Connectivity, Understanding and Empathy: How a Lack of Consumer Knowledge of the Fashion Supply Chain is Influencing Socially Responsible Fashion Purchasing

Alana James, Bruce Montgomery

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Consumer knowledge of the clothing supply chain remains minimal, with the
majority of fashion customers having very little knowledge to the origin of
their clothing purchases. Whilst they remain very familiar with the retail
environment, the journey any one item of clothing goes through to reach the
point of sale eludes them. Referred to as the consumer knowledge barrier, it
is this lack of knowledge that is said to be influencing their socially
responsible purchasing behaviour. The supply chain remains a complex
process however with an increased lack of transparency, how consumers
can obtain additional information about this remains a problem. Whilst
consumers continue to be uninformed their power becomes meaningless, as
they are unable to make informed purchasing decisions. Knowledge allows
the consumer to chose where to shop, and where to avoid, in relation to their

It is becoming more common to see retailers now engaging with corporate
social responsibility as part of their everyday business practices. The level of
engagement however remain varied with some companies being much more
proactive in developing a strategy to help them move to more responsible
practices. It is the communication of this strategy that allows retailers to
engage consumers in these practices, informing them of such issues in the
process. The adoption of this attitude promotes the linking of their
consumers with the supply chain, taking a more transparent approach to

The connection of the consumer with the supply chain not only increases
their knowledge of ethical and sustainable issues in fashion but also aids in
the creation of empathy and understanding with the social side of
manufacturing. Currently consumers are disconnected with behind-thescenes
of the fashion industry and cannot relate to the individual who
produced the clothing they choose to buy. Through retailers creating this
connection with the consumers and the supply chain they stop acting as the
middleman barrier and begin to adopt a more holistic approach to their
responsible business practices. This consequently will help in the consumer
making more informed and responsible purchasing decisions, transferring
some of the power to influence the direction of the industry’s future back
with those who buy into it.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTextiles and Clothing Sustainability
Subtitle of host publicationSustainable Fashion and Consumption
EditorsSubramanian Senthilkannan Muthu
Place of PublicationSingapore
Number of pages35
ISBN (Electronic)978-981-10-2131-2
ISBN (Print)978-981-10-2130-5
Publication statusPublished - 2017

Publication series

NameTextile Science and Clothing Technology
PublisherSpringer Science + Business Media Singapore
ISSN (Print)2197-9863
ISSN (Electronic)2197-9871


  • Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)
  • CSR Communication
  • Ethical Fashion Purchasing


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