Sean Hargrave
Sean Hargrave 28 October 2020

Ethical Fashion Brands Are Future-Proof

More than four in five consumers will avoid a fashion brand or retailer on ethical grounds. That is the major take-out from the Why Ethical Brands Are Future-Proof report from London Research, produced in partnership with Trustpilot. In this article we outline more of the key findings from this research.

Almost 3,000 fashion shoppers were surveyed in the UK, US and across Europe and the message from the research is clear. Consumers want fashion brands to treat workers throughout their supply chain fairly, and they expect clothes to be made with the least possible impact on the environment.

It is an important consideration for fashion brands and marketers because budgets are under scrutiny. Nearly three in four (72%) reveal the year of the global pandemic has seen them spend less, or the same, on fashion. Only 28% are spending more this year. It is also a pressing issue because shoppers’ ethical stance is not theoretical – coverage of ethical and sustainability practices has influenced more than half (54%) of consumers surveyed in terms of which brands they buy from, or avoid.

Impact of Coronavirus on Consumer Spending on Fashion and Clothing


Ratings over celebrities

Traditionally, the industry has a long association of relying on articles in glossy magazines and, more recently, paying celebrities to share photos of their outfits on social media.

However, the big news for fashion brands is the public trusts word of mouth and reviews two to three times as much as newspapers, magazine articles as well as branded websites. The least trusted channel is celebrity influencers. Nearly two thirds of shoppers (63%) have a low trust level for those who thrive on likes and share. It follows, then, that half of the market has a low trust in all social media when it comes to finding out more about fashion brands.

What do shoppers want?

Drilling down into the attributes consumers want to see in their fashion brands of choice, the report found a tie in top spot. Nearly half (46%) say that both a commitment to good working practices throughout the supply chain as well as environmentally-friendly packaging are their top concern. A recycling service is just behind in third place.

The report’s authors spoke to brands who are tapping into this rising wave of consumer concern over worker rights and the environment. While the brands admit the market has not yet reached a tipping point, they believe it soon will. They warn fashion companies will lose custom if they need to have transparent ethical and environmental strategies in place.

One brand, SANVT, goes so far as to offer virtual tours around its production facility in Portugal to showcase good working conditions. It also openly refuses to hold sales, offering shoppers the chance to have more trees planted to offset a product’s carbon footprint than normal.


German fashion brand SANVT has a skilled team of workers at its T-Shirt and Sweatshirt factory in Manhente, Portugal.

Luxury retailer FARFETCH is tapping into this growing surge in ethical fashion by empowering shoppers to filter products according to environmental criteria, such as Fairtrade cotton. It also allows items to be sold on to a new owner so they are worn for longer, rather than discarded.

For fashion brands and retailers, the report spells out a warning as well as an opportunity. Those who continue to cut sustainability and ethical corners to drive down prices will find a new wave of eco-conscious shopper is actively seeking out transparent brands who share their conviction that workers and the planet should be treated with respect.

You can read the full report here.

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