Etisk stillingtagen i modeindustrien: Når en pro-aktiv CSR-strategi giver kommunikative udfordringer

Kathrine Mogensen & Maria Grønhøj Heissel

Student thesis: Master thesis


Sustainability and ethical positioning are concepts, that you cannot avoid in business contexts today. The fashion industry is one of the biggest sinners when it comes to pollution of the environment and use of natural resources. The following master thesis seeks to gain a deeper insight in the communication challenges that comes within ethical positioning by looking at one of the frontrunners of the most polluting industries in the world. The thesis centres on a specific case study with H&M as a company in a Danish context who was revealed and criticized by the TV-programme, Operation X, in burning tons of new unused clothes. The reveal was a strong contrast to H&M’s image as a global green frontrunner building an intensive marketing campaign about their sustainable procedures and communication around a 2030-strategy of circular economy. The purpose of the thesis is therefore also to focus on how H&M is trying to strengthen its legitimate position in the intersection between a green business model and public awareness. Through qualitative and quantitative methods, we have examined the effect of ethical positioning in business context from different perspective by retrieving knowledge from the public, H&M, Operation X and an expert in CSR-crisis. The theoretical framework is based on the acknowledge theories from different academic areas which includes theories of stakeholders, institutional logics, crisis communication and legitimacy. During our study we have learned that ethical positioning is a necessity that demands new business conditions and proves a new organizational reality that creates a new institutional logic, the logic of sustainability. This has changed the premise for how a company gains legitimacy in the field today. Though, the concept of CSR includes a paradox because CSR is not only seen as a crisis-promoting element but can also have an anti-crisis effect. Furthermore, the analysis showed that in the specific case, the issue was defined as a CSR crisis, which has threatened H&M’s morally legitimate position as the CSR crisis is in strong contrast to H&M’s sustainable marketing campaign. Additionally, the analysis showed that H&M did not solve the crisis properly through an appropriate crisis response, which required an even stronger legitimacy strategy for H&M. The findings provided in the thesis are based on contextual knowledge and the results are put into perspective in the paragraph of discussion, mentioning discrepancy between speech and action as well as CSR as a two-edged sword, and recommendations, focusing on pre-crisis preparations, to bring the findings into a broader perspective in the fashion industry.

EducationsMSc in Business Administration and Organizational Communication, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2018
Number of pages133