Why CSI Should Shape the Fashion Industry’s Holistic Corporate Identity Profile

The marriage of corporate social investment and the fashion industry was initially an arranged one to justify a brand’s use of fur, child labour, and R500 t-shirts. However, it has developed into an indispensable relationship with some designers using their labels to promote initiatives and not the other way around.

In the fashion industry, bad press originates from the source of clothing textiles and how the garments are made, with a spotlight recently being put on India and cotton farming. Levi Strauss & Co have taken a big step in CSI with their Care for Our Planet campaign, aimed at reducing the environmental impact of each pair of jeans through clever washing and drying techniques for consumers to adopt (LeviStrauss, 2014). Levi’s researched the average life cycle of a single pair of jeans and concluded that the energy used in this process could power a personal computer for 556 hours (PRNewsOnline, 2011). Levi’s produces jeans in over 50 countries with stores in 110 (Ali, et al., 2010), and with most of the producing countries being below the breadline it’s quintessential for the multi-million dollar brand to follow CSI. Globally, LS&Co have achieved great CSI by their continuous environmental campaigns as well as other social projects in HIV and AIDS awareness are providing education for children who were found to be working in sweat shops (Ali, et al., 2010) and this is perhaps why Levi’s has been a growing strength since its founding in 1853.

Some argue that CSI is only a tool to placate social and environmental infringements and that the industry and those who buy into it care only for the appearance. However, this couldn’t be less true in today’s more conscious society which is moving towards a fairer and more sustainable future. Abercrombie & Fitch has been surrounded by controversy for their sizing chart, with the largest women’s size being 10 and with CEO Mike Jeffries’s statement, the company has become a prime example of why CSI is integral in the fashion industry. ‘It’s almost everything. That’s why we hire good-looking people in our stores. Because good-looking people attract other good-looking people, and we want to market to cool, good-looking people. We don’t market to anyone other than that.’ Jeffries said (Lutz, 2013).With all of their advertising showing impossibly perfect all-American girls draped over the abs of whom could only be star college lacrosse players, would this statement even matter to the public? According to Forbes the answer is a resounding yes. In the quarter after Jeffries’s statement, investors resigned after a loss of 18 million shares, and the quarterly profit plummeted more than 20% (Forbes, 2013).

CSI is no longer about Greenwashing, tax breaks and press control; it plays an integral part in the entire identity of a brand and the holistic image of the fashion industry. The way in which clothing is being made is no longer being ignored, and it is up to leaders in the fashion industry to stitch them together with a conscience.
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Works Cited
Ali, D. S. et al., 2010. Life Cycle Analysis Sustainability Report. Life Cycle of a Jean, 1(1), pp. 9-13.
Deigendesch, D. T., 2014. Interbrand – Corporate Social Responsibility: Brand Leadership or Greenwashing?. [Online]
Available at: http://www.interbrand.com/en/best-global-brands/best-global-brands-2009/Corporate-social-responsibility.aspx
[Accessed 30 July 2014].
Forbes, 2013. Abercrombie Dressed To Disappoint. [Online]
Available at: http://www.forbes.com/sites/zacks/2013/08/27/abercrombie-dressed-to-disappoint/
[Accessed 3 August 2014].
LeviStrauss, 2014. Levi Strauss Sustainability. [Online]
Available at: http://www.levistrauss.com/sustainability/innovative-practices/planet/
[Accessed 5 August 2014].
Lutz, A., 2013. Business Insider – Abercrombie & Fitch Refuses To Make Clothes For Large Women.. [Online]
Available at: http://www.businessinsider.com/abercrombie-wants-thin-customers-2013-5
[Accessed 3 August 2014].
PRNewsOnline, 2011. Case Study: Levi’s Sustainability Initiative Proves That a Solid CSR Message Does Wash WIth the Public. [Online]
Available at: http://www.prnewsonline.com/featured/2011/04/25/case-study-levis-sustainability-initiative-proves-that-a-solid-csr-message-does-wash-with-the-public/ 2014
[Accessed 30 July 2014].