlight an industry that has experienced rapid growth in recent years and can yield significant opportunities over the next decade.
How big is the sustainable fashion industry?
The sustainable fashion market has seen significant growth in recent years, as attitudes toward environmentalism change.
- The sustainable fashion industry is currently worth over $6.5 Billion. (Research & Markets)
- It is expected to grow to $10.1 Billion by 2025. By 2030 that number is expected to hit $15 Billion. (Research & Markets)
Is sustainable fashion a growing industry?
Sustainable and ethical fashion has experienced rapid growth in recent years, and the rate of growth is projected to accelerate in the future.
- The average annual growth rate of the ethical fashion market is 8.3%. This could grow to 9.7% a year by 2030. (Research & Markets)
- Furthermore, products marketed as sustainable are expected to grow 5.6 times faster than those that were not. (Harvard Business)
- The Asia Pacific region accounts for 36% of the global ethical fashion market, the largest global share. (Business Research Company)
Is sustainable fashion profitable?
Sustainable fashion brands that can establish themselves as trusted names in this space have the potential to be profitable as well as do good.
There are significant opportunities in the eco-friendly and sustainable fashion market segments that indicate a genuine profit potential in the coming years.
- The eco-friendly clothing segment will grow by $1,574.2 million in global annual sales by 2025. (Business Research Company)
- The organic segment, with a projected compound annual growth rate of 16.2%, is expected to be the fastest-growing segment. (Research & Markets)
- A transition to a sustainable textiles industry could create 18 million additional jobs globally by 2030 (IISD)
- Solving the issues associated with fast fashion could provide a $192 billion boost to the global economy by 2030. (Global Fashion Agenda)
Sustainable Fashion Demographics
These statistics show us who is buying sustainable and ethical fashion (and also who is not, and why).
They also demonstrate a genuine demand for more "slow fashion" and the factors that are stopping more people from buying from sustainable brands.
What demographic buys the most fast fashion?
Statistics show that fast fashion brands do target particular demographics, and traditionally these brands have directed their advertising toward younger people.
Social media platforms, and the influencers that market products on them, have been one of the driving forces behind the growth of cheap, low-quality, and disposable clothes.
The data shows that the low prices associated with fast fashion often encourage multiple purchases. But overall sales in this sector are falling.
- Women under 35 are the largest target demographic for fast fashion retailers. (Shopper Profile Report)
- 54% of people believe that social media influencers have been at least partly responsible for the rise in mass produced clothing. This figure rises to 73% of people aged 18-24. (Internet Retailing)
- 26% of people are inspired by family and friends when making their fashion choices, but 17% say they rely on Instagram, a figure that has more than doubled compared to 5 years ago. (Internet Retailing)
- The average online purchase contained around 3 items at a time. (Shopper Profile Report)
- However, 46% of fast fashion retailers reported a drop in sales since 2020. (PayPal).
What demographic buys the most sustainable fashion?
An increasing environmental awareness, especially amongst some younger people, has begun a shift away from fast fashion towards more ethical, sustainable, and environmentally friendly fashion.
Young and middle aged men are most likely to stick solely to sustainable clothing brands, and those that do are also more likely to buy second hand or recycled clothes.
- Men aged between 25 and 44 are most likely to say that they only buy sustainable fashion. (YouGov)
- 73% of British consumers who only buy sustainable brands are also happy to buy second hand clothes. (YouGov)
- 75% of Gen Z respondents said they bought pre-owned clothes to reduce consumption. (Depop)
Do Millennials care about sustainable fashion?
Despite generally having less disposable income, millennials are more likely to be willing to spend more on sustainable, environmentally conscious, and ethical fashion brands.
- 73% of Millennials say that they are willing to pay more for sustainable brands (Outerknown)
Do consumers want more sustainable fashion?
Yes, these 7 market research statistics show that there is substantial consumer demand for sustainable fashion.
However, some consumers are worried about greenwashing in this space, and others don't know where to find sustainable clothing.
- 72% of US consumers are aware of sustainability and environmental issues surrounding the fashion industry. (Genomatica)
- 55% of US consumers are interested in buying sustainable clothing. (Genomatica)
- However, 48% do not know where to find sustainable clothing brands. (Genomatica)
- 69% of Vogue readers consider sustainability to be an important factor when deciding on a new fashion purchase. (Vogue)
- 38% of consumers say that one of their main priorities is for fashion brands to reduce their impact on the environment. (McKinsey)
- 38% of Vogue readers buy as much sustainable fashion as possible, and a further 46% say that they sometimes buy. Only 2% are not interested in making sustainable purchases. (Vogue)
- ⅓ of US consumers would buy all their clothing at a sustainable store, if they knew where to find one. (Genomatica)
Fast Fashion Environmental Impact
It's no secret that there are serious environmental concerns around the way the fashion industry currently operates.
But how bad is it, and what might happen if the sustainable fashion revolution does not take off? These statistics lay bare the truth, and some of it is worse than you might expect.
How much pollution does the fashion industry produce?
These statistics show the extent to which the fashion industry contributes to both water pollution and climate change.
- Fashion is considered to be the second-highest polluting industry in the world. (UN)
- The fashion industry is responsible for 2.1 billion tonnes of carbon emissions each year. It produces around 4% of total global greenhouse gas emissions - more than shipping and aviation combined. (McKinsey)
- Around 70% of the fashion industry’s emissions came from upstream activities (these include production of materials, preparation and processing). (McKinsey)
- 20% of global freshwater pollution is caused by textile treatment and dyeing. (Eco Age)
- The carbon footprint of the clothing industry could be reduced by 63% by switching to renewable clean energy sources. (McKinsey)
- If no further action is taken over the next decade, the industry’s GHG emissions are likely to rise to around 2.7 billion tonnes a year by 2030, reflecting an annual volume growth rate of 2.7%. (McKinsey)
- At its current rate, the fashion industry will use up 26% of the entire global carbon budget (based on a 2 degree scenario) by 2050. (Ellen MacArthur Foundation)
- Making fashion a circular economy could reduce 33% of the CO2 emissions associated with textile production. (UNCTAD)
How much waste is due to fast fashion?
The statistics demonstrate that fast fashion encourages over production, over buying, and therefore massive amounts of textile waste.
- Between 80 and 100 billion new clothing garments are produced every year. (Nat Geographic)
- Global clothing production in 2000 was double what it was in 2014. (UNCTAD)
- 87% of the materials and fibers used to make clothing will end up in either incinerators or landfills. (Ellen MacArthur Foundation)
- That’s one truckload every second. (Business Research Company)
- Only 1% of clothes will get recycled into new garments. (Ellen MacArthur Foundation)
- In the average UK household, ⅓ of clothes have not been worn in the last year. (Eco Age)
Why is fast fashion unsustainable?
The fast fashion industry is driven by profits and very rarely uses sustainable materials in its products. Instead, these fashion companies create garments using non-renewable resources which, by their very definition, cannot be sustainable.
They also exploit workers in their supply chain who are subjected to unacceptable working conditions and do not get a fair wage.
- The textile industry uses 98 million tonnes of non-renewable resources every year. (Ellen MacArthur Foundation)
- 60% of all clothing materials are derived from plastic, which is made from fossil fuels. These include nylon, acrylic, and polyester. (UNEP)
- 93% of fashion companies still do not pay their workers a living wage. (Fashion Checker)
How does fast fashion affect water pollution?
The data clearly shows that the fashion sector does not as a whole use sustainable practices, and does a huge amount of damage to our rivers and oceans.
- Textile production uses 93 billion cubic meters of water every year (UNCTAD)
- The fashion industry is responsible for 20% of total waste water globally. (UNEP)
- Textile dyeing is the second-largest polluter of water globally, behind only oil. (UNEP)
- It takes 2,000 gallons of water to make just one pair of jeans. (UNEP)
- Synthetic man-made fibers account for 35% of microplastics released into our oceans. (European Parliament)
It's no secret that the fashion industry is under a huge amount of public pressure over the negative environmental impact of its carbon emissions, water consumption and pollution.
But is that fair, and is sustainable fashion the answer?
These sustainable fashion statistics should allow you to come to your own conclusion based on evidence rather than opinion.
Would you be prepared to pay more for clothing made from sustainable raw materials such as organic cotton? Would you go further and buy garments made from recycled plastic or fibers, or even shop second-hand?
The data shows that for an increasing number of consumers, the answer is yes.
Business Research | Eco-Age | Ellen MacArthur Foundation/ | Genomatica | Global Fashion Agenda | HBR | IISD | Internet Retailing | McKinsey | McKinsey | National Geographic | PayPal Newsroom | Research & Markets | Shopper Profile Report | UN | UNCTAD | UNEP | Vogue Business | YouGov