What Influences our Buying Decisions?

Posted: April 17, 2015 in Uncategorized
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Screen Shot 2015-04-17 at 10.05.44 amWhat influences our purchase of fashion garments? Other than how it looks, the price and the size is there anything else that will help us in making a decision. There are probably few of us who think about where our clothes have been made, the amount the manufacturer’s have been paid, or a whole range of ethical issues with the production of our clothes.
For me, the whole process of buying clothes is hard enough without having to think about the ethics of what I’m buying, but if I’m serious about following Jesus’ instructions to love my neighbour I need to think about those people who are facing incredible hardship in order to give me the privilege of going into a fancy shop to buy nice clothes … and I now have some information to help me influence the big companies that provide my clothes.
It’s been two years since the fatal factory collapse in Bangladesh, that saw the death of 1,100 factory workers. After that event Baptist World Aid produced the 2013 Australian Fashion Report to help consumers, retailers, investors and governments to know more about the people producing our clothes and how they are treated.
This week the follow-up to that report, the 2015 Australian Fashion Report was released by Baptist World Aid. You can take a look at the full report HERE. It includes an additional 18 companies representing over 91 brands and there have been some significant improvements.
Of the companies researched in our last publication, a remarkable two thirds have improved their labour rights management systems, 100% now have codes of conduct (up from 85%) and the number of companies that actively engaged with the research process has increased from 54% to 94%. Some companies that have made significant improvements include Kmart, which has released a complete list of its direct suppliers, a huge step towards transparency; The Cotton On Group, which has taken big steps forward to identify suppliers deeper in their supply chain; and H&M, Zara, Country Road and the Sussan Group which have demonstrated that they have made efforts towards paying better wages for workers overseas.
The Fairtrade companies once again are a stand out, with all their brands receiving A grades. Etiko still retains top honours, having traced its entire supply chain and taken action to ensure workers at the inputs and final stage of manufacturing levels of the supply chain are being paid a living wage. Etiko’s performance is only matched by the newcomer, Audrey Blue, who shares Etiko’s supply chain. The Cotton On Group takes honours for being the highest rated, non-Fairtrade Australian retailer, while H&M and Inditex, the two biggest fashion retailers in the world, are amongst the best rated international brands, receiving A-
grades while also taking action to ensure workers at the final stage of production are being paid above the minimum wage. Only Hanesbrands received a higher grade, an A, but has yet to demonstrate any action on improving worker wages.
But the news isn’t all good. The report tell us:

While there are promising signs for the fashion industry, the problems remain significant. Overall the industry is still categorised by poverty level wages. A mere 12% of companies could demonstrate any action towards paying wages above the legal minimum, and even then, only for part of their supply chain. Furthermore, 91% of companies still don’t know where all their cotton comes from, and 75% don’t know the source of all their fabrics and inputs. If companies don’t know how and where their products are made, then there’s no way for them to ensure that their workers are protected.

Sadly, many of the worst overall performers were iconic Australian fashion brands such as the Just Group (owner of Just Jeans, Jay Jays, Dotti, Peter Alexander and Portmans), fast retail brands like Ally, Valley Girl, Temt and Industrie, and low cost suppliers like Lowes and Best & Less. These companies have all received D or F grades. We could find little evidence that any of these fashion retailers were doing much, if anything, to protect workers overseas. Many of them had little or no publicly available information and/or didn’t respond to any of our requests to engage with the research process.
Take a look at the report and consider the consequences. Congratulations to Gershon Nimbalker and the team at Baptist World Australia who have put this report together to help us make decisions that will help the less fortunate.
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