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Social dilemmas and problems especially when it comes to ethical practices are some of the major challenges that impact different types of businesses and business organizations. In the contemporary business environment violations such as the use of child labour, less than adequate (minimum wage) payment to workers and total disregard to impact of production and business processes are among the ethical problems that are rampant. Reinecke et al. (2019) highlights for instance that fast fashion business models not only seek the cheapest labour possible but also increasingly impact the environment negatively through the high level of waste production. While some companies have taken up positive corporate social responsibility to ensuring an ethical business environment, other companies especially in the fashion industry still capitalize on the old business models that are inefficient in environmental conservation. This study looks to evaluate the extent with which UWE students support ethical clothing brands using their purchasing power.
A wide range of industries and businesses have harmful waste materials and after effects that ultimately impact the environment significantly. The clothing and textile industry for instance through the growing model of fast fashion, has had significant impact on the environment leading to consistently increasing production of waste material with the potential of presenting an environmental disaster (Davis, 2020). Maiti (2020) points out that based on a report by the Business Insider, fast fashion is a leading environmental polluter in the contemporary business environment. Cloths and textile production under the fashion banner contributes up to 10% of the total global carbon emissions. It also has significant effects such as drying up water sources and polluting rivers and streams while at the same time contributing significantly to waste material given that about 85% of cloths and textiles are dumped every year. Maiti (2020) further confirms that washing clothes also contributes up to 500,000 tons of microfibers an equivalent of 50 billion bottles into the oceans each year.
In addition to these statistics, that indicate an adverse impact of the clothing and textile industry as a whole, the industry further engages ethical infractions such as the use of child labor and lack of proper worker payments. According to the International labour office (2016) up to 158 million children are engaged in unfair child labour, with many involved within the textiles and garments industry. Around 35% to 40% of workers are not paid the legal minimum wage and for those who receive minimum wages they are paid on average 42% to 55% of the amount of an actual living wage. While these challenges and ethical infractions are rampant all across the fashion and clothing industry, significant ethical practices and ways of minimizing the pollution factor of the industry have been suggested and adopted by a significant number of clothing companies and brands.
Many fashion organizations have embraced Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and the level of awareness of consumers related to Ethical supply chain impacting the development and increase of sustainability within the industry (Farraj 2015). In addition, a study by Carrington, Neville, & Whitwell (2010) highlight that as a result of this, more consumers are being attracted by the values of ethical consumerism and ethical fashion. However are their purchasing power and choices also directed and inspired by ethical fashion and consumerism? Reinecke et al. (2019) argues that there is a contradiction between the concept of ethical fashion and fast fashion industries practices. In 2013, the collapse of the Rana plaza plant in Bangladesh (A plant which made clothes for Primark) caused the death of more than 1100 workers and injured 2500 more. This event however did not affect the sales of Primark as their sales actually increased by 20% compared to 2012 (Neville 2013). This proved at the time that consumer choices and behaviour are not effectively or significantly impacted by whether or not a company maintains ethical practices describing phenomena known as an attitude-behaviour gap. Further studies by Blake (1999); Carrington et al. (2010) and Casullo et al., (2017) confirm that consumers attach little relevance to the importance accorded to brand sustainability. As such, this study sets out to investigate the attitude-behaviour gap of UWE students towards ethical clothing.
To find out whether there is an Attitude-Behavioural gap related to the ethical side of the fashion industry among the students of UWE
To quantify the importance of an ethical supply chain in the fashion industry for certain demographics such as university students
To determinate if there is a correlation between the existence of an ethical supply chain and consumers purchasing habits.
To find out the main factors impacting the relationship between ethical supply chains and consumer purchasing habits
The study will adopt a mixed research methodology that includes both the qualitative and quantitative research technique to evaluate whether an attitude-behavioural gap exists among the students at UWE with regards to the ethics of the fashion industry. The study will collect a mixture of qualitative and quantitative data through surveys and telephone interviews.
The population of study includes the students of UWE University who are old enough to understand the concept of ethical fashion and production and how it impacts their environment. Given the limited budget attributed to their student status, they often engage the consideration of several factors before engaging in the purchase of anything including clothing. As such the study will engage the use of simple random sampling in collecting the data for the qualitative study. 100 students will be selected at random to make up the sample. According to McCombes (2020) Simple random sampling is a reliable information collection methodology where every single member of a population is chosen randomly or by chance. Each individual at UWE as such has the same probability of being chosen.
Given that the qualitative study looks deeper into opinions and ideas as opposed to specific and significant statistics, the sample collected will need to be highly knowledgeable with regards to ethics in clothing and fashion. As such the study will adopt the use of Purposive sampling in collecting data for the qualitative study. McCombes (2020) advances that purposive sampling is carried put at the pure discretion of the researcher who considers the purpose of the study along with the understanding of the target respondent to the subject of study. As such only students who are knowledgeable to the concept of ethical fashion and clothing production will be chosen for this sample.
Data collection involves the adoption of effective tools of measurement. Different study types and designs have different data collection methods that are significant and appropriate. Ahmed (2019) advances that quantitative data collection methods aim at the collection of data that can be counted and expressed in numerical quantities. Some of the common quantitative data collection techniques include observation, interviews, questionnaires as well as document reviews. This study however will adopt the use of Qualtrics Survey sent through email to students within UWE. Qualtrics is a powerful online survey tool that allows one to build surveys, distribute them to respondents and analyze the responses from a convenient location. According to the California state university (2020) Qualtrics is significant for surveys in the contemporary research environment as it is tailor made for developing research suyrveys with up to 85 different question types. This allows for the simplification of the questions and possible choices for effective understanding and adoption by all students in UWE. The web based survey tool is also free and requires no previous experience for use among online users
Qualitative data collection methods serve the primary purpose of collecting textual data for research and analysis. According to Sutton and Austin (2015) Qualitative research tools are often used in data collection within qualitative research studies. Among these tools include survey questionnaires, interviews, case studies, focus groups, literature and documents as well as ethnographies (Palinkas et al., 2015).This study however will adopt the use of a Qualtrics Survey sent through email to students within UWE. Given the qualitative nature of the data collected which includes ideas and opinions, the survey will also be backed up by telephone interviews to the purposely selected respondents to further clarify on different issues that are not properly covered in the survey. One on one communication enables the researcher to judge among other things the attitude, empathy and connection of the students to their ethics and how that ipacts their choices when it comes to consumption. The telephone calls which will be recorded for later decoding and analysis will further enable the testing of the credibility and validity of the data provided through a comparison to the survey outcomes.
Two major data collection techniques are used in the research including quantitative and qualitative data collection. While quantitative data analysis applies the use of statistical methodology in the analysis of data, qualitative analysis on the other hand aims at deducing related themes and inferences that speak towards a particular conclusion (Silverman, 2016).
The quantitative data will be significantly analysed through the use of the Qualtrics analysis tools as well as significant statistical tools of data analysis such as Microsoft excel and the SPSS software. The data will be presented in tables’ graphs and charts as well as other visualization techniques which enable easier understanding and analysis of the data by the readers. Some of the data collected for analysis include the different numbers and percentages of students that consider the ethical values and structures of a fashion and clothing brand before purchasing products from them against those who don’t. The study also looks into the frequencies with which ethical considerations are taken up by students’ before making purchase decisions. Data coding and analysis will also include descriptive data statistics such as means, medians and modes, percentages, relations and correlations in order to realise any connection between the purchasing power and behaviour of UWE students against fashion clothing ethical standards.
The primary data collected regarding the relationship between students’ purchasing power and behavior with companies that fulfill ethical requirements and considerations will be analyzed to provide inference and information supporting or rejecting the Attitude-Behavioral gap through the use of Thematic Analysis. According to Braun and Clarke (2006) thematic analysis is a form of qualitative research analysis that provides a protocol for identifying, examining, compiling, describing, and reporting themes found within a data set collected through a wide variety of different research methods such as interviews and questionnaires as applied in this research study. Accurate and replicable inferences are made from the analysis of the various patterns and themes regarding the student behavior as customers for clothing brands and companies.
Very little potential risks is envisioned as far as safety and dignity of participants is preserved. The researcher however recognises a possible number of challenges that may be associated with the study including availability of in-depth knowledge and insight as well as computer literacy which may bring about astute ethical considerations. Collection of data from individuals with limited knowledge of the impact of their actions to the environment may spark unpleasant experiences. In addition, the research involves the collection of primary data that involves human interaction and the use of humans as the major information source, ethical considerations in terms of relevant courtesy to be afforded the various individuals while collecting this information as outlined by British Psychological Association (2013) is therefore a major concern. The reputation of the participants regardless of them just being students and with consideration of the sensitive topic being handled raises ethical concern with regards to the respondents ultimately chosen for the study. In addition, the study also involves the study of professional business companies whose reputation may be damaged might they be identified as some of the ethically uncompromising fashion brands, As such to avoid such ethical issue therefore the study will focus on interviewing only willing participants and further keeping their names and identity anonymous so as to enhance their privacy. Further any clothing and textile companies and fashion brands mentioned within the study will also be accorded pseudo names to prevent any impact to their business on account of this study.
The study aims at investigating a significant aspect of the society’s social characteristics and has the potential of promoting more responsible and ethical consumption behavior which can ultimately impact environmental conservation. However it has a few limitations including having a wide scope which can only be satisfactorily studied by the application of a longitudinal study. Given the limited timeline for the study, the longitudinal approach cannot be effectively adopted.
Ultimately the study aims to establish whether an attitude-behavioral gap exists amongst the students of UWE and how frequent they engage in consumption of products from ethical considerable companies and brands. Effective completion of the research will take approximately 3 months covering 5 significant chapters highlighted in the table
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