Majority of Indian consumers would reject products which are made by employing modern slavery methods

slavery5The Walk Free Foundation (WFF) last year rated India as fifth in global slavery index (click HERE to read), saying that a total of   14,285,700, or 1.1409% of population was enslaved in the country. It said, “India’s modern slavery challenges are immense”, and they stem from “all forms of modern slavery, including inter-generational bonded labour, trafficking for sexual exploitation, and forced marriage.” It added, “Evidence suggests that members of lower castes and tribes, religious minorities, and migrant workers are disproportionately affected by modern slavery”. Now, the WFF, in a new report (click HERE to download), titled “Slavery Alert: Consumer Poll, India”, has reported findings from research examining how Indian consumers would act with regards to products made with modern slavery. Excerpts:

Within Indian and global markets, different forms of modern slavery find their way into the supply chains of many consumer products, whether fresh food, tea and coffee, electronics, or textiles and clothing.  The Walk Free Foundation undertook a survey of Indian consumers to understand if they would be willing to act – through switching brands or paying higher prices – to avoid buying products made with modern slavery.

The survey results confirm that the majority of Indian consumers would switch brands or pay higher prices to avoid buying products made with modern slavery:

  • 54% of consumers said they would switch products if they learnt their favourite product was made using modern slavery (11% were not sure, 34% said they would continue buying the product). Of the people who knew how they would act (i.e.: answered clearly they would or would not switch brands), the vast majority (61%) would switch products.
  • 74% of consumers said they would pay more for their favourite products in order to ensure they were free from modern slavery (9% were not sure, 17% said they would not pay more). Of the people who knew how they would act (i.e.: answered clearly that they would, or would not pay more), a vast majority (82%) stated they would pay more to ensure their favourite products were not made with modern slavery. Only 18% of these respondents would not pay more.
  • The United States is the number one importer of goods from India, by value of trade and share of total (nearly 14% of market share). Walk Free Foundation research indicates that 66% of US consumers would switch products if they learnt they were tainted by modern slavery.
  • Indian consumers indicated a certification mark from a government body would be more trusted than other sources, to identify and guarantee products are made without modern slavery.

Findings

slavery1In December 2014, the Walk Free Foundation surveyed 1,000 adults across India’s urban population, using an online survey delivered by YouGov. With a nationally representative sample, the results can be extrapolated across all urban Indian consumers. Consumers were asked a series of questions to understand their shopping habits and purchasing decisions in relation to the freedom of the people who make the products they buy.

First, information was sought about whether Indian consumers usually bought low, medium or high end food, tea and coffee, clothing and accessories, and electronic products. Most respondents usually purchased in the middle range for most products tested. This price point information is useful to compare against information sought later in the survey about purchasing decisions.

Information was sought about what factors are important to consumers when making purchasing decisions. Of the list provided, quality, price and brand reputation were overwhelmingly the three most important factors.

slavery2After these initial questions, respondents were provided with information about the concept of “modern slavery”. It was explained that the term “modern slavery” does not mean low paid workers but instead refers to “forced labour in factories, or farms, where people are forced to work against their will, and they cannot leave”. Following this explanation, information was sought about whether consumers think the products they buy are affected by modern slavery.

A majority (65%) of consumers believe that the products they buy are, or are likely to be, affected by modern slavery. A further 27% did not believe this to be the case, and 8% were not sure if their products were affected by modern slavery.

Consumers were then asked what they would do if they learnt that their favourite product was made involving modern slavery:

  • 54% of Indian consumers said they would switch products if they learnt their favourite product was made involving modern slavery;
  • 11% were not sure what they would do;
  • 34% said they would continuing buying the product.

slavery3Of the people who knew how they would act (i.e.: excluding those who said they were not sure what they would do), the majority (61%) would switch products. Within this same group, 39% thought price and quality were more important than modern slavery considerations when buying a product.

When asked if they would be willing to pay more for some of their favourite products if this ensured they were produced without the use of modern slavery:

  • 74% of Indian consumers said they would pay more to ensure products were produced without modern slavery;
  • 17% were not sure;
  • 9% said they would not pay more.

Of the people who knew how they would act (i.e.: excluding those who said they were not sure what they would do), the vast majority (82%) would pay more to ensure their favourite products were not made with modern slavery. The remaining 18% said they would not pay more.

Contrary to expectations, price was not a barrier to action, even for those consumers who had nominated price as one of the top three factors that influence their purchasing decisions. Of the consumers who indicated they would pay more to avoid modern slavery in their purchases, 62% of these had also selected price as one of the three most important factors determining purchasing decisions.

When information about usual price points (low, medium, high end) for products is compared with information about behaviour, it becomes clear that the majority of consumers across all price points, and across all consumer categories tested would take action of some form in response to modern slavery. Specifically:

  • 65% of consumers who buy mainly low-price products would take action involving switching brands or paying more in response to modern slavery;
  • 87% of consumers who buy mainly mid-price products would take action involving switching brands or paying more in response to modern slavery;
  • 92% of consumers who buy mainly high-priced products would take action involving switching brands or paying more in response to modern slavery.

Of the group who said they would be willing to pay more, information was sought about how much more they would be willing to pay, across food, tea and coffee, clothing and electronics.

Within this group, for food:

  • 34% said they would be willing to pay up to 10% more to ensure these products were produced without use of modern slavery;
  • 65% said they would be willing to pay over 10% more;
  • 1% didn’t know.

For tea and coffee:

  • 43% said they would be willing to pay up to 10% more to ensure their favourite tea and coffee is produced without use of modern slavery;
  • 56% said they would be willing to pay over 10% more; • 2% said they didn’t know.

For clothing:

  • 35% said they would be willing to pay up to 10% more to ensure their favourite clothing was produced without use of modern slavery
  • 63% said they would be willing to pay over 10% more;
  • 2% said they didn’t know.

For electronics:

  • 38% said they would be willing to pay up to 10% more to ensure their favourite electronics were produced without use of modern slavery;
  • 60% said they would be willing to pay over 10% more;
  • 2% said they didn’t know.

Of the group who would take action, the proportion of males (51%) and females (49%) is nearly equal. Also within the group that would take action, younger people were more likely to act, with 38% of those aged 25 and 34 willing to take action, followed by 33% of those aged 35-54 years.

For the purposes of this survey, it was assumed that past behaviour is some indication of likely future behaviour. Accordingly, the survey asked whether consumers had previously stopped buying products after learning they did not meet their ethical expectations.

Eighty percent of Indian consumers surveyed indicated they had previously stopped buying from a brand/company after learning that the goods did not meet their ethical expectations. Of this group, 91% also indicated they would act in some way to ensure they didn’t buy products using modern slavery (7% wouldn’t and 2% weren’t sure).

Among the 16% of consumers who had not previously acted on ethical standards, 84% would take some form of action to avoid goods made using modern slavery (10% wouldn’t take any action and 6% were unsure).


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