New Look executive chairman Phil Wrigley has called on the government to give retailers more incentives to improve ethical trading practices.
Speaking at the Drapers Fashion Summit, Wrigley said retailers needed to invest in improving ethical trading practices but needed more “more carrot and less stick”.
He said: “The government shouldn’t get off the hook and leave it to retailers. They can’t say it’s up to businesses to set out legislation. We all need to think about how we can be incentivised to show that a business is compliant with ethical trading standards.”
He added that ethical trading was now a mainstream issue and should not be ignored in an economic downturn.
“Retailers can’t hide behind their suppliers anymore,” he said. “It will become a more and more important issue. Customers care where the product comes from and expect it to be sustainable. They assume we source ethically and do not expect to pay more. A recession is not an excuse to suspend responsible behaviour.”
Wrigley also said that retailers shoul not pass on the cost of ethical trading to shoppers, and that he would be happy to collaborate with other retailers to improve ethical trading performance.
“Extra wages at factories can come out of duty incetives and productivity improvements,” he said. “There has to be a step up from minimum wage to a living wage. Better paid staff are more productive, stay longer and develop skills better. We can’t just tick boxes, we have to take responsibility.”