3 Ways Fashion Brands Can Approach CSR Alongside PR

Written by Grayson Kemper

People are increasingly aware of the global implications of their purchases, especially when it comes to the fashion industry. According to a recent survey from Clutch, 65% of consumers think that the fashion industry should commit to corporate social responsibility (CSR).

The fashion industry, however, maintains a complicated relationship with CSR. Clothing production is both labor and resource-intensive, which has historically led to both human rights violations and environmental degradation.

Today’s consumers will not tolerate companies that fail to protect workers and the environment. Nor will they be convinced by public relations stunts. Brands that appear inauthentic risk damaging their reputation and losing customers. This means that businesses need to communicate their CSR efforts, but never promote them from a purely PR standpoint.

Top public relations agencies and experts say it’s best for CSR to emanate from a brand’s core values and to guide operational and business decisions from a place of principle. To be most effective, companies should act upon issues that resonate with their audience, align with their brand, and allow them to make an impact.

Businesses in the fashion industry and beyond can use these three relevant CSR initiatives to support their PR strategy.

1. Enforce Labor Standards

Consumers want clothing brands to provide workers with a worthy salary and decent working conditions.

The fashion industry employs an astonishing 160 million people worldwide, yet many work long hours in abysmal conditions.

According to Clutch, 53% of respondents think the top way brands can commit to CSR is by never using sweatshop labor.

Businesses in the fashion industry can demonstrate their commitment to sustainable labor practices by requiring contractors to:

  • Uphold international labor standards
  • Create supplier codes of conduct, such as anti-discrimination and anti-harassment programs
  • Implement supply chain audits

A transparent supply chain helps your company appear sincere and forthright. If your brand has nothing to hide, you’re free to detail your support for workers on a dedicated website page, social media, or product labels.

For example, H&M requires a complete audit of its supply chain every six months.

The company only works with responsible partners, investigates all prospects, and acts upon any compliance failures. Its Code of Conduct formalizes the company’s dedication to human rights.

You can secure the respect of your audience through transparent, consistent, and sustainable labor practices.

If buying your products makes people feel like they’re making a difference, you’ll secure the trust of consumers and cement these values into your brand identity.

2. Support Workers

Fashion brands can generate goodwill by providing resources and financial support to workers.

Textile jobs are basic and require minimal training or language skills.

Companies can offer skills-based or language training to improve their workers’ prospects within developing countries.

For example, H&M offers vocational training to employees and micro-loans for those who want to start their own business. Programs like these are low-cost and high-impact that can help your workers develop professionally and demonstrate you care about the local community.

Consumers love to see corporations enfranchise workers in countries where they manufacture their products.

After you’ve created a program to help workers, research PR firms to leverage these success stories to put a face to your brand’s commitment to CSR.

3. Safeguard Local Ecologies

Textile manufacturing takes a massive toll on local environments and their people. It uses water and energy, creates waste, and discharges harmful pollutants into the soil.

According to Clutch, the top-ranked way that brands can commit to CSR is by using ethically sourced materials (58%).

Clothing companies must take responsibility for the environmental and human-ecological impact of their operation.

This means:

  • Using non-toxic materials
  • Using locally-sourced products
  • Using recycled materials
  • Using renewable energy
  • Avoiding fur and leather products

People want to feel good about their purchases, so eliminating hazardous materials from your supply chain will improve your reputation with shoppers.

For example, Patagonia uses its product tags, in-store, and online messaging to inform shoppers that their materials are recycled and non-toxic.

If buying your products makes people feel like they’re making a difference, you’ll secure the trust of consumers and cement these values into your brand identity.

About Grayson

Grayson Kemper is a senior content writer for Clutch, a research and reviews firm for B2B marketing and technology services.