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  • 22 Jul 2013

Influencing Sustainable Behaviour

This week’s blog post was contributed by Hannah Tulley, a recent Retail Buying graduate from De Montfort University. In June Hannah started her career as a Garment Technologist for a UK based fashion supplier. As part of her contract she will be spending 3 months in Hong Kong and 3 in Bangladesh. This piece is based on her latest research.

After centuries of denial, the human race has become aware of the detrimental effects their actions have had on the wellbeing of the planet, and are trying to make it right.  In recent years governments have encouraged more conscious living, set out plans to reduce CO2 emissions, minimise waste and recycle, alongside fairer working conditions and more ethical sourcing and production. In the fashion industry there is currently work being carried out to ensure that manufacturing and distribution is as ethical as possible, but is enough consideration being made for when the garments leave the store? Consumers claim to care about the impact of their purchasing decisions but in reality they are, in the majority of cases, driven by price, convenience and style. So, what happens when products leave the realms of the company? And how can brands try to influence positive sustainable behaviour?

It could be argued that it is the responsibility of the retailer to make consumers aware of the impacts of what they are buying. To make an impression, garments need to be designed to suit their purpose – high fashion pieces that only stick around for a season should be manufactured in fabric that is easy to care for but also fully recyclable back to source, just as cross-seasonal staples should be more hardwearing.

Collaborations of government schemes and household brands have always been successful, getting a serious message across with a friendly stamp to entice the market. Encouraging sustainable practice during the washing and use phase of the garment is an ideal opportunity for the government to head up a ‘Wash at 30⁰’ campaign with the help of high street retailers, detergent companies and energy providers. For example a government marketing campaign combined with matching labelling and a good ad campaign from the likes of ASOS, Karen Millen and White Stuff would reach the target market and the message would be reinforced by each of the parties involved.

There is only so much that the retailer can do themselves, but encouraging sustainable behaviour from their customers would be a very positive step to take. As consumers we are driven by price and the need for the latest fashions. Our attitudes need to adjust to make the products truly sustainable from start to finish.

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