As the fashion industry opens up to sustainability, and maps a route toward a circular production ethos, more and more brands are stepping up to the plate and paving the way. From the luxury sector, like Stella McCartney and Kevin Germanier, to contemporary labels, like Maggie Marilyn and Mara Hoffman, to fast-fashion brands trying to slow things down, like Everlane and H&M, eco-friendly fashion is (slowly but surely) catching on. And, despite those who argue that producing clothes sustainably and ethically doesn't have to cost an arm and a leg, there's yet to be a fully sustainable, mainstream label that isn't expensive for the average consumer.
But in a new poll by Changing Markets (an organization dedicated to reducing the environmental footprint of corporations) and the Clean Clothes Campaign, it seems Americans want even more supply chain transparency from clothing brands. The poll, which comprised of over 7,000 interviews across seven countries (more than 1,000 in each), including the U.S., asked participants to share their public perceptions on environmental and labor issues within the fashion industry.
It found that four in five Americans (79%) think clothing brands should provide customers with more information on their commitments to protecting the planet, and what measures they're taking to minimize pollution within their supply chain. Additionally, 73% percent of American respondents think clothing brands should be held responsible for what occurs in their manufacturing processes — meaning it's up to them to produce their clothes sustainably and ethically. Another 81% of Americans are concerned about the working conditions of employees, with 63% of them who believe the fashion industry should pay its garment workers higher wages.
"These findings show that American consumers want more information on working conditions in fashion supply chains and would be put off buying from brands that are not paying a fair living wage," Paul Roeland of the Clean Clothes Campaign said via press release. "It’s time for the governments to act if the industry is not going to."
But the polling goes even further to reveal how little Americans know about which of their favorite brands produce any of their clothing sustainably. Less than a third of Americans polled think that industry self-regulation is the most effective way to minimize the fashion industry's impact on the planet, and nearly half of them didn't know which brands actually have sustainable supply chains, as Nike, H&M, and the Gap do. And 61% of Americans said they find it difficult to know which ones do and which ones don't.
If only they'd read the CFDA's latest sustainability report — published just last week — or the Pulse Of The Fashion Industry by the Global Fashion Agenda and the Boston Consulting Group, both of which are over 100 pages long. There's no arguing that fashion companies should provide more transparency in how their products are made, with what materials, and what happens to them when they're discarded (by the company itself or us). But, as the poll found, what happens when 25% of Americans don't even trust the companies who have nothing to hide?