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WASHINGTON – Americans lag on environmental awareness relating to the global apparel industry, according to a major new survey. Though US consumers make up the biggest apparel market worldwide, the poll found they are less concerned about environmental issues than consumers in other countries. The survey found Americans rank the lowest of the countries polled when it comes to concern about the environmental impacts of their clothing purchases – just 34 per cent said they are concerned that the manufacturing of the clothes they buy negatively impacts the environment. American consumers also rank among the lowest when it comes to thinking ethical production is important, indicating that factors such as design and fit, quality, and cost rank more importantly that ethical production when they are considering clothing purchases.

The findings are the result of a major survey, with over 1,000 interviews carried out in each of seven countries – the United States, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain and the UK. Participants were asked to share their public perceptions on environmental and labour issues within the fashion industry and the supply chains of clothing brands. The Ipsos MORI poll was released on behalf of the Changing Markets Foundation and Clean Clothes Campaign.

Overall, 46 per cent of consumers said they feel the manufacturing of the clothes they purchase is harming the environment. Concern is particularly high amongst Spanish consumers (62 per cent) and the French (51 per cent). Those in the UK, Germany and (particularly) the USA were all significantly less likely to say that they are concerned.

A notable finding was a call for more transparency from consumers, backing up Fashion Revolution’s findings late last year. For instance, the poll found that four in five Americans (79 per cent) believe clothing brands should provide information on their environmental commitments and the measures they are taking to minimize pollution in their supply chain. Around three quarters (73 per cent) of the American public also believe that clothing brands should be responsible for what happens in the manufacturing process, and that they need to take measures to ensure clothes are produced in an environmentally friendly way. These figures were replicated across the board in other countries.

The majority of the American public (81 per cent) feel that clothing brands should provide more information on the working conditions of employees in their supply chains, with a further 63 per cent in agreement that the fashion industry generally pays low wages to factory workers who make their clothes. About half (51 per cent) would be put off buying from a brand that does not pay workers a fair living wage. The majority of consumers polled (57 per cent) would also be willing to pay 2-5 per cent more for their clothing to allow factory workers to earn a fair living wage.

“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. It’s time for the governments to act if the industry is not going to,” said Paul Roeland of the Clean Clothes Campaign.

The poll indicates that the majority of American consumers are sceptical about the credibility of information communicated by brands, with only a quarter of Americans (25 per cent) saying they would trust the sustainability information provided by clothing brands themselves.

Full findings here: bit.ly/2LZYmMq

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