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Study: Brands’ Social Responsibility Efforts Aren’t Resonating With Consumers

Denim brands are pulling back the curtain on their supply chain, but are consumers retaining the information?

New research indicates that brands need to do more than launch corporate social responsibility websites. A series of studies by researchers from the Ohio State University found that consumers forget hard facts about products and child labor.

In an online survey, participants were asked to put together an outfit that included a pair of jeans. Roughly half of the participants saw a brand of jeans that was described as being made with child labor while the other half saw a brand of jeans made ethically, with no child labor.

Those who saw the jeans made with child labor were much less likely to remember this information than people who saw a brand of jeans made with adult labor.

“It’s not necessarily a conscious decision by consumers to forget what they don’t want to know,” said Rebecca Reczek, co-author of the study and associate professor of marketing at the Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business, told Ohio State News.

Rather, she said, it’s a coping mechanism to “tune out uncomfortable information because it makes their lives easier.”

In another survey, participants were told a story about a person who bought a pair of jeans made with child labor.

Some participants were told the person had earlier learned the jeans were made with child labor, but forgot when making the purchase. Others were told the person remembered the information, but ignored it when buying the jeans.

The study found that people judged the person who forgot the ethical information as more moral than the person who ignored the information.

The news doesn’t bode well for brands that tuck away information about their supply chains in CSR reports or landing pages. However, Reczek urges companies to create reminders about its ethical practices throughout consumers’ shopping experiences.

“Don’t make your customers rely on memory. Make sure you have reminders at the point of purchase that you’re an ethical brand,” she told Ohio State News.