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Recycling fashion for the greater good: a perfect fit for Gen Z

Most of us can attest to denim’s resilience; how a pair of blue jeans purchased ten years ago could still be worn today without any sign of wear or tear. In fact, the oldest-known pair of Levi Strauss jeans is about to celebrate its 140th anniversary — and if it wasn’t safely behind museum glass, it would still be wearable.

But few of us could have predicted recycled denim would have enough staying-power to provide insulation for housing. Regardless, that’s exactly what a new corporate social responsibility initiative known as Blue Jeans Go Green is setting out to accomplish in the US : By recycling hundreds of thousands of pairs of worn-out jeans, Blue Jeans Go Green hopes to provide warm interiors for those in need of homes.

It’s this sort of social good initiative that’s the perfect fit for Gen Z — and for brands that share Gen Z’s enthusiasm for recycling, sustainability and environmental action.

A recent survey by UNiDAYS reveals that 93 percent of Gen Z believe brands have an obligation to take a stance on environmental issues. Other reports also confirm these findings. A 2015 Nielsen study found that 89 percent of Gen Z respondents would prefer buying “from a company supporting social and environmental issues” over a company that doesn’t. And in a global study by Masdar, 40 percent of Gen Z ranked environmental issues as presenting a greater challenge to the world in the coming decade than other categories including the economy, terrorism, poverty and unemployment.

Companies like Estee Lauder have made it their mission to minimise waste and support environmental issues. For over ten years, they’ve sent zero waste to landfill, and any waste that cannot be recycled is incinerated and converted to energy.

Other brands such as H&M have also long been supporting recycling initiatives. The first brand to launch a recycling initiative at a full scale, H&M supply garment-collecting boxes in all stores around the world to be recycled and reused. Customers are then rewarded with a voucher to use in store for their commitment towards a sustainable future.

It’s the perfect instance of a virtuous cycle; an ideal intersection of win-win-win-win. Brands like Estee Lauder and H&M show the world where they stand on environmental and social issues by virtue of their actions.

By supporting corporate social responsibility initiatives popular with Gen Z, brands are not only courting their favour as consumers, but also standing by a set of values they hold to be authentic, relevant and core to their brand.

John Wheeler
John Wheeler
Contributor, Gen Z Insights

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