Brands and retailers that fail to disclose information about their social and environmental sustainability risk staying relevant and being trusted by consumers and may lose market share, according to a new report from the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC).

The report, 'Empowering Consumers Through Transparency,' explores consumer sentiment about the importance of transparency in the apparel, footwear and textile industry was commissioned by the SAC and written by research consultancy GlobeScan. 

It is designed to stimulate greater collaboration among brands, retailers and manufacturers to engage consumers globally.

Among its key findings, the research highlights the opportunity for brands and retailers to be more forthcoming with sustainability information and be consistent in sharing performance. This, it says, is key to building greater trust with consumers who want to see the journey that brands are on to becoming more sustainable instead of claims of "perfect practices." 

"Consumers are eager for more sustainability information from brands and retailers, and we're committed to enabling Coalition members and Higg Index customers to share sustainability information publicly so that they can help consumers make more informed purchasing decisions," says SAC executive director Amina Razvi.

Jeffrey Hogue, chief of sustainability at C&A, adds: "Transparency leads to accountability and is essential for credible engagement of consumers on the environmental and social attributes of their products and the brand's sourcing approaches. In the global apparel industry, it is increasingly necessary that a consumer-facing approach is developed to provide a universal and simple way to enable consumers to make better purchasing decisions."

Key takeaways from the report include:

  • Brands and retailers should share their sustainability progress with consumers, conveying their current state, goals and plans for improvements;
  • To be of value, information must be from a trusted and independent source and empower informed purchasing choices;
  • Brief, clear, emotionally engaging language is most effective when communicating with consumers, who are just as wary of greenwashing as they are of companies that don't disclose sustainability information;
  • Consumers feel that brands and retailers have an opportunity to feature this information more prominently in stores, online and on hang tags – not hidden away in secluded sections of company websites.

Consumers "want to feel that brands truly represent them and their individual values," says SAC VP Baptiste Carrière-Pradal. "They also want to know more about manufacturing and how and by whom individual products are created."