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Why do sustainable products cost more?

Updated: Sep 22, 2023



Wage theft, modern day slavery, unfathomable and mounting environmental damage - these are just a few of the compelling reasons that moving to a system of sustainable fashion needs to happen, and soon.

But the shift is slow, and why is that? Well, amongst things the price of sustainable alternatives is off putting to many consumers. When you are used to spending £24 for a pair of leggings, £85 may seem unacceptably high, greedy almost. However nothing could be further from the truth.

Unequal comparison

The price tag on sustainably and ethically produced products is higher, but there are a number of very good reasons for this. Comparison with fast fashion brand alternatives give the perception that sustainable products are not for everyone. This is not true, how we consume fashion is as much a part of the vicious and damaging system as generational conditioning to expect hyper low pricing.

Quality and durability

Sustainable products are often higher quality, and longer lasting, this equates to longer production and lead times, further increasing the cost of creating these garments above cheaply made alternatives. For example, recycled materials are often more expensive than their virgin counterparts due to the potentially complex process required to return materials to usable form rather than discarding them.

Ethical wages and employment practices

Producing ethically, means that everyone involved in the production process is given fair recompense for their efforts. Fast fashion garments are largely made in factories with low safety and health standards by women who are chronically underpaid. The little income that these workers earn can suddenly end because fast fashion works with short term contracts and razor thin margins. Sustainable and fashion requires that these workers need fair pay and contracts, as well as sick pay, leave and safe working conditions. From a sustainability perspective it is much better if the chain of production and consumption of goods happens as locally as possible, thereby reducing the carbon footprint of the system.

Wastage

Brands operating under a system that can be characterized as fast fashion, produce clothing quickly and cheaply, this results in higher levels of wastage compared to companies producing smaller amounts of clothing to satisfy demand. This was covered in greater detail in our last blog post. Producing smaller batches of clothes means that sustainable brands avoid excessive production, but also means that they cannot always benefit from economies of scale, which otherwise can bring the unit price of an item down.

Long term value vs low initial price

Finally, although the cost may be more, it is more agreeable if we consider the durability of an item, as well as our own attitudes towards wearing clothing. Fast fashion has taught us that it is acceptable to buy something cheap to wear only a few times, with its degradation to unusability fairly inevitable and swift. If we consider the value of items over time, then more expensive, high-quality sustainable clothing and products become much more palatable. Remember, quality is remembered long after price has been forgotten.


So next time you come across a sustainable product, consider its production, ethics and durability before judging its price against a less sustainable alternative.


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