Most consumers believe clothing brands should have ethical supply chains

Clothing brands are failing to meet the public’s demand for information on the environmental impacts of their supply chains, according to a survey.

Three quarters (74%) of the UK public believe clothing brands should be responsible for an environmentally-friendly supply chain, a survey carried out by Ipsos MORI on behalf of the Changing Markets Foundation and the Clean Clothes Campaign revealed.

However, only one in 10 (11%) respondents believed consumers were well-informed about the impacts of clothing manufacturing on the environment and people.

Four fifths (79%) of the UK public believed brands should provide information on their environmental commitments.

A total of 1,117 people in the UK aged between 16 and 75 were canvassed as part of a wider poll, which surveyed more than 7,000 people across seven European countries.

More than half (55%) of respondents said they would be put off buying from a brand associated with pollution in its manufacturing.

And 79% said clothing brands should provide information on whether the workers in their supply chains are paid a fair living wage, while 54% would be put off buying from a brand that does not do so.

The Changing Markets Foundation (CMF) said the results came amid rising calls for the UK fashion industry, an industry worth £28bn per year to the UK economy, to become more sustainable and transparent. CMF said according to the Ethical Consumer Markets Report 2018, last year saw an almost 20% jump in the market for ethically-produced clothing and a 22.5% increase in second-hand clothing purchases.

These figures indicate that consumers are increasingly acting on their environmental concerns, CMF said.

Urska Trunk, campaign advisor at CMF, said the survey “shows that people expect brands to take responsibility for what happens in their supply chains, both in terms of their workers and the environment”.

She said: “All the indications are consumer mindsets are changing: they want more accountability, and more information and they are increasingly putting their money where their mouth is.”

The majority of the public are sceptical about the credibility of information communicated by brands, according to the survey.

Only 18% would trust sustainability information provided by clothing brands themselves, while 23% think industry self-regulation is the most effective way to minimise the impacts of the fashion industry on the environment.

Luxury brands failed to score any better than budget or high street retailers with only 6% of consumers associating Gucci with having a sustainable supply chain, the same percentage as Primark.

Almost two thirds (62%) of respondents believe consumer pressure is the most effective ways to make brands’ supply chains more sustainable.

The fashion industry pays low wages to workers in its supply chain, according to 69% of those surveyed. An equal number said it was difficult to know if the brands they buy from meet higher ethical standards.

Three fifths (60%) said they would pay 2-5% more for their clothing if it meant factory employees were paid a fair living wage.

“These findings show that people in the UK want more information on working conditions and would be put off buying from brands who are not paying a fair living wage. It’s time for the government to act if the industry is not going to,” said Dominique Muller, director of policy at Labour Behind the Label, part of Clean Clothes Campaign UK.

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