Academic journal article International Journal of Business and Management Science

Understanding Corporate Social Responsibility with the Integration of Supply Chain Management in Outdoor Apparel Manufacturers in North America and Australia

Academic journal article International Journal of Business and Management Science

Understanding Corporate Social Responsibility with the Integration of Supply Chain Management in Outdoor Apparel Manufacturers in North America and Australia

Article excerpt

Abstract:

This paper investigates how supply chain management issues feature in the understandings of_corporate social responsibility (CSR) held by managers of outdoor apparel manufacturing firms and whether outdoor apparel manufacturing firms engage in sustainable supply chain management practices. Data were collected using two methods: through semi-structured interviews with nine managers from nine manufacturing firms in the outdoor apparel industry; and through a review of the sustainable supply chain management practices of 27 firms that manufacture and retail outdoor apparel. Interviewed participants articulated their understandings of CSR in terms of three perspectives on sustainability (financial, environmental and social issues). A small number of firms were found to engage in multiple types of sustainable supply chain management practices, and a larger number of firms either did not engage in any sustainable supply chain management practices or used only an industry administered code of practice to guide the way they worked with their suppliers.

Keywords: corporate legitimacy, fair trade, sustainable supply

INTRODUCTION

Apparel manufacturers and retailers often face a number of challenging issues relating to the sustainability of their businesses, including: the assurance of fanstandards of pay and equitable working conditions within their supply chains, which are commonly located in developing countries (Claudio, 2007); growing demand to use more environmentally-sustainable materials (Filus, 2008); pressures to improve water and energy use efficiency; and growing demand for less wasteful packaging (Gupta, 2008). One sector of the apparel industry for which issues of sustainability are of particular concern is the outdoor apparel industry. In 2005, the US retail market for outdoor apparel (including footwear) was valued at over US$33.3 billion (NDP, 2006). A number of well-known brands make up the sector, including, Patagonia, Timberland, Nike, Black Diamond and Mountain Equipment. For many consumers, these brands have a strong affiliation with ideas of sustainability, fair-trade and environmental stewardship (Schnitzspahn, 2008). A survey of outdoor apparel consumers conducted by outdoor apparel retailer Recreation Equipment revealed that the sector was perceived to have a high-level commitment to corporate social responsibility (CSR) principles, although the majority of consumers could not name a single initiative to support this claim (BGI, 2007). This finding supports the assertion that consumers generally see the outdoor apparel industry as a clean and green industry, even though it shares many of the same sustainability shortcomings that tend to characterize the apparel industry at large (Alsever, 2007).

Arguably the most publicized of these challenges is how the industry deals with issues related to the social fairness of its supply chains. A report by the US International Trade Commission claims that the majority of firms in the US outdoor apparel industry manufactured most of their products in the developing countries of Asia. The report highlights that this procurement trend was due to the capability of those suppliers to produce cost-competitive high-technology textile goods that were crucial to the outdoor apparel industry's product makeup (USITC, 2007). Such a reliance on supply from developing countries presents a number of important social issues for manufacturers of outdoor apparel. These issues include the provision of clean and safe working conditions within suppliers' factories and the maintenance of fair rates of pay for workers and contractors employed by suppliers. Indeed, such sustainable supply chain management issues have been central themes in highly publicized debates about the ethical behavior of a number of apparel manufacturers, the case of Nike in the 1990s being arguably the most well-known (Spar and Burns, 2000). The North American outdoor industry has responded to stakeholder demands through the introduction of a number of fair labor standards. …

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