India ranks No-1 in shopper preference for ethical fashion

August 23, 2012 - India

A National Geographic Society conducted survey ‘Greendex 2010: Consumer Choice and the Environment’ — a worldwide quantitative consumer study of 17,000 consumers from 17 countries shows India ranked as number one in showing preference for more sustainable products, which includes textiles and apparel, knowledge of environmental issues, attitudes toward the environment and sustainability and many more parameters.

Similarly, the Edelman’s annual global research that explores consumer attitudes around social purpose, including their commitment to specific societal issues and their expectations of brands and corporations shows that when quality and price of a product are deemed equal, social purpose has consistently been the leading purchase trigger for Indian consumers ahead of even many other developed countries.

Apparel retailers like Fabindia and Mother Earth are slowly and surely making inroads in to the ethical fashion space. Alongside the production activities of these companies directly help the marginalised sections of Indian society like cotton farmers, handloom workers and handicraft artisans by helping them generate better incomes. Other brands which have organic products in their portfolio include M&S, Duke, Nike & Van Heusen.

“Solidaridad, which founded Fair Trade in 1980s and have been instrumental in setting up several other similar initiatives in EU, did its own survey in the year 2010 across different retail chains to assess Indian consumer preparedness covering Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Bangalore, said Shatadru Chattopadhyay, MD (South & South-East Asia) at Solidaridad Network, when asked if the Indian consumer market ready for ethical apparel products are willing to shell out extra bucks for those products.

“Respondents across all sectors agreed that their preferred fashion brands needs to look into various social, economical and environmental issues related to textile production. It was encouraging to see 55% of respondents are willing to pay a premium of 10 percent in order to buy such products. The institutional buyers are also willing to pay a premium of 10 percent.

“However, all the respondents sighted the lack of such credible, third party, sustainability communication and lack of such brands which have adopted such sustainability communication.

“So, we at Solidaridad do believe if there is a credible and yet a simple way (i.e. a label) of telling the consumer about how their brands have taken care of the society and environment, the consumers would not only be willing to pay a bit extra but also extend their loyalty with such brands. After all, this will allow the consumers in India doing a tiny bit for their society by a simple act of buying their favourite brand.

“A National Geographic Society conducted survey ‘Greendex 2010: Consumer Choice and the Environment’— a worldwide quantitative consumer study of 17,000 consumers from 17 countries shows India ranked as number one in showing preference for more sustainable products, which includes textiles and apparel, knowledge of environmental issues, attitudes toward the environment and sustainability and many more parameters.


“Similarly, the Edelman’s annual global research that explores consumer attitudes around social purpose, including their commitment to specific societal issues and their expectations of brands and corporations shows that when quality and price of a product are deemed equal, social purpose has consistently been the leading purchase trigger for Indian consumers ahead of even many other developed countries”, he informed.

Solidaridad works on creating sustainable supply chains from the producer to the consumer. This enables producers in developing countries to get a better price for better products and it helps to preserve people's environment. It helps companies in the marketplace to implement Corporate Social Responsibility and find sustainable suppliers.

When asked as to how he views the development of ethical apparel products trade in India in the last few years, he said, “There are 2 major players in Indian apparel market, Fabindia and Mother Earth who are positioning them around the concept of sustainability. Fabindia is one of the most profitable retailers in the country with net margins of 8-10 percent on revenues of more than Rs 5 billion.

“Similarly, as per reports, Mother Earth with majority equity stake from Future Group, the country's largest retailer, has plans to open more than 100 outlets and focus on apparel, linens and accessories. These will be also sold in multi-branded department stores such as Shoppers Stop and Lifestyle, with an aim to increase its annual sales more than five-fold.

“Both the companies currently are working closely with the craft persons and artisans across India to ensure the products sold through their stores are manufactured in a sustainable manner. Both the companies promote this as their USP and use the concept as a differentiator for them. The products at the stores are produced following various social & environmental standards.

“Following these two brands, are others like M&S, Duke, Nike & Van Heusen with their organic range of products but none of these companies have used this as a differentiator and the products are not highlighted till now.

“I do see in the last few years, the concept of sustainable labelling has gained some ground in India as well. We see “Shops for Change” labels being used by brands like AND which is available in more than 40 outlets across major cities in India. There will many more that will come up as Indian brands realise the business case and catch up with their western counterparts in communicating their sustainability strategy to their consumers”, he winded up by saying.