Corporate Social Responsibility – What Does It Mean for Fashion?

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is defined by Business Link as ‘understanding your business impact on the wider world and considering how you can use this impact in a positive way’, proving that is not so much about each company committing to carry out one defined act but is instead an ongoing attitude and outlook. CSR can manifest itself in an almost infinite number of ways for any business and it can be adopted by all businesses regardless of size, turnover, type or industry, meaning that if you are a business owner, CSR applies to you.

Great examples of CSR include plans to become carbon neutral in a set amount of years, investment in community schemes and programmes and plans to tackle world poverty one step at a time and whether the plan is big or small, it will go towards making a real difference to either the local community or the world as a whole. CSR is often about making sure the processes and resources you use are ethical and that what you do does not negatively impact on the local natural or social environment or that of the wider world.

Fashion is set to be a leader in this field as it relies on sourcing high quality natural materials at a low cost and on making these up to specific design demands, again at a low cost, meaning a lot of sourcing is done from Third World countries where raw materials and labour costs are lower than in the developed world. As such, CSR means a lot for fashion, it means the difference between producing fair trade clothing and ethical fashion lines to simply producing cheap men’s and women’s clothing at whatever environmental or human cost.

In some ways the fashion industry has it easy in terms of CSR, there are obvious routes to follow in terms of sourcing raw materials, paying a fair price for these and paying a fair price for any labour involved in dying or printing materials and in pattern cutting, assembly and shipping. Just as the UK government sets minimum wage levels for all citizens depending on age, so there are guidelines on wages to be paid to overseas workers and as well as this, working conditions and hours are big factors too. While it may be more expensive in the short term to do things fairly and properly, surely if everyone tows the ethical fashion line, a balance can be achieved in the production and sale of organic clothing.

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