Clothing Retailers’ Ethical Problems: Consumer-Retailer Relationship Allows Issues to Persist

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 Questions Answered

– 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?



Reasons to buy


Table of Contents

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

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

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


Discounts available for multiple report purchases.
+44 (0) 161 359 5817

Saved reports