Words are just words until they appear in action, right? - Sustainability reporting and its significance for customers in the Swedish fast fashion industry
Background and Problem: The awareness towards environmental sustainability has increased rapidly both in society and among clothing companies’ stakeholders, e.g. the customers buying their products. This awareness affects the fast fashion industry which is one of the most polluting industries. The companies operating within this industry are communicating their sustainability work through sustainability reports. In that sense, a thesis investigating how companies in the Swedish fast fashion industry reflect consumer preferences in their sustainability reports and how customer perceive this information, is of interest. Thus, a thesis investigating how companies in the fast fashion industry report reflect consumer preferences, and how the company’s sustainability work is perceived among customers, is of importance. This paper will make the analysis possible through 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 analyze the sustainability reports due to these preferences and finally, investigate the customers perception on sustainability reporting related to these aspects. Purpose: The purpose of this thesis is to gain insight in the sustainability reporting of companies operating within the Swedish fast fashion industry and its significance for their customers. More specifically, towards how consumer preferences are reflected in the content included in these reports and how the customer perceives the sustainability work done by these companies. The focus is solely on the environmental aspect of sustainability issues. Hence, the economic and social aspects of sustainability are not included in this thesis. Method and Theory: The sustainability reports were analyzed through a content analysis named the CONI-model. Additionally, a customized survey addressed to customers was sent out to gather information about customer perceptions. Three theories, namely stakeholder-, institutional- and legitimacy theory are included to explain underlying forces affecting a company in its operating environment. Information about sustainability reporting, Triple Bottom Line, Corporate Social Responsibility and Global Reporting Initiative are included to provide the reader of the thesis with essential background fact. Additionally, previous research is presented and discussed to highlight earlier findings Findings: 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 fashion industry. Yet, differences occur regarding the extent of information provided between the different aspects and between the different studied companies. This points to the conclusion that the studied companies pay attention to stakeholder pressure and societal norms. Additionally, the consumer perception towards the different companies tend to resemble each other. However, the quality of the 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 disclosure quality are the categories in which the customers expressed themselves as lacking an opinion.
Weberg Ekelund, Irma
Sustainability Reporting, Swedish fast fashion industry, CONI-model, Consumer preferences, Consumer perception, Environmental sustainability