Power Retail surveyed over 1,000 online shoppers to find out exactly how consumer behaviour is changing. We took a deep dive into customer’s sustainability preferences to find out what sustainable practice investments are affecting the way consumers shop.

It is clear customer loyalty is influenced by how sustainable and ethical a retailer’s practices are. 51 percent of customers would shop again from a retailer with sustainable or ethical practices. This is up two percentage points from 2023.

Forty-seven percent of customers prefer to shop with retailers that are open about their sustainability practices. With the ACCC cracking down on greenwashing, retailers are facing pressure from all sides to ensure they are being transparent and making an effort in their sustainability practices.

Sixty-nine percent of customers feel that the retail industry creates too much waste. This is a warranted concern as the Australian fashion industry alone sees more than 200,000 tonnes of clothing and textiles ending up in landfill every year, as there is also almost no clothing and textiles reprocessing infrastructure on a national scale.

Recyclable packaging remains the practice that customers consider most important at 62 percent. They are also increasingly against single-use plastic (40 percent).

Animal welfare is another major concern, with 49 percent of consumers against animal cruelty and 40 percent against animal testing. According to the Australian Animal Free Science Advocacy (AFSA), approximately 10.7 million animals were used for testing between 2021-2022.

Cosmetics retailer LUSH has recently launched a campaign encouraging customers to join them in lobbying the government to put an end to animal testing in Australia. The customer’s sentiment is evident with local MPs expected to receive over 23,000 signed letters from Lush customers over the course of the campaign period (March 25 – April 10).

Fifty-five percent of customers are willing to pay more for a product made with ethically sourced or sustainable materials and practices. This is seeing a downwards trend, but it may be that customers expect sustainability to be built into retailer practices rather than offered as an additional cost, alongside cost of living challenges that see customers prioritising affordability. 

Forty-five percent of customers note they have not been influenced by sustainability practices in the past six months, again which is presumed to be a result of cost-of-living pressures.

We know that many shoppers take sustainability and ethics into account when making purchasing decisions. Sustainable products can have an additional cost due to quality materials, carbon offsets, and ethical sourcing.

An unfortunate side effect of the increase in the cost of living is a shift away from paying more for these products when there are cheaper, albeit less sustainable, products available. It is more important than ever to build a relationship with your customer and ensure your product has a longer lifetime value so customers see it as a worthwhile investment that adheres to their values.

Rosalea Catterson is editor of Power Retail.