Cost and confusion preventing Aussies from ethical shopping
Ethical fashion choices declining, new report shows
Australians are more aware than ever of the social and environmental impacts of our consumer choices, but motivation and confidence to make ethical choices have declined. This is the finding of the Australian Ethical Consumer Report commissioned by Baptist World Aid Australia and Be Slavery Free.
The report, released on Monday 13 November 2023, highlights consumer perceptions and behaviour in regard to ethical fashion choices.
The McCrindle survey of 1000 Australians with national representation across age, gender and geography showed positive growth in Australians’ awareness of the impact of their consumption habits and some of the persisting issues in global supply chains like modern slavery and environmental degradation. But consumers are holding back from making more ethical fashion choices due to the perceived cost of shopping more ethically and sustainably, as well as confusion around which brands are making progress in these areas.
80 percent of Australians had heard about modern slavery, while only 55 per cent knew that it also happens in Australia.
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Speaking at a recent Baptist World Aid and Be Slavery Free webinar, Sarah Knopp from Baptist World Aid shared key insights from the report.
The report revealed that 80 per cent of those surveyed had heard about modern slavery, while only 55 per cent knew that it also happens in Australia. Despite the rise in awareness, “the percentage of Australians seeking to change their shopping habits to align with their values has decreased from 87 per cent in 2021 to 70 per cent in 2023,” shared Knopp.
The cost-of-living crisis and interest rate rises in Australia are likely contributing factors, says Knopp, to most Australians prioritising cost and personal benefit when shopping for fashion. Just 18 per cent of those surveyed prioritise the impact of their purchases.
“With close to 50 million people living in conditions of modern slavery today, 27 million of those in forced labour, Be Slavery Free and Baptist World Aid will not stop advocating and campaigning to eradicate this shocking crime,” Sarah Knopp.
“The most significant barrier for changing consumption habits is the perceived expense of shopping ethically, closely followed by a perceived lack of reliable and easily accessible information about what brands are ethical,” said Knopp.
Two in five Australians understand that they have probably purchased products made by people living in conditions of modern slavery. That Australia imports goods made in conditions of modern slavery, and that their purchasing practices can in fact contribute to ending modern slavery.
“With close to 50 million people living in conditions of modern slavery today, 27 million of those in forced labour, Be Slavery Free and Baptist World Aid will not stop advocating and campaigning to eradicate this shocking crime,” said Knopp.
While two in five Australians (42 per cent) engage with information on ethical consumption through podcasts, scorecards, news articles and the like, “unfortunately it’s not translating to action at the moment,” emphasised Knopp.
Leila Naja Hibri, CEO of the Australian Fashion Council shared that the decline in ethical shopping habits amongst Australians is a natural consequence of the downturn in the economy and perhaps also a consequence of Australians attempting to enjoy life again after COVID lockdowns.
Hibri notes that uncertainty as to what constitutes a sustainable product. She encourages brands to be clearer and more authentic about their ethical and sustainability goals and guarantees to help consumers make more informed choices.
“We tend to think that slavery is something far in the past. It’s hidden in plain sight all around us and in many different products that we’re buying today.” – Dr James Cockayne.
Hibri emphasises that a mindset shift is needed, from seeing clothing as a disposable commodity to viewing garments as something to be cherished, repaired and used for a long period of time.
Dr James Cockayne, New South Wales Anti Slavery Commissioner said, “We tend to think that slavery is something far in the past. It’s hidden in plain sight all around us and in many different products that we’re buying today.”
He remarked that “respondents are clearly concerned, but feel a bit disconnected and fairly disempowered” when it comes to the subject of modern slavery. The report showed that 42 percent said “my purchasing practices can contribute to ending modern slavery”, which is a positive start.
Cockayne highlights the roles of governments in supporting ethical fashion standards. “If governments don’t play a role and leave things as they are, then it’s very difficult to overcome the status quo and to create the incentives” for companies to make positive changes that benefit vulnerable people involved in the fashion industry.
Check out the Be Slavery Free chocolate scorecard and the Baptist World Aid Australian Ethical Consumer Report.