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Jewelers Who Adopt Transparency Will Win Young Consumers

Social Issues Increasingly Influence Shoppers

Dec 10, 2013 3:05 PM   By Jeff Miller
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RAPAPORT... Younger U.S. consumers are even more attracted to retailers who focus on ethical and sustainable practices when it comes to buying jewelry and other big-ticket items, according to KPMG. Survey data revealed that about 41 percent of consumers under 30 years of age either ''always'' or ''frequently'' considered social issues when purchasing jewelry, computers, automobiles or large appliances. But only 24 percent of the general population was equally concerned about social impact, KPMG found.

The survey of 1,000 adults, 18 years of age and older, taken in early November, revealed that nearly 70 percent of consumers under the age of 30 considered social issues such as sustainability, human rights and fair trade before making any type of purchase. This far outpaced the less than 50 percent of consumers overall who felt the same way.

"A lot of these campaigns around human rights and sustainability begin on college campuses," said Jim Low, an audit partner at KPMG. "It would fall within reason that younger people are more influenced by social issues when they shop. But a large percentage of mature consumers are also engaged in ethical consumption."

KPMG reminded retailers that as the peak selling season for consumer electronics, autos and jewelry is in full swing, consumers are learning more about conflict-minerals such as tin, tantalum, tungsten (3T's) and gold.  Conflict minerals are also the focus of a section of the Dodd-Frank Act that is meant to  curb the funding of militias in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and adjacent countries.

Retailers should introduce more transparency into their product labels and identify fair trade, conflict-free and environmentally friendly practices, according to KPMG.

"Many of the regulations are accelerating trends that would take place anyway," said Low. "Retailers are increasingly asking their suppliers to assess their environmental and social sustainability. Several of the leading retail and grocery chains have recently introduced ranking systems to help consumers identify sustainable products. Consumers and investors continue to increase pressure on companies to adopt more sustainable practices.

"Additionally, celebrities and college campuses around the nation are organizing awareness and conflict-free campaigns,'' Low said. ''Based on our survey results, companies who have a head start on this issue are in a position to quickly carve out a competitive advantage with consumers. What's more, greater supply chain transparency can help companies develop a more resilient and efficient supply chain."

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Tags: conflict minerals, Consumers, dodd frank, Fair Trade, gold, Jeff Miller, Jewelry, kpmg, Research, sustainability
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