Corporate Social Responsibility in the Garment Industry

As part of my personal branding blogs I’m keeping you up to date on a few of my classes. Marketing is fun because it comes easy(ish). I.S. is boring because computers/the inner workings of e-commerce do not interest me. Globalization is perfect in every way – how lucky am I to go to a school where I actually learn new things daily and have fun doing just that.

Finance though. What finance professor has their students write a 20 page paper (SINGLE-SPACED, 1 INCH MARGINS, 11 POINT FONT). Like if it was an English paper maybe. Even like psych class, maybe you’d expect that. But finance?

However, my paper is on Corporate Social Responsibility, which I chose after seeing the crazy videos our professor showed us at the beginning of the year (see my blog on Heavy Topics for my reaction to those). As an International Business major, I find it incredibly interesting to look at supply chain management, cultural differences, and CSR practices in multinational enterprises. As a Marketing major, I have seen the incredible importance of the positioning of your product or brand in your consumer’s mind, and the impact positive CSR practices can have on your public image. So basically I’m saying these two majors coincide perfectly to make this subject extra interesting to me, along with my unique combo of a capitalist drive and compassionate heart.

The articles I’ve read so far basically look at CSR implementation and the best ways to make that happen. It also looks at supply chains and how subcontractors often get the worst of these human rights violations because they can’t take advantage of these companies’ CSR initiatives. But why even bother with CSR? Gap has been caught again and again with human rights violations that they claimed to never even know about, and people still empty their pockets to buy a pair of boot cuts.

CSR is important for multiple reasons. On the capitalistic side – CSR is good for business. Responsible brands are trusted more, they’re respected for going the “extra mile” to ensure responsibly sourced clothing (or whatever). On the human rights side – CSR should be so duh. Labor laws exist in the U.S. for a reason. U.S. companies go abroad for the cheaper labor opportunities, but immediately ignore the laws they and their ancestors fought so hard to gain here. From this perspective, CSR is not the extra mile, but rather the minimum amount of care you’re required to offer up to qualify yourself as a decent human being (or corporation in this case).

So whether you’re a brand manager, a CEO, a laborer in Bangladesh, or a decent human being — CSR affects you. Pay attention to this. Because you know that some companies do not responsibly source, but you can never actually know the pain that the person who stitched your short sleeved button down (throw it away anyways) may have had to go to so that you can be clothed today. And if you hear that and think “man I better not buy anything from these irresponsible companies” but you don’t put any research into it, then you will continue to buy from them.

Hope this all makes sense and maybe makes you feel guilty. My term paper is about how to successfully implement these CSR practices worldwide, but this blog post is a little bit about how to successfully spread the word so that you stop buying things that an 11 year old boy wasted his childhood making for you.

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