Toward Is a Fashion Retailer Capping Orders to Promote Sustainable Consumption

Toward lets customers opt into an annual shopping limit.

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Toward is a new fashion retailer that's taking an unusual approach to promoting sustainability. The company is limiting the number of orders customers can place to twelve per year. Its goal is to encourage shoppers to think intentionally about the purchases they make, to think ahead to what they might need, and to discourage unnecessary overconsumption.

When it comes to fashion, we're not in a good place. The average American buys a new piece of clothing every five days for a total of 70 items yearly that cost less than 3.5% of their salary. Compare that to 1960, when the average American bought a third of that—less than 25 items per year—for over 10% of their salary. We're buying more and lower quality clothes for far less money—a bad situation all around for our wallets and our closets, not to mention our planet.

Toward's solution is curious. Company founder Ana Kannan told Treehuggerthe order limitation policy is engineered into the website's checkout system. "This will prevent shoppers with Toward accounts who opt into the policy from surpassing their twelve order cap."

When asked if she was worried about customers simply going elsewhere to make purchases if they hit the cap, Kannan responded, "Our goal is to encourage customers to think more critically about their shopping habits and ignite a conversation about conscious consumption. It might seem counterintuitive that a recently launched business like ours is focused on limiting sales through an order cap, but that's just how pressing the climate crisis is. Overconsumption is a critical problem in the U.S., and if we don't do anything to curb our shopping habits, it will only get worse."

Toward fashion retailer lifestyle images


Kannan expressed hope that others in the fashion industry will be inspired by Toward to create similar policies because the stakes are higher than ever:

"In the fashion industry, it's no longer enough to produce and sell sustainably made pieces—changes in the amount of product produced and consumed must be made as well. It's important that the burden of these changes be placed on the companies that make up the fashion industry, rather than consumers. That's why we enacted a policy to prompt customers to order less, rather than just telling them it's something they should think about doing on their own."

As mentioned before, this is something shoppers must opt into, meaning that they don't have to be limited by an order cap if they don't want to be. Furthermore, the cap of twelve applies only to the number of orders, not to total items purchased; so one could, in theory, load up the shopping cart each time—although at Toward's price point, that would get very pricey. 

Regarding the question of capping order numbers rather than items, Kannan explained, "This approach addresses the larger environmental cost of shipping—by encouraging shoppers to think critically about how much they need, and to think ahead about what pieces they might require, to alleviate the impact of shipping on the planet." 

She's not wrong. Grouping online orders does reduce the number of trips a delivery truck has to make, particularly if you opt for slower shipping. This makes it a more efficient way of moving goods from stores to customers.

Toward promises that everything it sells—from clothes to shoes to handbags to skincare products—is made under fair working conditions and with respect for workers' human and labor rights. Partner brands stand against cruelty to animals and must demonstrate a clear commitment to minimizing environmental harm in all operations. In other words, if you can afford to splurge on their items, be assured that you're buying ethically-made, top quality goods.

It will be interesting to see if Toward's cap limit attracts or deters customers over time. At the very least it will prompt a much-needed conversation about why people are buying as much as they are.