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Labor Conditions in the Apparel Industry: How Concerned Are Consumers?

Labor Conditions in the Apparel Industry: How Concerned Are Consumers?

Last week, an eight-story garment factory building in Savar, Bangladesh collapsed, killing over 500 workers and wounding 2,500 more. This is the worst industrial accident that the South Asian country, home to one of the largest garment industries in the world, has ever seen. It should come as no surprise that many Western apparel companies, including here in the U.S., outsource the manufacture of their products to garment workers overseas. This particular factory was known to have made clothes for Western retailers.

In light of what seems to be increasingly terrible labor conditions in international factories such as the one in Savar, we wanted to know how aware is the American consumer of these conditions overseas? Will consumers change their shopping habits in response to the tragedy in Bangladesh and how should American clothing companies and brands respond?

Using SurveyMonkey Audience, a powerful online market research tool, we surveyed over 300 Americans to get their thoughts on this timely issue and learned the following:

Consumers care about labor conditions

A combined 43% of respondents said that labor conditions of where their clothes were manufactured was “very important” and “extremely important” to them, while only a quarter said it was “slightly to not at all important”.

Consumers want to see action

How should American companies respond to poor labor conditions overseas? It’s important for brands to note that most respondents would not be happy if they learned that a company had clothes manufactured by the Bangladeshi factory that collapsed. Collectively, 80% said they would decrease their shopping or stop shopping all together at that brand.

However, consumers are quick to forgive if the clothing company made efforts to change its ways. Over 60% of respondents said they would continue to shop at that brand with 10% saying they’d increase their shopping at stores/brands who are actively working to improve their labor practices.

Labor conditions make a difference in brand perception

Does it make sense for other American companies–with no connection to or working involvement with the factory in Savar–to respond?

Consumer reaction shows that it does. When asked what shoppers would think of any company who stated that they would work to improve labor conditions, regardless of whether they were involved with the factory in Savar, over half (56%) said their opinion of that company would improve.

Our thoughts are with the victims and families of those affected by this terrible tragedy.

Thoughts? Comments? Please leave them for us below.

For information on how you can help Bangladesh, please visit the American Red Cross.

To learn more about supporting workers’ rights across the globe, please visit the Worker Rights Commission’s resource page here.

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