Over half of shoppers say they would be prepared to pay a penny tax on fashion purchases to bolster the sector’s sustainability credentials.

Just shy of two thirds (61%) of shoppers said they would be willing to pay the 1p tax to fund garment recycling. The government rejected the proposal and 17 other recommendations made by the Environmental Audit Committee, chaired by Mary Creagh MP, last month.


According to exclusive research conducted for Retail Week by Walnut Unlimited across 2,000 shoppers, over half of consumers across all age brackets support the tax.

However, those aged 18-24 were most supportive of the tax, as 65% of customers in that age bracket said they would be willing to pay the levy.

Those who buy clothes most frequently (between fortnightly and weekly) were also most supportive of the scheme, with 77% saying they would support a 1p tax on their purchases.

Sixty-three per cent of consumers who buy clothes between monthly to biannually supported the tax, while 51% of those that bought clothes less regularly supported the proposal.

Of those surveyed, 21% said they would not support a penny tax, while 18% did not know whether they would support it or not.

Walnut research director Amy Nichols said: “Those who buy clothes frequently are significantly more likely to be in favour of a penny tax than those who don’t buy as frequently. There is clearly a desire among these buyers to help promote ethical fashion; the penny tax is perhaps appealing as it offers an easier way for frequent buyers to feel better about spending their money.”

Lack of awareness

On average, 56% of shoppers said they would be likely to shop the ethical range of a fashion retailer they were currently a customer of, driven by 67% and 65% of respondents aged 18-24 and 25-34 respectively.

Over half (60%) of female respondents also said they would shop ethical ranges at retailers they already bought clothes from.

Despite this, customer awareness of retailers’ existing ethical ranges remained low.


Overall, 78% of shoppers had not heard of H&M, Asos, Zara or Boohoo’s ethical or sustainable clothing ranges.

Of those retailers, H&M’s Conscious sustainable clothing range was the best known, with 12% of those surveyed saying they had heard of the collection, followed by Asos’ Responsible clothing edit, which 7% of respondents were aware of.

Ethical credentials

Marks & Spencer was the market leader in terms of ethical credentials among shoppers, with 25% of respondents describing it as an ethical business, followed by John Lewis with 19%.


The positive perception of the two department store chains was driven by older shoppers, as 32% of shoppers aged over 55 agreed M&S was an ethical retailer, compared with 17% of those aged 18-24.

Overall, 23% of shoppers aged over 55 said John Lewis was an ethical retailer, compared to 11% of customers aged 18-24.

Among younger shoppers, Primark and H&M ranked as the most ethical fashion retailers, being voted as such by 33% and 24% of customers in the 18-24 demographic respectively.

Conversely, just 9% of shoppers over 55 saw Primark as an ethical retailer – while only 6% saw H&M as one.

Overall, 73% of shoppers said they had at least one concern about the ethics and sustainability of the clothing industry – a number which rose to 81% among 18- to 24-year-olds, 79% among higher affluence customers and 78% of female shoppers.


Factory conditions for workers was the foremost concern for shoppers overall, with 55% of respondents flagging it as a cause for concern, followed by 39% of shoppers who highlighted the quantity of clothes going to landfill as an issue that troubled them.