Consumers are becoming more and more engaged and aware of the ethical practices that companies are following.
The public outcry caused by the collapse of the Rana plaza building in 2013 and, more recently, Black Lives Matter’s criticism for brands which preach to be ethical and sustainable, while practicing BAME discrimination in their corporations represent two good examples of the reasons why companies should also report on their diversity and inclusion achievements in their annual sustainability reports, by adding to their Environmental Social and Governance (ESG) an additional D (for Diversity) measure.
Consider the recent Leicester scandal involving Boohoo Group PLC, the group of fast fashion and influencer-pushed brands, such as Boohoo, Nasty Gal, Boohoo Man and Pretty Little Things. Boohoo were sourcing garments from suppliers who forced their workers to work during the Covid-19 national lockdown in poor working conditions (according to Labour Behind the label) and £3,50 an hour less than the UK minimum wage on an investigative report by The Sunday Times.
This led the Group to be dropped by some of their shareholders, and most retailers (ASOS, NEXT & ZALANDO), resulting in their share price sliding significant.
How are ESGD factors important to the apparel industry and especially to fashion brands?
The last few months have seen a seismic shift in this paradigm. Shoppers are no longer content to let the brands tell them they are sustainable. They want to explore, to understand, and fid credible data before they believe in a brand’s claims (According to Green Story). Knowing the face of the people we, as customers, are supporting helps us feel connected and may yield positive results in terms of brand values alignment. It’s time for companies to provide evidence of the impact they generate and ESGD reporting is an opportunity which needs to be seized.
Consumers always have the ability and power to understand the actual ethical side of a brand, when purchasing. Brands preaching women empowerment and planet saving with a €5 T-shirt are not credible. Scandals have demonstrated that it is difficult to empower garments workers, through low price-quality products. Likewise, saving the planet, cannot be reconciled with sourcing unethically and unsustainably to squeeze prices, depleting our natural resources and damaging the environment.
Are we really at the bottle-neck with Fast Fashion? Given the uncertainty of life right now, prosumers and the social media era, how news travels fast and gets viral immediately, brands should take into consideration all ESGD factors, whatever their business model. They cannot be a fast fashion brand and ethical simultaneously, and this will provide a great opportunity and market space for truly ethical and sustainable brands.