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What is Corporate Social Responsibility?

Corporate Social Responsibility is the key to having a more ethical and sustainable business

Corporate Social Responsibility, or CSR for short, is the business practice of being accountable for the negative and positive impact of a company's actions on society and the environment. This includes things like sustainable practices, human rights, and environmentalism. Many fashion brands are already taking note of Corporate Social Responsibility and applying it to their own businesses. 

In this article, we will explore what CSR is, how it can be applied to the fashion industry, and what fashion brands can do to improve their responsible practices.

People, planet, and profits: the Corporate Social Responsibility

According to the European Commission, CSR is "The responsibility of companies for their impact on society."

At its core, Corporate Social Responsibility is about creating a positive impact on communities and the environment. Examples of CSR are:

  • corporate philanthropy, such as corporate donations to charities or organisations; 
  • investing in renewable energy
  • using eco-friendly materials for products; 
  • adopting stringent policies against child labour
  • reducing energy consumption;
  • taking steps to reduce negative externalities, like pollution or waste. 

The emphasis is on making sure that a company's actions are as sustainable as possible while still achieving its corporate goals. This is often referred to as the triple bottom line: People, Planet, and Profits.

However, CSR is not just a set of actions but requires a change of mindset and the adoption of a new business model. This means that Corporate Social Responsibility is about creating a culture of sustainability and corporate accountability. For accountability, we mean that companies must be transparent about their corporate social practices, and track and report on their corporate impacts. This means that companies must become responsible not only for their own choices but also for those of the entire supply chain.

Corporate Citizenship

In addition to Corporate Social Responsibility, fashion brands are also becoming more aware of Corporate Citizenship. Corporate citizenship is the idea that companies have a duty towards their local communities and environment, beyond simply complying with laws and regulations. This includes things like investing in local projects, sponsoring cultural events, or helping vulnerable people in need.

CSR and the fashion industry 

The fashion industry is one of the most labor-intensive businesses in the world. As such, ensuring ethical working conditions and fair wages for employees is paramount to any Corporate Social Responsibility strategy. Additionally, as many fashion products require the consumption of a large number of natural resources and a massive production of waste and pollution, brands need to find a way to reduce their environmental impact

But why should they invest in Corporate Social Responsibility? 

First of all, consumers are becoming more aware of corporate actions, and more and more often they choose to buy from companies that demonstrate to be responsible. This makes CSR an important factor for customer loyalty and brand value. Additionally, Corporate Social Responsibility helps a company reduce its operating costs, as sustainable practices lead to the use of fewer resources and lower energy consumption.

Corporate Social Responsibility

What is Corporate Social Responsibility?

What fashion brands can do to improve CSR

Many brands are already taking steps to improve their corporate image by implementing sustainability initiatives, but others don't know where to start. Here are some of the key points for embracing CSR:

1. Learn about your ecological and social impact. Before you convert to CSR, you must become aware of the effects of your business on the environment and communities. Then, you need to learn about ethical responsibility and sustainability. 

2. Commit to the triple bottom line. Make CSR a central part of corporate culture and ensure that the company’s goals are appropriate for its size, resources, and capabilities.

3. Set up a corporate sustainability strategy. Choose a cause, such as reducing energy consumption or improving working conditions, and set specific goals and objectives. You may also decide to adopt one of several business management standards that have been developed, such as ISO 26000. We also recommend you to download our white paper "Connected Products: Empowering Fashion’s Sustainable Future" in which you will find a lot of useful information.

4. Take action. Start implementing policies that address the environmental or social issue you chose. For example, reducing wastewater and electricity consumption, or improving working conditions for your employees, paying them a fair wage, and ensuring that they have access to health care and other benefits. 

5. Develop better relationships with suppliers. Work with your suppliers to make sure they also adopt the same policies as you do. To do so, you can ask them to sign a Corporate Social Responsibility agreement, detailing the expectations they must meet. 

6. Join forces. Start collaborating with non-profit organisations or other businesses that are committed to CSR. Together, you can become part of a larger movement and help create positive social and environmental change. 

7. Monitor progress. Track and report on your corporate performance and impact, both internally and externally. This will help you measure the effectiveness of your Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives.

8. Be transparent. Make sure you are honest and open about your corporate policies and practices. This will help you avoid greenwashing and build stronger relationships with customers, suppliers, and other stakeholders. Adopting connected products will help trace them throughout the supply chain and provide data that can be used to identify areas to optimise.

Implementing CSR is a long-term commitment that requires careful planning and dedication. However, the rewards are well worth the effort, since brands that take corporate responsibility seriously are more likely to succeed. 

17 Jan 2023

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