The vast majority of Kiwi shoppers aren't making ethical choices.
Tearfund education and advocacy manager Claire Hart said conscious consumerism was still confined to a niche market in New Zealand.
"The average consumer is definitely more aware that there could be exploitation or unethical behaviour behind the products that they buy... however, my take, is that it's actually still a relatively small niche group who are actually converting this knowledge into a change of their buying habits," Hart said.
"Lots of people have the information in their minds but there's a bit of distance between what they know and then what they do."
The fashion industry is the world's second-largest polluter after fossil fuel production due to the processes used to create fabrics and excess textile waste. The industry is also high risk for worker exploitation, for those manufacturing garments for offshore brands.
Hart said New Zealand had not yet hit the tipping point for mainstream conscious consumerism.
"The impact our current consumer habits are having, mostly on the planet but also on workers, is phenomenally bad," she said. "We have to care for the world we live in above our own convenience."
Mainstream changes to how consumers shop would likely follow legislative backing from the Government, Hart said.
"The fast-fashion companies aren't shrinking. They're growing and while we are seeing more and more small, ethical brands enter the market, they are still really small. For as long as we've got that equation we know the priority is still going to be for that cheap fast fashion option."
Hart said most Kiwis still favoured convenience over the ethical option.
Rose Hope, 29, co-founder of Auckland boutique Bread and Butter Letter, which will next week rebrand to Crushes, said she had seen a shift in consumer habits in the eight years she had been in business.
Hope said Kiwis were increasingly moving away from the "Kmart approach" to cheap shopping, now thinking about where their money should be spent.
"Back in the day, lots of people would come in and say; 'How can you charge this for this'... Now, almost every second conversation of people who come in say; 'Where was this made? How was it made? Who made it?," she said.
She said being a conscious consumer is essentially about making an informed decision that goes beyond convenience or cost.
New Zealand is at least two years behind Australia with its conscious consumer movement, Hope said, along with the UK, France and the US.
Australia is gearing up to introduce a Modern Slavery Act later this year, following the UK, France and California, countries which have already made it illegal for companies to withhold manufacturing information on their supply chains and production cycles.
Government officials and business leaders met in Auckland earlier this year to identify how they can collaborate to fight modern-day slavery and human trafficking, but it has not committed to introduce modern slavery legislation.
"We're in an information age where we have so much access to the other side of the world and everything that's going on," Hope said. "More and more companies are listening to those of us who make a loud splash saying this isn't good enough, and knowing that there bottom dollar depends on our support.
"As consumers we need to take responsibility for our money and to care for the things we buy."