Academic journal article College Student Journal

Socially Responsible Knowledge and Behaviors: Comparing Upper- vs. Lower-Classmen

Academic journal article College Student Journal

Socially Responsible Knowledge and Behaviors: Comparing Upper- vs. Lower-Classmen

Article excerpt

Utilizing a sample of undergraduate students and survey research methods, this study examined knowledge on issues of social responsibility within the apparel and textiles industry, comparing the sophistication among upper- versus lower-classmen. The study also investigated the differences between students in their socially responsible apparel purchasing behavior. Findings revealed that approximately half of the sample indicated being knowledgeable about socially responsible clothing businesses. Participants were also generally informed of environmental issues related to apparel production. Overall, upper-classmen were more informed about labor issues and tended to be more engaged in socially responsible apparel purchasing behavior. The findings of this study are useful to educators in creating effective curriculum to encourage greater socially responsible purchasing behavior.

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Issues of social responsibility, including those related to labor standards and the environmental impacts of apparel production, have increasingly gained significance over the last decade or more as the apparel industry has adopted a more globalized business model. As reported by Dickson, Loker, and Eckman (2009), "There is clearly an upswing in public opinion that apparel brands and retailers, along with those that manufacture textiles and apparel, must do something to protect people and the environment" (p. 22). Specifically, a number of key issues surround the production and sourcing of apparel goods today, including, "forced labor, low wages, excessive hours of work, discrimination, health and safety hazards, psychological and physical abuse, lack of awareness of workers' rights, and lack of worker representation for negotiations with management" (Dickson et al., p. 6). Moreover, while media outlets and various scholars and industry professionals tend to more commonly document labor abuses occurring in factories throughout the world, with more apparel companies implementing initiatives to address working conditions, according to Dickson et al., the environmental impacts in the production of textile and apparel goods has also emerged as a significant issue for firms. These issues include the energy and use of toxic chemicals in the production of fibers and fabrics in addition to the release and disposal of chemicals and other solid wastes in textile and apparel production.

As part of their book, Social Responsibility in the Global Apparel Industry, Dickson et al. (2009) discuss the future of social responsibility within the apparel industry, noting tactics and/or strategies for both encouraging and improving business social responsibility. The authors document a variety of initiatives related to these objectives, including streamlining monitoring for compliance, expanding stakeholder involvement, raising reporting standards, and empowering workers. Additionally, the authors' address the importance of educating and involving consumers in promoting sustainability throughout the apparel supply chain. As reported by Dickson et al., "Through their purchasing, consumers can pull the economy and effect change in business as well as contribute to the formation of a virtuous circle of business development and social responsibility" (pp. 313-314).

In this regard, this study will include an analysis of consumers' knowledge of issues of social responsibility in apparel production, comparing the level of sophistication among students of differing educational stages. Missing from the literature on social responsibility are extensive studies examining the extent of consumers' knowledge on issues of social responsibility within the apparel industry, including consumers' sophistication on issues of labor standards and the environmental impacts in the production of apparel goods. Part of this study also explores the degree to which students engage in socially responsible apparel purchase behavior, including an assessment comparing the purchasing considerations of upper- vs. …

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