Barriers To Australian Fashion Consumers Purchasing Ethically

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Ethical Consumer Index report

A report released by Baptist World Aid Australia The Australian Ethical Consumer Report is a most informative research and survey report into the drivers of Australian fashion consumers and impediments to more ethical and sustainable fashion buying.


This report seeks to understand the attitudes and beliefs of the Australian consumer towards ethical fashion consumption. It uncovers the key motivations for Australians when making purchasing decisions and measures their position on the journey towards becoming an ethical consumer through the Ethical Consumer Index (ECI).

The report is the counterpart to the work of Baptist World Aid Australia looking at the supply side of the fashion industry and the practices of major Australian and global fashion brands to raise standards for workers and lower detrimental impacts on the environment of their practices and inputs. The work is published each year in the Ethical Fashion Guide.


ethical consumer report cover

The outcomes of the Ethical Consumer report are:

  • the categorisation of Australian fashion consumers into 4 categories
  • a ranking out of 100 for Australia on their newly-created Ethical Consumer Index (ECI)
  • idenification of the the key drivers for Australian consumers making purchasing decisions for fashion items
  • identification of the key barriers to higher rates of Australian consumers purchasing sustainable ethical fashion brands and becoming 'ethical consumers'
  • identification of the disconnect between Australian fashion consumers' beliefs about the importance of ethical fashion for the planet and for workers and their wanting to consumer more ethically - and their actions in changing their habits to consumer more ethically/sustainably
  • some steps for fashion consumers to take on the journey to becoming an ethical consumer

The categorisation of Australian fashion consumers

The report developed 4 consumer archetypes to understand the core motivations for Australians when making purchasing decisions.

Consumer Category

Core Purchasing Traits

%age Of Consumers

Practical Purchasers

Price is main driver of purchasing decision

Whether item suits their taste is also driver

Focus on current needs not future needs

Personal benefit is more important than impact it will have on others


Intentional Individualists

Quality is main driver of purchasing decision

Avoidance of products that will date quickly

Focus more on future needs than current needs

Personal impact more important than impact it will have on others


Socially-minded Shoppers

Believe the impact of their purchases on others matter more than their own benefit – including supply chain impacts on the environment and on works

More likely to think about current needs rather than future impacts


Conscious Consumers

Bring holistic perspective to purchasing decisions

·Think more about their future needs than current needs

Think more about future impacts of decisions for people & environment. Could mean buying from ethical & sustainable brands, buying products that will not harm the environment or buying products that can be reused or repurposes


The Ethical Consumer Index measurement

The authors of the report establish an Ethical Consumer Index as a measurement of an individual fashion consumer’s position on the journey towards becoming an ethical consumer, from recognising the impact of their decisions on others, to becoming a public advocate for the cause.


The 5 key measures on which the Index is built are the '5 As'.

  • Agency: the extent to which consumers recognise that their purchasing decisions have an impact on others and want their purchasing decisions to have a positive impact.
  • Attitude: the extent to which consumers believe ethical fashion is important and care about a range of issues relating to ethical fashion such as human rights and environmental impacts
  • Awareness: degree to which consumers are motivated to learn about ethical fashion, about human rights and environmental issues relating to ethical fashion and frequently engage with information sources to learn about ethical fashion.
  • Action: the extent to which consumers want to change their consumption habits to consume more ethically, purchase from brands they know are ethical and make purchases that have positive impacts for human rights and/or the environment.
  • Advocacy: extent to which consumers believe it is important for others to be educated about ethical consumption, actively support initiatives encouraging ethical fashion and ask brands about their ethical policies and practices.

Australia's Ethical Consumer Index Benchmark Score 2021

As a mark out of 100, Australia's Ethical Consumer Index Benchmark Score for 2021 is 63. This is rated as 'good' on the scale of Fair-Good-Great-Excellent-Outstanding.  

Let's take a look at the research and survey results that arrived at this rating.


Key motivations for Australians when making purchasing decisions

The top 3 influences for Australians when making fashion purchasing decisions are:

  • quality
  • low price
  • suits my taste

Out of the top 10 influences, 'sustainable brands' as a key motivator rates no 7 and 'ethical brands' rates no 8.


Australians want to change their fashion consumption habits

The research report found that, whilst the key drivers for purchasing decisions were those of the dominant categories of Practical Purchases and Intentional Individualists, many fashion consumers want to change those buying habits.


Of note:

  • almost 3 in 4 Australians (73%) strongly or somewhat agree that ethical fashion is important
  • 87% want to change their fashion buying habits to consume more ethically in the future

Main barriers for Australians changing fashion consumption to consumer more ethically

With 87% of consumers wanting to consumer more ethically, what is stopping them?

The report found that the top 3 barriers for Australians to shop ethically for fashion are:




I don’t know what brands are ethical


It’s too expensive


I believe it’s harder to shop ethically in store


How can Australian fashion consumers become a more ethical consumer?

The report takes the 5 As which build the ECI and lists a number of steps which fashion consumers can take to improve. You can read those actions in the report.  


For James&Co, the report highlights that on the supply side we brands have more heavy lifting to do to get our names out there and why we are ethical and sustainable  - so that the main reason for Australian fashion consumers not changing their buying habits to more ethical buying is NOT because 39% of them 'don't know what brands are ethical'.


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