At the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, elite athletes will sleep on beds made of cardboard. Olympic medals are being constructed out of recycled electronics, such as cell phones. And Nike will be dressing its athletes in uniforms and sneakers made out of recycled polyester and ground-up shoe parts. It’s part of a broader sustainability push by the shoe retailer as it seeks to reach younger and more eco-conscious consumers.
Nike isn’t alone in its industry with these efforts. Brands ranging from Patagonia to Adidas to Puma to Gap’s Athleta have for years been incorporating sustainability into how they run their businesses. Adidas has said it will produce between 15 million and 20 million pairs of shoes using ocean plastic this year. Athleta is targeting by the end of 2020 making 80% of its materials for the apparel and accessories it sells from sustainable fibers, such as recycled polyester and nylon.
Retailers have good reason to set such targets: Consumers in Gen Z, born in the years 1995 to 2012, are thinking about the environment as they shop. Sixty-two percent of Gen Z consumers prefer to buy from sustainable brands, according to a survey of more than 1,000 people in December by First Insight. And 73% of Gen Z respondents are willing to pay more for sustainable products, the survey said.
“Clearly this sustainability trend is all being driven by Gen Z-ers and younger millennials,” said Beth Goldstein, NPD Group’s executive director and industry analyst for fashion footwear. “They have this mindset that they will be able to change the world.”