Clothing retailers' ethical problems : Consumer-retailer relationship allows issues to persist

 Published On: May, 2017 |    No of Pages: 23 |  Published By: MarketLine | Format: PDF
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Subject to numerous scandals regarding ethical behavior for longer than many people care to remember, clothing retailers face a challenging future. In the age of ‘fast fashion’ some problems - such as the use of fur - many thought had gone have now returned to the mainstream. Unethical behavior issues within the garment industry can be traced back to the relationship between the consumer and the retailer, resulting in problems failing to gain sufficient attention, although some progress has occurred, to inspire change at the top of the clothing industry in the United Kingdom.

Key Highlights

- Real fur has returned to the high-street without the knowledge of consumers. Under pressure to create fast fashion, retailers have failed to maintain the required level of security in the supply chain. Without the current relationship between consumers and retailers, such a turn of events would not have been possible.
- The environmental impact of fast fashion is huge. Manufacturing one ton of cotton requires thousands of cubic meters of water and creates large quantities of waste. Extending the time clothing is used for, even by a few months, dramatically cuts down on the amount of waste and damage each consumer is responsible for.
- Although all companies espouse ethical policies, actions are carefully designed as to avoid damaging the fast fashion business model so many retailers depend upon. Sustainability is, therefore, predicated on the relationship between consumer and retailer. For the industry to become more ethical and sustainable, the business case for change has to be clear.


- Examines the return of fur to popular stores
- Looks the continuing problem of working conditions
- Assesses the prospect of new ethical shops conjuring popularity
- Details the environmental impact of fast fashion

Reasons to buy

- Why has fur returned to high-street products?
- What is the impact of fast fashion on labor rights?
- What are the environmental consequences of fast fashion?
- Can a new ethical brand enter the mainstream market?

Table of Contents
Overview 2
Catalyst 2
Summary 2
Fur returns as retailers fail to uphold ethical policies 6
Retailers found to be selling real fur marketed as faux fur - commercial impact appears only temporary 6
Cost demands and fashion tastes put pressure on ethical policies as fur returns to the catwalk 7
Labor rights problems continue despite bad publicity 9
Bangladesh factory collapse demonstrates dangers of shying away from labor rights 9
Fast fashion encourages retailers to flirt with bad working practices in factories 10
Clothing has a big environmental impact - retailers are under little pressure to act 12
Piles of used clothing represents a growing environmental problem with fast fashion 12
Water consumption is a big problem for the industry - retailers are under little pressure to change 13
Sustainability policies are framed in context of business benefit 14
Sustainability is increasingly influential to a successful brand image 14
Key selling points come before sustainable policies to protect bottom line 15
Consumer demands make life harder for new ethical clothing brands 17
Cotton On shows ethical trading is possible but economies of scale are important 17
Commercial reality is tough for brands predicated on ethical trading 18
Conclusions 20
Relationship between consumers and retailers allows ethical problems to continue 20
Appendix 21
Sources 21
Further Reading 21
Ask the analyst 22
About MarketLine 22
Disclaimer 22

List of Tables
Table 1: Number of garment factories and workers in Bangladesh, 2001-2016 9
Table 2: Average footprint from fabric production (per tonne) 12
Table 3: Predicted carbon and water savings from using clothing for longer 14

List of Figures
Figure 1: ASOS Share price before and after reports of fur in products 12/04/2016 - 04/01/2017 7
Figure 2: Fur entering fashion 8
Figure 3: Syrian child refugees photographed in Turkish clothing factory, BBC 10
Figure 4: M&S Plan A branding 15
Figure 5: Cotton On store 17
Figure 6: Clothing from ethical retailer Thought 18

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