The market for ethically sourced garments is here to stay. The last decade has seen a fundamental shift in consumer attitudes towards ethical trading and recent research suggests that, despite the economic downturn, UK shoppers are still demanding responsibly sourced fashion. Of course, now more than ever, retailers must juggle sourcing ethically alongside securing value for money. To do this, brands and retailers across the fashion industry are increasingly turning to the latest technology in order to gain greater visibility and control throughout their supply chain.
With this demand, savvy retailers and businesses are increasingly realising that a reputation for fairness is invaluable. "It isn't just a question of wanting to behave responsibly," says Sally. "Retailers who are sourcing ethically are making informed judgments about what their customers want." For example, Primark's rating in consumer polls fell dramatically in the wake of BBC Panorama's damning exposé in June 2008, which revealed that some of Primark's suppliers were using child labour. Indeed a survey conducted for Drapers following the programme revealed that 44% of Primark shoppers were likely to switch to another chain. 2 In contrast, Marks & Spencer was rated highly due to their ‘Plan A' initiative, which included carrying out lifecycle assessments on their clothing and setting up a clothes recycling scheme with Oxfam. "The fact that Primark changed suppliers and created a website promoting its ethical trading record in response to the child labour allegations emphasises just how important it is for companies to be able to show their customers that they are sourcing responsibly," says Sally.