Add Thesis

The Paradox of Sustainable Fashion Brands

A Systematic Literature Review

Written by U. Busshaus, V. Zillich

Paper category

Master Thesis


Business Administration>Management




Thesis: Fashion industry and its characteristics Fashion is often taken for granted. It has changed from a necessity to a status symbol. In the past, people used to think of the function of fashion as protection from environmental influences such as weather or protection from harm (Steele 2005). Today, it is defined as "a cultural construction that embodies identity" (Steele 1997, p. 1). In short, fashion is a style of clothing worn by a group of people, most of whom are culturally, religiously, traditionally or otherwise related to values ​​or opinions. It is used as a communication tool in society and reflects the individual (Barnard 2013). The industries behind fashion are mainly developed in Europe and the United States. It has grown substantially, and its complexity is also increasing. For example, it is not uncommon for clothes to be designed in one country, produced in another country, and sold in a third country (Burns et al., 2011). Due to economic differences worldwide, many fashion companies have shifted production from industrialized countries to low-wage countries abroad. This creates a more complex supply chain with a wide geographical spread, which does not exist in any other industry. Globalization is a neat feature of the fashion industry (Fletcher 2014). The industry is driven by trends set by consumers, and with the rapid changes in demand, speed is another important feature of the industry. Customers usually want the product immediately and are unwilling to wait for a long time. In most cases, the time required to manufacture and transport the product is longer than the time the customer is willing to wait. Through response and effective cooperation within the supply chain, delivery time can be shortened to meet consumer demand (Čiarniene and Vienazindiene 2014). In addition, the industry is thriving in changing trends or “fashion cycles,” Georg Simmel explains, “[...] We seek to integrate social equality trends in a unified field of activity. Individual differentiation is combined with the desire to change.” (Simmel 1904, p. 133) Therefore, the fashion cycle can be defined as an ever-changing collective process in which a particular style has experienced a brief period of popularity, but is only exchanged by others. . This cycle is driven by two conflicting desires for compliance and differentiation (Matsuyama 1992). Due to the permanent attempts of differentiation and favored by digitalization (such as influencers), the life cycle of a fashion trend is often only a few weeks. All in all, the most compelling attributes of the fashion industry are speed, diversity, low volatility and complexity. 2.2.2 The sustainability issue of the fashion industry The self-evident fact of fashion is that it is a pollution and resource-intensive industry, but it is also an important sector in the global economy because it provides jobs for hundreds of millions of people around the world ( Alan MacArthur Foundation) 2017). However, the demand for new products is unrestricted, which is caused by fashion trends created by retailers, which in turn promote economic growth at the expense of the environment and workers. However, due to high costs, many fashion companies have to work hard to make a profit while producing in Europe. Therefore, in order to remain competitive, production is usually transferred to cheaper producing countries (DeBrito et al., 2007). This emphasizes the importance of economic impact to sustainability. Economic sustainability aims to achieve long-term economic growth and attempts to use resources responsibly to support stable advantages and build profitability. In addition, it includes avoiding social, environmental and cultural aspects (Doane and MacGillivray 2001; Reddy and Thompson 2015; Gopalakrishnan and Karthik nd). At the same time, economic sustainability can be seen as a contradiction, because due to the complexity of the economy, companies usually pay more attention to internal economic issues than external factors. Doane and MacGillivray (2001) believe that “if an organization or a country fully understands what economic sustainability means, there will be full employment, poverty reduction, and no bankruptcy.” (p. 18). Traditional economic growth has been achieved in a way that weakens sustainability. At the same time, sustainability has traditionally been pursued by undermining economic growth (Greyson 2006). As mentioned in Chapter 1, economic growth can help increase wealth, income, overall living standards, and upgrade medical resources. In addition to its many benefits, it has largely led to environmental problems, such as the overexploitation of natural resources and the increase in carbon emissions in the atmosphere (United Nations 1987). The faster the growth and consumption of materials, the more waste is produced, and the greater the possibility of environmental degradation and depletion. Considering that the resource base is limited, economic activity and growth are at risk. Nevertheless, economic growth and profitability are, to a certain extent, necessary conditions for people to deal with problems other than pure survival needs. Therefore, developed countries can more easily deal with and solve problems surrounding environmental and social sustainability (Bascom 2016). Read Less