The evident expense of ethics

I will endlessly recommend Lucy Siegle’s fascinating book To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out The World?, because anyone who participates in purchasing fashion and is economically privileged enough to make informed choices about what they buy really should read that book. I cannot even begin to summarise the dire state of the fashion cycle, from the sourcing of the raw materials to the production of garments and accessories to the disposal of everything that’s so willingly discarded. Avail yourself of Siegle’s book and find out for yourself. Suffice to say it’s all in a pretty bad state, ethically and sustainably, and if you ever wanted something to put you off nonchalantly waltzing into a shop and buying whatever took your fancy, this book will do it, I promise.

On the topic, it seems like one of the impediments that ethical fashion will encounter is the unwillingness of consumers to pay more for those ethically produced garments. The garments indeed will cost more – that’s a corollary of ensuring an appropriate wage and working conditions for everyone along the whole the production line.

How much more do people assume they’ll have to pay to get an item that’s ethically produced? If the results of a study looking at people’s attitudes and opinions towards purchasing ethically produced beauty products are generalisable, it seems that people expect that they’ll have to pay 30-40% more for ethically produced items compared to non-ethically produced items. That’s certainly discouraging to anyone who has to be conscious of their budget. There might be a desire to buy more ethically, but it might simply prove to be impractical due to the much higher prices.

Except according to industry standards, it actually only costs an extra 2-6% to ensure higher, ethical wages for workers. Not so challenging to deal with, perhaps, even if you’re on a budget.

And amazingly, it also turns out that people report that they are willing to pay about the very same amount, around 2-6% extra, for an ethically manufactured item. So they’re willing to pay how much it actually costs, but they’re simply unaware of the actual cost, and they’re deterred by how much they think it will cost.

Sounds like something’s begging for an awareness campaign…

One Thought on “The evident expense of ethics

  1. I was directed to your blog http://www.lily.fi/palsta/aminimalist, and now I’m so in love. I’m writing a book about the things you’ve been writing about, and now I’m tempted to quit writing and direct everyone to your blog instead.

    It was really a huge shock for me to realise how little garment prices would go up, if everyone involved got a fair pay. I definitely agree, that there should be a massive awareness campaign. There simply is no reason to continue producing clothes on poverty wages, even from the end-consumers’ point of view -except sheer nastiness.

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