CSR or Corporate Social Responsibility is a type of international private business self-regulation (Benedict Sheehy, 2015).
Following the 'self-regulation' statement, you might believe that it's solely a corporate decision whether to act responsibly or not. SPOILER alert: not really. I mean, it's quite hard to answer this question.
You see, following the changes to different legislations concerning the ecology and fair trade, nowadays such things as the child labor or violation of environmental laws are prosecuted. So, is this a responsible action that a company doesn't brake the law? It's just the right way to do things.
What falls into a company's hands is taking action beyond the legislation requirements. On the other hand, some organizations manage to find and outplay the weak spots of different laws and standards. So, is it the company's choice?
Ironically, we can talk about every side of the question in here: governments and legislations, companies, suppliers, and....ourselves? You see, success of the CSR strategies depends on every party. It's influenced by many different factors and if you want to know what influence the customers have on the current practices, read the customer perspective blog post here. Today we'll discuss the company perspective.
For example, let's focus on the fashion industry in this post just to get the idea. It's huge and each of us interacts with it on regular basis.
What can fashion brands do?
Check the suppliers and the suppliers of their suppliers:
Every material has the origin and every resource has its monetary, environmental, and social cost. Where did the cotton come from and how is the plant operated? Where does the paint come from and where do the ingredients come from, and where do the compounds of the ingredients come from? Yes, it's that complicated.😵
- Fair trade.
Fair trade does, in a way, overlap with other sections mentioned here in separate titles. The movement strives to improve social and environmental standards in the developing countries, as well as promotes transparency in the international trade partnerships. To put it simply, it fights for the rights of the local workers: for a decent wage and the safe work conditions.
There are many considerations here (they probably deserve a separate post for that reason) but one is constantly overlooked: Minimum wage vs. Living standard?
Here it comes back to the questions in legislations. Many (not to say most) fashion brands outsource their operations to the developing countries. In the areas with high unemployment rates, every job is appreciated; some companies use it and pay the least they can, while others strive to improve the living standards of the local population. And what does it come back to? The choice.
Read avout how Patagonia tackles the issue: https://www.patagonia.com/working-with-factories.html. Their strategy is the work of art.
- Market Education and Public Relations.Call to action. Case example: H&M.
Yes, as we mentioned here , there are fast and slow fashion brands and both of them have target markets. Even if you are a 'slow consumer', be honest to yourself, have you never bought something very cool and trendy/for a party/etc. at a fast fashion store? The answer is to make it as sustainable as possible!
H&M has promoted the World Recycle Week by educating its customers and helping them recycle the unwanted clothes. Many people know they have to recycle, but sometimes we are too lazy to bother and find out more information on where and how to deal with the unwanted garments. H&M solved this problem for us: during the week, people could bring the old clothes to the store where it was dealt with afterwards.
The company has done many other interesting campaigns that you should definitely check out 😉Awareness Campaigns. Case example: Patagonia.
The following campaign has made lots of noise back in the days. Patagonia, certified B corporation, disclosed the carbon footprint of their most popular item right before the (in)famous Black Friday. Followed by other campaigns, such as WORN WEAR: BETTER THAN NEW, the company made the history as the proactive anti-capitalistic brand.
- Creative Business Strategies. Case example: tentree.
Tentree not only produces high quality clothes, but also plants 10 trees in the deforested areas for every item purchased. They also provide jobs for the local people who tend the trees, so the company has tackled both environmental and social problems at once. To make the experience interactive, you can use the unique code on the tag to see where YOUR trees were planted and what region you've contributed to.
Does it provide the unique customer experience? Is it interesting and interective? Yes! And that's how you make people want to make an impact. You turn the 'good doing' into an interesting experience!
- Workplace equality.
Applies to any industry actually: same wages and opportunities for any gender, race, religion beliefs etc. Did you know that some companies make benchmarks, such as 1:1 ratio of men and women employed? There are many other HR initiatives striving to promote equality in our society.
I should definitely mention that this is a completely informal explanation of the CSR in Fashion. There are organized steps about the CSR strategy implementation, but is this really what we want to talk about here? I mean, this information is just a click away from you out there in the internet. What I wanted to do is to show that CSR is more than the external image of the company. It's the management, the core of conduct, and it's the power of choice to some extent. It is about the INTEGRITY of what the company portrays and what it is as an entity.