Words are just words until they appear in action, right? - Sustainability reporting and its significance for customers in the Swedish fast fashion industry
Abstract: Background and Problem: The awareness towards environmental sustainability has increasedrapidly both in society and among clothing companies’ stakeholders, e.g. the customers buyingtheir products. This awareness affects the fast fashion industry which is one of the most pollutingindustries. The companies operating within this industry are communicating their sustainabilitywork through sustainability reports. In that sense, a thesis investigating how companies in theSwedish fast fashion industry reflect consumer preferences in their sustainability reports and howcustomer perceive this information, is of interest. Thus, a thesis investigating how companies inthe fast fashion industry report reflect consumer preferences, and how the company’s sustainabilitywork is perceived among customers, is of importance. This paper will make the analysis possiblethrough three different interacting aspects. The first is to find and evaluate the customers’preferences and their most important environmental sustainability aspects. The second is to analyzethe sustainability reports due to these preferences and finally, investigate the customers perceptionon sustainability reporting related to these aspects.Purpose: The purpose of this thesis is to gain insight in the sustainability reporting of companiesoperating within the Swedish fast fashion industry and its significance for their customers. Morespecifically, towards how consumer preferences are reflected in the content included in thesereports and how the customer perceives the sustainability work done by these companies. The focusis solely on the environmental aspect of sustainability issues. Hence, the economic and socialaspects of sustainability are not included in this thesis.Method and Theory: The sustainability reports were analyzed through a content analysis namedthe CONI-model. Additionally, a customized survey addressed to customers was sent out to gatherinformation about customer perceptions. Three theories, namely stakeholder-, institutional- andlegitimacy theory are included to explain underlying forces affecting a company in its operatingenvironment. Information about sustainability reporting, Triple Bottom Line, Corporate SocialResponsibility and Global Reporting Initiative are included to provide the reader of the thesis withessential background fact. Additionally, previous research is presented and discussed to highlightearlier findingsFindings: The findings in this thesis presents evidence that consumer preferences, in most aspects,are reflected in the sustainability reports issued by the companies within the Swedish fast fashionindustry. Yet, differences occur regarding the extent of information provided between the differentaspects and between the different studied companies. This points to the conclusion that the studiedcompanies pay attention to stakeholder pressure and societal norms. Additionally, the consumerperception towards the different companies tend to resemble each other. However, the quality ofthe information provided in the reports and the consumer perception concerning it, does not match.In contrary, the three areas in which the studied companies tend to provide the highest disclosurequality are the categories in which the customers expressed themselves as lacking an opinion.
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