Study: Job-hunting Fashion Grads Prioritize Social Responsibility

Students would overwhelmingly choose lower salaries to work for companies that have better working conditions and higher levels of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) over positions paying substantially more in companies that treated potential employees in a less desirable manner and did not place a high value on CSR. In fact, more than 77 percent of the new graduates surveyed were willing to accept $42,000 versus $52,000 to work at companies with a high level of CSR, according to the results of a new survey, Corporate Social Responsibility and Career Decisions.

The study surveyed 247 fashion students in three higher education institutions offering fashion programs (in New York, Ohio and Oregon) and was developed and conducted by Michael P. Londrigan, interim dean of academic affairs and chair of the fashion merchandising department at LIM College, Nancy Stanforth, Ph.D., associate professor of fashion merchandising at Kent State University, and William Hauck, assistant professor of fashion merchandising at Kent State University. The results were recently published in the U.K.-based International Journal of Fashion Design, Technology and Education.

In announcing the release of Corporate Social Responsibility and Career Decisions, Londrigan said, "We observed our own students and monitored the marketplace discussion of students' priorities in seeking their first career position upon graduation. Because there was no clear definitive analysis on the role of CSR in their decision making, we decided to research the subject." LIM College is located in New York City and focuses exclusively on the study of business and fashion.

"We believed that CSR was important, but we did not know to what extent. What we found exceeded our expectations. Students overwhelmingly would choose jobs with substantially lower salaries at companies with higher levels of CSR," Stanforth added.

"Our study goes a long way to demonstrate the need for companies to establish sound CSR policies that can be easily recognized and evaluated by prospective employees. This will contribute to their ability to recruit new college graduates for employment," said Hauck.

For example, key findings indicate:
  • 60 percent would choose positions with lower pay if the prospective employer did not hire and promote based on physical appearance
  • 65 percent would choose lower pay in order to work fewer hours
  • 84 percent would choose a position with a company with an ethical supply chain over a company whose supply chain was deemed less socially responsible
What's more, when participants were asked what they believed the important issues in the fashion industry were:
  • 85 percent indicated that a socially responsible supply chain was important
  • 77 percent indicated that a reasonable work-life balance was important
  • 88 percent indicated that CSR is important
As for their personal habits, the study revealed:
  • 64 percent make an effort to choose products that were not made by low-wage workers
  • 73 percent make an effort to conserve water
  • 41 percent buy biodegradable products
  • 82 percent recycle whenever they can
"Our survey revealed that CSR strategies are important to students in accepting a position. Fashion degree programs clearly attract students who are highly interested in the industry, and thus CSR strategies should be an important aspect of the fashion industry's recruitment efforts," Londrigan concluded.
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