Ethics in Fashion: Who is in charge for Corporate Social Responsibility?

The fashion industry is one of the most globally mixed and unified industries in the world. The globalisation process facilitated the progressive and continuous reduction of commerce restrictions and impediments and contributed to the development of the industry, employment, production and exchange of goods. How? By making them more unconstrained. Therefore, the clothing sector has become part of the big corporations with extensive logistics network and an outsourcing management base.

For this reason, keeping up with the most recent tendencies in the clothing industry will dictate the degree of success a brand meets. Fortunately, for the traders and consumers, the production of what we call fast fashion (such as Zara, H&M, Primark, Forever 21, Mango etc.) makes this achievable. However, being up to date with the current Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) demands is even more important. Now, we might ask ourselves: who is supposed to be in charge for a brand’s Corporate Social Responsibility agreement? The answer might be simpler than we have thought: it’s the brand itself that should take care of its CSR actions, but this might also be debatable.

In the earlier years, having a memorable jingle, a sparkling logo and a marketing plan of action was enough for a brand to exist and be a successful one, and the CSR constituted an “isolated” department that wasn’t that popular. In today’s business world, a brand is more than that: it is the entirety of a company’s activity, consisting of work force, products and services, technology innovation, trustworthiness to stakeholders, and last but not least CSR strategies. Thus, Corporate Social Responsibility is now one of the main focuses of a brand’s operations and not a distant component in the company.

Consumers enforcing Corporate Social Responsibility

Consumers identify with their favourite brands, so it is extremely important for a brand to offer its customers strictly what they ask for, as this might be correlated with increased sales. So, considering a brand would make a product available to its consumers after finding out (by analysing the consumer’s behaviour, market and trends) they need it, what if that specific brand finds out that its stakeholders are genuinely the ones who pay attention to the CSR activities of the brand? Recent studies revealed that effective CSR activities are an outcome of the consumers’ and employees’ needs and interests.

Nowadays, consumers are getting more and more interested and enthusiastic about the socially responsible initiatives and put “pressure” on their favourite organisations to join in CSR activities. However, integrating a CSR policy into the business strategy of the company is not only crucial for the consumers but for all of its other interested parties. An organisation that considers the CSR practices a first concern is more likely to draw attention to investors.

How do companies respond? The case of H&M

Presently, clothing players on the market focus their efforts more and more on incorporating CSR practices in the organisation’s operations, letting all of their stakeholders know about this new trend.

H&M has understood that being an ethical company can lead to gaining a good reputation, happy customers, and increase in sales. For this reason, the group is now developing CSR initiatives. Let’s find out more about how H&M appreciates CSR.

  • Starting with 2002, the company has annually prepared CSR reports, written in accordance to the CSR policy of the company’s department of Sustainability. H&M has a Sustainability strategy and they have agreed upon the following challenging aims: consolidate and encourage communities, supply fashion for aware and informed customers, determine and reward conscientious partners, be moral, be attentive to the climate changes, and work with organic and recycled materials.
  • Back in 2016, H&M released their conscious beauty collection, consisting of organic products.
  • They embrace diversity. For this reason, in 2016, on the H&M Paris runway, the group found a way to cherish the free and powerful spirit of women by choosing to walk their runway show different models of different race, gender, size and age.
  • They have a policy which allows any customer to bring their old clothes to H&M stores in order to recycle the materials and manufacture new clothes.
  • H&M foundation aims attention to the improvement of the quality of live by investing in communities around the world and ingenious ideas. The areas of interest of the foundation are Equality, Education, Water and Planet.

This up-going trend will continue to gain more and more popularity. So, we must ask ourselves: is it just the brand’s job to be ethical or is it also consumers’ duty to perform, demand and encourage socially responsible activities?


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