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Why Western Society Should Think Hard About That Next Shopping Spree

Research examines fast fashion, western retailer strategies and consumerism to conclude that international business is not always beneficial to all

United Kingdom, 7 November 2014 – In an increasingly local and disposable world, fast fashion is one aspect of consumerism that is showing no sign of waning. In a recent article published by Emerald, a global publisher linking research and practice to the benefit of society, researchers have explored the delicate relationship between cheap, exploitative labour and the Western desire for commodities.

‘Who is to blame? – A re-examination of fast fashion after the 2013 factory disaster in Bangladesh’ examines the various actors responsible for the recent tragedy, such as the impact of consumer behaviour, sub-contracting and local conditions. Rather than focussing on the factory owner, it evaluates the broader structural and institutional factors including the apparel industry’s quick turnaround strategy to explain the full context of the Bangladesh disaster.

Professor Ian M. Taplin, author of the paper, and academic (Department of Sociology & International Studies, Wake Forest University, USA and Kedge Business School, Bordeaux, France), comments: “Fast fashion contributes to a labour intensive, low pay industry in emerging economies that does not safeguard or even ensure worker rights. It has been estimated that these workers are mostly women who work 12-14 hour days. Despite the poor conditions, factory labour is still an attractive prospect and offers independence, status and self respect in a society that often regards women as second class citizens.”

‘Who is to blame?...’suggests that the West’s throwaway culture is culpable for not only an insatiable appetite for fashionable goods, but explains the inevitability of tragedy in the context of fast fashion and the delicate balance of international business as a whole.  Western companies such as Wal-Mart, Gap, H&M and Zara rely on a quick response model of production with often complex supply chains. The model was initially designed to limit retailer inventory and time between design and arrival in store.

Professor Taplin concludes: “Western consumers are becoming accustomed to cheap fashion and seem to be resistant to paying more for items which are untainted by a low cost, fast turnaround process. This not only makes it difficult for fast fashion retailers to fulfil CSR programs, but the resulting overseas manufacture and supply chains limit the opportunity for the companies to monitor or fully track their suppliers which amplifies the fast fashion effect.”

The paper, ‘Who is to blame? – A re-examination of fast fashion after the 2013 factory disaster in Bangladesh’, is free to access until 31st December and features in the Emerald journal: critical perspectives on international business.

In recent years, the business practices and management philosophies of global enterprises have been subject to increasingly close scrutiny by commentators in the fields of journalism and academia. Such scrutiny has been motivated by a growing desire to examine the nature of globalisation, its impact on specific communities and its benefits for society as a whole. The journal provides a space for researchers and practitioners in diverse fields such as management, politics, economics and geography to come together to examine questions surrounding international business and approaches to management practice.

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About Emerald Publishing:
Nurturing fresh thinking that makes an impact

Emerald Publishing was founded in 1967 to champion new ideas that would advance the research and practice of business and management. Today, we continue to nurture fresh thinking in applied fields where we feel we can make a real difference, now also including health and social care, education and engineering. We publish over 300 journals, more than 2,500 books and over 1,500 case studies, via our dedicated research platform


Natasha Hartley
Content Communications Executive
Emerald Publishing Limited
Phone: +44 (0) 1274 785046