Thursday, February 5, 2009

Consumers’ ethical concerns over fashion hit record high

Nearly three quarters (72%) of British consumers think ethical production of the clothes they buy is important – up sharply from 59% last year, according to the latest Ethical Clothing Report from TNS Worldpanel Fashion. The most dramatic shift in attitudes occurred among young consumers: Last year 60% of under-25s said they bought the clothes they wanted and didn’t care how they were produced; this year only 36% say they do this.

At the same time people are more sceptical than ever of the ethical claims made by certain retailers and manufacturers: Over half (57%) express such reservations, a significant rise from last year’s 45%, and two thirds (67%) say retailers should use ethical practices across all their ranges, not just such marked as “ethical”.

When it comes to the factors that matter most, an overwhelming 72% of people say an end to child labour and sweat shops is very important, closely followed by offering producers a fair price (59%). While this is in line with last year’s results, consumers have become more concerned about the social impact of clothing production. In a list of criteria that are important to them when it comes to “ethical” clothing, respondents now rate “benefits to the producing community” higher than “no damage to the environment” (49% vs. 43% respectively), while “profits given to charity” and “organic fabric” remain the least important factors at 25% and 17% respectively.

An increasing number of consumers are also prepared to put their money where their mouth is: One third (33%) say they are willing to pay more for ethically produced clothing and footwear.

While one might think of young people as most concerned about ethical and environmental issues, the interest and the demand for ethical clothing is actually highest among consumers over 55. They make up one third (31%) of those who think ethical clothing is “very” or “quite” important, are more sceptical about ethical claims (63% of all 55+) and more willing to pay a bit extra (38% of all 55+) for ethical clothing.

Elaine Giles, Research Manager, TNS Worldpanel Fashion, said: “With the increasing attention brought to ethical issues by the media, awareness of the potential cost to humanity for ‘unethical clothing’ has reached unprecedented levels. Retailers must wake up to this significant consumer demand and increase their efforts to demonstrate their trustworthiness across all their ranges. Consumers will not be convinced by what they perceive to be tokenistic actions. There is a strong need for retailers to communicate their ethical practices more clearly and if they do this well, they can create a real point of difference for themselves that wins consumers’ trust.”

An executive summary of the report is available upon request.

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amiable amy said...

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