A survey, carried out by Populus, reveals that while the overall rating of every other high street clothing retailer has either gone up or remained steady over the past year, Primark’s has fallen. The findings follow a recent Panorama investigation, revealing that some Primark suppliers in India were contracting out embroidery to firms that used child labour. And a survey by Drapers, the fashion industry magazine, shows that – as a result of the controversy – 44% of Primark shoppers say they would switch to another retailer.

The Populus survey also showed that nearly half of the consumers who expressed concern said that that their biggest worry when judging a clothing retailer is its treatment of workers in developing countries. Quality beat price as the most important factor when it comes to deciding where to buy an item of clothing for most consumers, reflecting a prevailing feeling that consumers are seeking value in terms of quality now that we’ve entered the credit crunch, rather than merely paying the cheapest price.

Such concerns are addressed by The Organic Exchange and Dutch-based fashion transparency label MADE-BY who have created an event focusing on sustainable fashion in Europe. It will be held at The National Library in Copenhagen, Denmark on 2nd and 3rd December. The theme of the event will be how retailers can respond to changes in consumer opinion and the shifting economic situation. There will also be talks on eco-friendly fabrics, consumer communication and marketing and textile labelling and certification.

And there’s a supply line response to this issue too. Intertek has launched a new system for measuring the environmental and socially responsible performance of textile mills. The new Mill Qualification Program (MQP) picks up on the challenges faced by retailers and brands to assist suppliers achieving their social, environmental and quality expectations. MQP quality evaluations cover the stages of textile production: fibre production, fibre processing and spinning, yarn preparation, fabric production, bleaching, dyeing, printing and finishing.

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