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

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

Summary


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.
    Scope
    • 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?


    Overview
    Catalyst
    Summary
    Fur returns as retailers fail to uphold ethical policies
    Retailers found to be selling real fur marketed as faux fur - commercial impact appears only temporary
    Cost demands and fashion tastes put pressure on ethical policies as fur returns to the catwalk
    Labor rights problems continue despite bad publicity
    Bangladesh factory collapse demonstrates dangers of shying away from labor rights
    Fast fashion encourages retailers to flirt with bad working practices in factories
    Clothing has a big environmental impact - retailers are under little pressure to act
    Piles of used clothing represents a growing environmental problem with fast fashion
    Water consumption is a big problem for the industry - retailers are under little pressure to change
    Sustainability policies are framed in context of business benefit
    Sustainability is increasingly influential to a successful brand image
    Key selling points come before sustainable policies to protect bottom line
    Consumer demands make life harder for new ethical clothing brands
    Cotton On shows ethical trading is possible but economies of scale are important
    Commercial reality is tough for brands predicated on ethical trading
    Conclusions
    Relationship between consumers and retailers allows ethical problems to continue
    Appendix
    Sources
    Further Reading
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    Disclaimer
    List of Tables
    Table 1: Number of garment factories and workers in Bangladesh, 2001-2016
    Table 2: Average footprint from fabric production (per tonne)
    Table 3: Predicted carbon and water savings from using clothing for longer
    List of Figures
    Figure 1: ASOS Share price before and after reports of fur in products 12/04/2016 - 04/01/2017
    Figure 2: Fur entering fashion
    Figure 3: Syrian child refugees photographed in Turkish clothing factory, BBC
    Figure 4: M&S Plan A branding
    Figure 5: Cotton On store
    Figure 6: Clothing from ethical retailer Thought

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