How Sustainable Fashion Brands Communicate with Online Customers in Comparison with Fast Fashion Brands
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Sustainability in the fashion industry is a very debatable concept as this industry is commonly known for being unsustainable due to environmental, social, economic, and supply chain issues. As the fashion industry is increasingly being held responsible for its environmental and social impacts, there are growing concerns regarding lack of sustainability practices, the transparency of the sustainable efforts of fashion brands, and discrepancy between people’s attitude and behaviour towards sustainability (which includes the purchasing of sustainable products). This study two aims: 1) explore how fashion brands communicate the sustainability attributes of their products with their online customers and 2) compare the communication of sustainability of ‘fast fashion’ versus ‘sustainable fashion’ brands. For this purpose, data from 400 items from the online websites of 40 sustainable fashion and fast fashion brands were selected using an e-mystery shopping technique. The selected items covered numerous fashion categories (e.g., dresses, tops, bottoms, footwear, and accessories) and various textiles. Analysis of this data showed that over half of sustainable fashion brand items had at least one ecolabel, with about 92% of these ecolabels being from external third-party certifications. In contrast, only 8% of fast fashion items referred to ecolabels, with three-quarters of these ecolabels being internal to the organization. Additionally, it was shown that sustainable fashion items had an average price point that was 63% higher in comparison to fast fashion brands. Although sustainability related features were communicated by the sustainable fashion brands significantly more than fast fashion brands, sustainable fashion brands can improve their sustainability communications by centring their descriptions more around these features. The communication of labor working conditions was previously identified as critical information that affects a consumer’s intent towards a sustainable purchase. The disclosure of manufacturing location could satisfy the need for this information, which was missing from a significant portion of the collected data (including sustainable and fast fashion brands’ items). With respect to the extant literature on the intersection of sustainable fashion and fast fashion, the results of this thesis will provide an important baseline for understanding the current message framing and degree of transparency regarding the sustainability attributes of a product at the point of purchase. Further contributions will be made in terms of developing and testing a novel approach to measuring sustainability attributes through the application of e-mystery shopping.
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Parnia Mehdipour (2021). How Sustainable Fashion Brands Communicate with Online Customers in Comparison with Fast Fashion Brands. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/16874