The short and simple answer: Yes. “So,” you may ask, “what does this mean for my business?” It means that you must be well aware of the consumer sentiment in the textile and apparel industries in order to maintain relevancy among those who buy the textile products you sell or produce.
My assertion is not based on conjecture, but rather on research. Penn Schoen Berland, in conjunction with Burson-Marstellar and Landor, surveyed U.S. consumers in their Corporate Social Responsibility Branding Survey 2010. They found that 70% of U.S. consumers are willing to pay more for goods from socially responsible companies. Think about that. The textile industry in general usually assumes that responsible sourcing methods will result in higher costs, particularly for labor. And this may be true to some degree. However, they also found that 55% of U.S. consumers are more likely to buy products from socially responsible companies when given the choice. This means that there is no reason to assume that your revenue will fall if you source responsibly. In fact, the opposite may be true. The fact that most consumers are more likely to buy products from socially responsible companies, and that most are willing to pay more for them, means that your revenue may actually increase if you adopt ethical sourcing as a company policy. So, whether your business buys or produces fashion apparel, footwear, handbags, textile accessories, home textiles or furnishings, technical textiles, wovens, non-wovens…I could go on but I think you get the point: Every business wants to produce what the consumer wants. And in this case, the consumer wants to buy products from socially responsible companies. So, it’s a pretty easy call really, just practice responsible sourcing and happy consumers will flock to your products.
Social responsibility is especially important for the apparel industry. In the same Corporate Social Responsibility Survey, 77% of U.S. consumers said they believe corporate social responsibility is important to the apparel industry. This is perhaps in large part due to consumers heightened awareness about sweatshops, child labor, and environmental pollution in the textile industry in general, and the apparel industry in particular. The global news media, through investigative journalism, has uncovered a number of unseemly practices in the apparel industry in recent years. Consumers respond to those news reports. Who really wants to wear a pair of shoes that were sewn together by a young mother working 18 hours a day? How could a woman enjoy wearing a beautiful evening gown if she knew that children toiled night and day to make it, just so she could listen to the crowd gasp at her radiance when she entered the ballroom? Nobody wants to walk a mile in those shoes and no woman wants the evening of her life spoiled by thoughts of child labor. Again, the solution is simple: Give consumers what they want by sourcing your fashion apparel products responsibly.
Young mothers and children working in the textile industry will thank you for it. Well, they would if they could afford to buy a phone to call you with. But that’s another issue for another day.