Suppliers News Round-Up (Issue 95)

October 03, 2007

Fashion’s ethical claims flawed

Nearly half of British consumers do not believe claims made by high street fashion stores about their ethical credentials, according to findings from TNS Worldpanel Fashion. However, consumer belief in the importance of the ethical production of clothes is increasing with 59% of the population in the UK stating that they would consider ethics when buying shoes or clothes. The survey also found that older people are more likely to buy ethical clothes and that the issues are more critical to women than to men.
TNS found that sweatshop and child labour stood out as the most important issues pertaining to ethical production with 70% of consumers saying this was very important.

The use of organic materials was rated as the least important factor in the production of ethical wear.
The TNS Worldpanel Fashion monitors the clothing, footwear and accessories purchasing trends of 15,000 demographically representative British people aged between 12 and 80.

Contact TNS Global

Briefing comment

It seems that the stereotype of the young, green idealist consumer is sometimes over-played. This research from TNS confirms other recent studies, which show that it is the older shopper who is more likely to buy ethical products and is more sceptical of overblown claims by retailers.

For those producers aiming at the youth market this might come as worrying news with people under the age of 25 appearing to hold dual standards. More than half of those in this age group who were polled claim they feel it is important to buy ethical fashion items. However, when it comes to actual purchasing decisions, 6 in 10 of them admit that they buy the clothes they want without caring how they are produced. Beyond revealing insights into the profile of ethical consumers, it is interesting to look behind the data and see how those surveyed define ‘ethical’. Perhaps not surprisingly, the top areas of concern are fears that goods are produced in sweatshops or by child labour. Second in the list is paying a fair price to producers.

The issue of the percentage of profits given to charity is considered of importance by only one in four shoppers. This finding reinforces the view that is it how we do business that counts, rather than simply how we distribute the profits of that activity. Given the size of this survey sample, it is highly likely that the attitudes displayed by these respondents are reflective of broader social trends. There will always be those who claim they want to be ethical consumers yet do not change their behaviour. At the same time, the proportion of those concerned about the treatment of workers in the supply chain is growing. In the world of fashion, among older more discerning consumers, issues of sourcing and production are increasingly becoming key influencers in deciding what to buy and from whom.

Carbon free fruit

Dole’s Costa Rican subsidiary Standard Fruit de Costa Rica has partnered with Fondo Nacional de Financiamento Forestal, the National Forestry Financing Fund and the ministry of environment and energy in the country to work towards making its banana and pineapple supply chain carbon neutral. This will mean that eventually all Standard Fruit-produced bananas and pineapples sold in North America and Europe will be carbon free. The announcement was made on August 9 and, according to Dole, ‘carbon neutral’ means that “the carbon dioxide emitted to produce, pack, transport and distribute the fruit will be offset by mitigation practices”. The company further asserts that the practices will entail more energy efficient transport methods, changes to the agricultural process and partnering with farmers in Costa Rica to implement preservation and reforestation programmes.

Contact Dole 001 818 879 6814

Mattel toy recall

Toy manufacturer, Mattel, is recalling a large number of products globally after it found that one of its subcontracted painting companies in China had violated the Mattel’s standards and used paint from a non-authorised third-party supplier, which contained dangerous levels of lead. The toys recalled in August included toys from Mattel’s Fisher-Price range, it’s “Cars” vehicle line (the “Sarge” toy) as well as 18.2m magnetic toys worldwide. According to the company, all recalls were done voluntarily and it is also working with the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, other regulators and retailers to deal with the issue, which is ongoing.

Contact Mattel 001 310 252 2000

Topshop and cheap labour

Topshop, the high-street fashion retailer and part of the Arcadia Group, is not paying its overseas workforce enough according to an investigation by The Sunday Times that was published on August 12. The newspaper alleges that Asian workers in Mauritius are paid less than £4 a day and that hundreds of Sri Lankan, Indian and Bangladeshi workers in the island state are forced to work for 12 hours a day, six days a week. The article does point out that Arcadia does not own the factories that manufacture the clothes but that the company uses a network of independent factories and that the process is overseen by Arcadia staff.

Philip Green, the billionaire owner of Arcadia, retaliated by launching an investigation into the allegations on August 13, which found that the factories involved were “compliant with the relevant codes of practice” and that they “pay their workforce above the rates set down by the Mauritian government under the 2007 law”. He stated on August 15 that he is awaiting The Sunday Times’ response.

Arcadia is not signed up to the Ethical Trade Initiative, an international programme to promote ethical trade, and has its own code of conduct for suppliers. It also owns Topman, Burton, Dorothy Perkins and Miss Selfridge.

Contact The Sunday Times; Arcadia Group

Green shipping

Wal-Mart Canada is to introduce a Supply Chain Sustainability Scorecard in October this year, which will assess the environmental impact, efforts and improvement of its suppliers. Forming part of the company’s sustainability programme, the scorecard will allow companies in its supply chain to measure and reduce the environmental footprint of its product shipping process and logistics network. Wal-Mart Canada’s initiatives have become best practice for other global Wal-Mart operations.

Contact Kevin Groh, director – corporate affairs, Wal-Mart Canada

Fair Development Fund

Sainsbury’s launched its Fair Development Fund on August 16 with the aim of helping more farmers in the developing world to sell their produce as fairtrade. The fund has committed £1m over four years to help farmers to meet Fairtrade standards, thus enabling them to grow sustainably. The fund will be run by Comic Relief and will be financed by Sainsbury’s.

Contact Sainsbury’s; Comic Relief