Parallel Imports a Threat to Sustainable Brands
In 2015, the nations of the world united in the battle against climate change, poverty, and
inequality by agreeing on a set of sustainable development goals (the SDGs) to be reached
through a joint, international effort by the year 2030. These goals, along with the Paris
Climate Agreement, have sparked a huge change in many consumer industries, especially
the fashion industry, as shoppers demand more sustainable products and business practices.
This has encouraged many companies to begin transforming not only their clothing, but also
their brand image, towards fairer, greener versions.
While this is a positive development for consumers, the private sector, and society as a
whole, some brand owners are seeing their new, green image tainted by counterfeits and
parallel imports. Counterfeits of lesser quality than the originals threaten to damage the
reputations and legitimacy of sustainable companies in cases where consumers mistake the
counterfeits for authentic products. Parallel imports (authentic products being sold outside
of official distribution channels) can also harm brand owners, as the distribution channels
used may be less reputable and are unlikely to comply with the legal or sustainability
standards expected by consumers. If companies wish to provide environmentally, socially,
and economically sustainable products and services and maintain a sustainable brand image,
then protecting that brand from counterfeits and parallel imports is vital.