Shoppers call on governments and brands to change fashion
By BEL JACOBS
Much has been made of consumer power to turn brands, transform lifestyles, stop shopping. But the truth is that consumers represent only one of the groups required to make serious change where it counts. The path to a sustainable future requires passion from activism, commitment from shoppers and perhaps most importantly, positive action from brands and governments.
We can shop ethically until we drop but until the system changes fundamentally, we’re tinkering around the edges. New research released last month by Fashion Revolution showed that consumers across the five largest EU markets genuinely want to know more about the social and environmental impacts of their clothes - and that they expect brands and governments to be doing much, much more.
The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals for 2030, encompassing global poverty, climate change and environmental protection, provide the report's guiding structure. Environmental factors are considered most important (85% listing climate change and 88% environmental protection in order of importance), but social issues are close behind. Eighty four per cent consider it important for brands to address global poverty while 77% emphasised issues of gender inequality.
And most - 68% - agree that the government has a role to play in ensuring that clothing and accessories are sustainably produced (which means, surprisingly, that 32 per cent think they can do it on their own). And most people agree fashion brands should be required - by law - to protect human and environmental protect rights at every stage of the supply chain.
The online poll of 5,000 people across the UK, Germany, France, Italy and Spain was conducted by Ipsos MORI for Fashion Revolution ahead of November’s Black Friday, the biggest shopping discount event of the year to highlighting just how far we have to go.
“The pace of change by the fashion industry simply isn’t moving fast enough, and we can see this reflected in consumer attitudes,” says Sarah Ditty, Policy Director of Fashion Revolution. “People have an urgent, emotional desire to know more about how their clothes are made, and that they haven’t harmed the environment, the people who made them nor were tested on animals. And they want governments to hold brands and retailers to account to ensure this happens.”
Transparency as a concept comes up again and again. Most people want to find out more about the social and environmental impacts of the clothing they buy: where materials come from, how the clothes are manufactured, what companies are doing to minimise their impacts on the environment and to protect their workers’ human rights.
Fashion Revolution’s Fashion Transparency Index, which reviews and ranks 150 major global brands and retailers according to their social and environmental policies, practices and impacts, found that top ranking global brands scored a pretty miserable 51-60% out of a possible 250 points in 2018. Consumers wanted to brands to publish how products are sustainable and what they are made from on the packaging and make it clear where they source materials, ingredients and components from.
Sarah Ditty added: “We’d like the general public, companies and governments to use our research to help drive change in the fashion industry, to better influence their peers to care more about social and environmental issues in fashion and start asking vital questions about the impacts of our clothing,” says Ditty. Meanwhile, the work continues: Fashion Revolution is benchmarking consumer attitudes to ethical consumption and will track and report change over three years. Onwards and upwards.
Read the full report here www.fashionrevolution.org/