Bangladesh tragedy did little to sway shoppers


It's been nearly one year since unsafe working conditions led to a factory collapse at Bangladesh's Rana Plaza factory, leaving more than 1,100 people dead.

But despite recent findings that today's consumers care more about a retailer's ethical practices than they did in the past, a new study found that many of their shopping habits remain unchanged in wake of the disaster.

Rescue workers and volunteers search for victims amongst the debris of the collapsed Rana Plaza building in Dhaka, Bangladesh, April 26, 2013.
Jeff Holt | Bloomberg | Getty Images

According to BBMG, a brand innovation firm specializing in sustainability, 73 percent of respondents said they haven't changed any aspect of their shopping habits since the Bangladesh factory collapse.

That's despite awareness of the potentially unethical work conditions laborers are met with overseas. Among those surveyed, 36 percent admitted that their favorite brand's apparel are probably produced by "slave labor," in sweatshops or by unfairly compensated overseas workers.

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"While the tragedy in Bangladesh has inspired a larger conversation about how clothes are made, who makes them and under what conditions, style and price remain the key purchase drivers in the category," said Raphael Bemporad, co-founder and chief strategy officer at BBMG.

The study, which was conducted by BBMG's online research community, The Collective, interviewed 70 consumers in March and April. Research concluded that in addition to price considerations, shoppers' stagnation is also a result of them not knowing where—or wanting to spend the time—to find reliable information on a company's social reputation.

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Bemporad said brands such as Patagonia and H&M, which last month earned its fourth award from the Ethisphere Institute as World's Most Ethical Company, are working to make their sourcing more sustainable and ethical. But brands have a long way to go in educating consumers about where and how their clothing is being made.

"By communicating how clothes are designed, sourced and manufactured, brands have an opportunity to build trust and deepen relationships with their stakeholders," Bemporad said.

CNBC's parent company, NBCUniversal, is one of BBMG's clients.

—By CNBC's Krystina Gustafson.