Center for Fair & Alternative Trade

Colorado State University

“Critical Linkages in Social Responsibility”

Presented by Molly Eckman, Professor of Design and Merchandising, CSU

From: Social Responsibility in the Global Apparel Industry by Marsha Dickson, Suzanne Loker, and Molly Eckman

Molly Eckman, Professor of Design and Merchandising at Colorado State University, presented “Critical Linkages in Social Responsibility” to CFAT faculty, students and associates on October 13, 2009.

Dr. Eckman is the co-author of the book Social Responsibility in the Global Apparel Industry with Marsha Dickson and Suzanne Loker. Her seminar examined the role of social responsibility in the textile and apparel industries where labor-intensive production requirements have led apparel brands and retailers to move production to developing countries in order to cut costs and be price competitive.  As a result, the process of producing and sourcing apparel in the global economy has often been described as a vicious circle undercutting social responsibility.

Social responsibility has become an important concept in the apparel industry over the last two decades as industry members, activists, policymakers and consumers have become more aware of the social and environmental consequences of low-cost textile and apparel production. However, there is much disagreement within the industry about how to define it. Dr. Eckman and her colleague Marsha Dickson have presented research on these competing definitions in the publication Social Responsibility: The Concept as Defined by Apparel and Textile Scholars” (2006), Clothing and Textiles Research Journal, 24:178-191.

In the CFAT Seminar, Dr. Eckman presented the following diagram to describe how the concept of social responsility is envisioned and practiced in the textile and apparel industries along three dimensions: a philosophy that balances morality/ethics with profitability, an orientation toward the impacts of production and consumption on laborers and the environment, and a desire for positive outcomes:

From Dickson and Eckman: Social Responsibility: The Concept as Defined by Apparel and Textile Scholars (2006)

From Dickson and Eckman: Social Responsibility: The Concept as Defined by Apparel and Textile Scholars (2006)

Dr. Eckman’s work will be of great interest to scholars of social responsiblity as well as students of and business people in the apparel and textile industries. In addition to scholarly articles and books, Dr. Eckman and her colleagues have developed a series of online courses for a graduate certificate in Socially Responsible and Sustainable Apparel Business.