CTV poll: Shoppers willing to pay more for clothes made in ethical conditions
Published Thursday, June 20, 2013 10:00PM EDT
The majority of shoppers are willing to pay a bit more for clothes to help improve conditions in Third World garment factories, but many of them still just want cheap fashion and don’t really care what it takes to produce it, according to a new global poll.
The Ipsos poll conducted for CTV News looked at the relationship between buying habits and ethical manufacturing of clothing by surveying more than 18,500 people in 16 countries, including Canada and the United States.
Nearly 70 per cent of respondents said they would be willing -- to a degree -- to pay a couple of extra dollars to improve worker conditions in countries where inspections and safety standards may not be up to par.
But more than 40 per cent strongly or somewhat agreed that they don’t really care what kind of conditions employees have to work in and just want “choice and low cost.”
Despite some support for corporate responsibility, nearly two-thirds of respondents agreed that local authorities, not foreign contract companies, should be responsible when a building collapses and workers are killed or hurt.
Thirty-eight per cent said they currently boycott certain brands of clothing because of how the companies treat their workers.
Among the Canadian respondents, 42 per cent said they’re participating in a brand boycott of some kind. Thirty-six per cent said they don’t care about factory conditions or feel any responsibility about where clothing is made.
The poll also found seven in 10 Canadians agree they would spend a few extra dollars for clothing to improve worker conditions -- that was fewer than in Sweden, but more than the four in 10 surveyed in Japan.
The Ipsos poll was conducted over two weeks in May, and more than a month after an eight-storey factory building collapsed in Bangladesh, killing more than 1,000 factory workers.
The tragedy -- believed to be the worst garment-industry related disaster in history -- drew international outcry from labour groups over low wages and poor working conditions for workers in developing countries.
Kevin Thomas of Maquila Solidarity Network, a Toronto-based workers’ rights organization, told CTV News that the findings indicated a negative perception of the overseas factory clothing operations.
For example, a substantial majority of Canadians -- 82 per cent -- agreed that the work conditions for overseas workers are exploitative.
“The thing that came out that struck me most about this poll was that most consumers saw that working conditions overseas as being were very poor,” he said. “That they’re worried that companies which were sourcing their goods overseas were exploiting workers.”
But poll results indicated that awareness hasn’t necessarily changed shopping habits.
Numbers showed that there is skepticism among shoppers that paying more for so-called ethical clothing makes a difference for workers.
Thirty-seven per cent of Canadians were confident extra money was used to improve worker conditions, compared to 19 percent in Norway.
While the majority of Canadians believe companies should be held accountable for what happens in factories overseas, 61 per cent agreed local authorities and those who constructed the Bangladesh building are primarily responsible for its collapse.
Canada’s Loblaws Companies Ltd., which had items for is Joe Fresh clothing line made in the collapsed Bangladesh building, said in May it will sign an accord to improve fire and building safety in the country.
Several other brand-name retailers, including Benetton and H&M, have also signed the pact, known as the Accord on Fire and Building Safety.
The agreement requires retailers to conduct independent safety inspections, publish reports on factory conditions and pay for essential repairs.
With a report from CTV’s John Vennavally-Rao
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