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    Chinese Consumers Conflicted About Sustainable Fashion, Report Finds

    A Shanghai-based organization focusing on sustainable fashion launched the report at the COP26 climate conference.

    China’s fashion-savvy consumers, though environmentally conscious, are still conflicted with purchase decisions involving fast fashion, according to a new consumer report.

    Shanghai-based R.I.S.E. Lab, an organization dedicated to sustainable fashion in China, surveyed nearly 2,500 participants across the country and discovered the majority of the well-educated Chinese female respondents in top-tier cities find it hard to say no to fast fashion products. The report was released Tuesday during the ongoing COP26 climate conference in Glasgow, where China and the United States announced their commitment to tackling climate issues the same day.

    “Consumers highly aware of sustainability in China may know what they should do, but when it comes to consumption, they are likely to take price and style into consideration,” Karen Du, the head of R.I.S.E. Lab, which stands for Rational, Inclusive, Smart, and Eco-friendly, told Sixth Tone. “Their value systems are swinging in between moral calling and hedonism.”

    As more Chinese consumers become conscious of the consequences of consumerism, a cultural transition is gearing toward a more sustainable lifestyle. But heightened awareness hasn’t translated into practice, with the fashion industry still a major contributor to textile waste, water pollution, and climate change.

    The fashion industry produces between 2% to 8% of global carbon emissions, while textile dyeing is the second-largest water polluter worldwide, according to the Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action. Without any mitigation measures, the fashion industry is likely to use a quarter of the world’s carbon budget by 2050.

    According to the R.I.S.E. Lab report, which also included male respondents and those in lower-tier cities, over 90% of those surveyed supported purchasing sustainable products and reduced product packaging. However, the respondents said they would still buy fast fashion products — which significantly contribute to the climate crisis.

    To compile the report, the organization used an indicator called “Sustainability Fashion Awareness,” which measures consumers’ awareness of sustainable development, awareness of the fashion industry, and consumer motivations, Du said. She added that young consumers were also paying more attention to the fair treatment of the workers.

    “We find it very interesting that participants below 30 are recognizing this factor,” Du said. “Perhaps it is because of the news they watch or that they are influenced by social phenomena, but fair treatment is very important to them.”

    Founded in 2020, R.I.S.E. Lab released its first Chinese sustainable fashion consumers report last year during Shanghai Fashion Week. Initiated by Impact Hub Shanghai, the organization now runs independently and aims to encourage more people to participate in “the sustainable transformation of the fashion industry” and make the industry more eco-friendly.

    Editor: Bibek Bhandari.

    (Header image: People Visual)