Where is Corporate Social Responsibility Heading?

This post was originally a contribution to the Institute for Human Rights and Business of which I am a member of it’s international advisory board. For more info on IHRB’s work please visit http://www.institutehrb.org/.

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The global economic crisis has shaken the manufacturing industry to its core over the last couple of years, and the impact on workers has been palpable around the world.

The economic and social turmoil placed a tremendous responsibility on all of the Fair Labor Association’s constituents to navigate the crisis in a way that is consistent with the organization’s commitment to social responsibility. The crisis highlighted the real challenges companies face in managing sustainable production and supply chain issues, including protecting workers’ rights, mitigating environmental impacts on workers and their communities, and protecting scarcer natural and energy resources.

General consumer demand for products in the United States and Europe dropped to record lows and is not likely to return to pre-crisis levels for many years, if ever. Companies face even tighter competition for market share. Consumers are more closely evaluating their purchasing decisions and taking greater stock about how the products they buy impact the world. Read the rest of this entry »


Ethical Fashion: Considering the Social Responsibility and Environmental Sustainability Implications of Design from Fiber to Consumer

Authored by Marsha Dickson, PhD

How many young fashion designers graduate and take their first jobs having had the opportunity to visit an apparel factory?  As a professor of fashion and apparel studies involved with several different design programs over the last two decades, my educated guess is that “virtually none” have had this experience.  This number is even smaller when asked if the apparel factory is in one of the developing countries where over 95% of clothing sold in the United States is manufactured.

Yet despite very limited exposure to the factory environment and the life of garment workers in developing countries, the day-to-day decisions that will be made by these designers–and their counterparts in product development, buying, and merchandising– will have significant impacts on workers in factories around the world.  And beyond the factory that is assembling garments, the choices they make will impact workers, their communities, and the environment throughout the supply chain.

Each step of the process of bringing apparel to market, from the growing or processing of fiber, through the manufacture of textiles and component parts, through completion of specialized finishing techniques, on to the point where the finished garments are shipped to a distribution center or retail store, and finally to the end consumer and how they use and care for their garments, carries risks to people and the environment.  A designer who has never visited a factory, observed the context of production in a developing country, or been educated on the varied risks present throughout the product lifecycle, will almost certainly make decisions that negatively impact people and the environment. Read the rest of this entry »