Connectivity, Understanding and Empathy: How a Lack of Consumer Knowledge of the Fashion Supply Chain Is Influencing Socially Responsible Fashion Purchasing
Consumer knowledge of the clothing supply chain remains minimal, with the majority of fashion customers having very little knowledge to the origin of their clothing purchases. Whilst they remain very familiar with the retail environment, the journey any one item of clothing goes through to reach the point of sale eludes them. Referred to as the consumer knowledge barrier, it is this lack of knowledge that is said to be influencing their socially responsible purchasing behaviour. The supply chain remains a complex process, however, with an increased lack of transparency, how consumers can obtain additional information about this remains a problem. Whilst consumers continue to be uninformed their power becomes meaningless, as they are unable to make informed purchasing decisions. Knowledge allows the consumer to choose where to shop, and where to avoid, in relation to their values. It is becoming more common to see retailers now engaging with corporate social responsibility as part of their everyday business practices. The level of engagement, however, remains varied with some companies being much more proactive in developing a strategy to help them move to more responsible practices. It is the communication of this strategy that allows retailers to engage consumers in these practices, informing them of such issues in the process. The adoption of this attitude promotes the linking of their consumers with the supply chain, taking a more transparent approach to business. The connection of the consumer with the supply chain not only increases their knowledge of ethical and sustainable issues in fashion but also aids in the creation of empathy and understanding with the social side of manufacturing. Currently, consumers are disconnected with behind the scenes of the fashion industry and cannot relate to the individual who produced the clothing they choose to buy. Through retailers creating this connection with the consumers and the supply chain they stop acting as the middleman barrier and begin to adopt a more holistic approach to their responsible business practices. This consequently will help in the consumer making more informed and responsible purchasing decisions, transferring some of the power to influence the direction of the industry’s future back with those who buy into it.
KeywordsCorporate social responsibility (CSR) CSR communication Ethical fashion purchasing
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