The Ethical Face of Fashion

by Nikki Mattei

The Ethical Face of Fashion

Over recent years the fashion industry has earned a bad reputation for the way it treats its workers in countries like Bangladesh, where over a thousand garment workers at the Rana Plaza factory were killed when the building, where more than 15 brands were manufactured, collapsed. Albeit slowly, a number of global retailers have responded and provided compensation for the victims.

There are an increasing number of brands who are working hard to improve their ethical credentials and include social and environmental issues in their business strategy. For example, H&M wants to be seen as a provider of “fashion for conscious consumers”. H&M’s Conscious Collection, which debuted in 2011, incorporates organic cotton, linen, hemp and jute and recycled polyester, wool, plastic and other materials.

Burberry is one of the latest brands to commit to remove toxic chemicals from its products. This followed an aggressive campaign by Greenpeace to expose the levels of harmful chemicals in its children’s clothing range. Alongside H&M, Nike, Zara, Benetton, M&S, Levi’s and many others, Burberry has signed onto Greenpeace’s Detox Solution Commitment.

Burberry is now “committed to zero discharges of all hazardous chemicals from the whole lifecycle and all production procedures associated with the making and using of all products Burberry produces and/or sells by 01 January 2020.”

But are consumers bothered by ethics? Recent studies show a rise in the number of Aspirational consumers, a group nearing 2.5 billion worldwide, who consider style, social status and sustainability when shopping. This combined with a recent survey by H&M found that 47 percent of its customers were interested in more environmentally friendly products in 2013, up from 27 percent in 2012.

Unfortunately, this is in contrast with H&M’s 102 out 103 ranking in “Sustainability Image Scores” (SIS) survey, which shows the effect of sustainability initiatives on a company’s image, consumers’ willingness to buy and customer loyalty, and how the company’s sustainability efforts and the marketing of those efforts are perceived by consumers and brand users. But this report is now 18 months out of date and so let’s hope that H&M’s efforts are starting to be recognised by its customers.

I strongly believe that we will see more and more demands from the “conscious consumer”, particularly amongst the younger generation who may be resentful of some of the world’s social and environmental problems which have been created and left for them to sort out.

  • Information for this article was partly sourced from Sustainable Brands.

  • Image source: – Burberry Spring/Summer 2014




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