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Sustainable Apparel Coalition Report Reveals Consumers Want More Meaningful Transparency from Apparel Brands and Retailers

Brands and retailers that don’t disclose information about social and environmental sustainability performance risk relevancy, trust, and market share with consumers

The Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC), the leading association for the apparel, footwear and textile industry, today published Empowering Consumers Through Transparency, a report that explores consumer sentiment about the importance of transparency in the apparel, footwear, and textile industry. The report, which was commissioned by SAC and written by global research consultancy GlobeScan, is designed to contribute to the thinking and debate within the industry and to stimulate greater collaboration among brands, retailers, and manufacturers to engage consumers globally.

As defined in the report, meaningful transparency is “easily and publicly accessible sustainability information about the value chain and products that is clear, complete, comparable, and trustworthy, with the intent to enable informed decision making and drive impact improvements.”

“Since the founding of the SAC, a core part of our vision has been to provide trusted and relevant information to all decision-makers – including consumers – so that they can decide how best to manage their impacts through what they purchase,” said SAC Executive Director Amina Razvi. “Consumers are eager for more sustainability information from brands and retailers, and we’re committed to enabling Coalition members and Higg Index customers to share sustainability information publicly, so that they can help consumers make more informed purchasing decisions.”

The report highlights the opportunity for brands and retailers to more readily and consistently share information about their social and environmental sustainability efforts and performance. Access to information about an organization’s sustainability performance is key to building greater trust with consumers, and consumers would like to see the journey that brands are on to becoming more sustainable instead of claims of “perfect practices.” Brands and retailers that do not share meaningful sustainability information publicly risk losing relevance, trust, and market share among their customers.

“Transparency leads to accountability and is essential for credible engagement of consumers on the environmental and social attributes of their products and the brand’s sourcing approaches,” said Jeffrey Hogue, Chief of Sustainability, C&A. “In the global apparel industry, it is increasingly necessary that a consumer-facing approach is developed to provide a universal and simple way to enable consumers to make better purchasing decisions.”

Additional highlights from the Empowering Consumers through Transparency report include:

• Brands and retailers should share their sustainability journeys with consumers, conveying their current state, goals and plans for improvements;
• To be of value for consumers, information must be from a trusted and independent source and empower informed purchasing choices;
• Brief, clear, emotionally engaging language is most effective when communicating with consumers, who are just as wary of greenwashing as they are of companies that don’t disclose sustainability information;
• Consumers feel that brands and retailers have an opportunity to feature this information more prominently in stores, online, and on hang tags – not hidden away in secluded sections of company websites.

“Consumers are eager to see more information about a brand’s overall sustainability efforts and know they can trust the information shared with them,” said SAC VP Baptiste Carrière-Pradal. “They want to feel that brands truly represent them and their individual values. They also want to know more about manufacturing and how and by whom individual products are created.”

The SAC and its members are using the research findings to inform projects that will increase transparency in the apparel and footwear supply chain and of products, such as a public website for sharing information about the Higg Index and SAC members’ sustainability journeys, which is targeted to launch in 2020.

Arvind Limited, C&A, G-Star Raw, H&M, MAS, Nike, Pratibha Syntex, PVH, Prosperity Textile, and Zalando participated in developing the report. It was commissioned by the SAC and written by GlobeScan. The report is based on findings from 12 consumer focus groups in 6 cities (Chengdu, Shanghai, Hamburg, Düsseldorf, London and New York City) and builds on a scan of existing research on the topic of transparency. Download the report.