Sustainability in the Fashion Industry

Christina Lykke Hasle Sauerberg & Sara Riisgaard Leicht

Student thesis: Master thesis


The fashion industry is driven by hyperconsumption and characterized by environmentally and socially negative impacts. Nonetheless, a prevailing social trend within the general society concerns sustainability. Hence, the purpose of this thesis is to examine the fashion industry in relation to that trend. This is accomplished through the following research question: To what extent is the fashion industry participating in sustainability, why is that, and how can differentiating through sustainability affect a fashion company’s competitive position?
The primary methodological approach for this research question is the one of hermeneutics. The hermeneutic approach is used for obtaining an understanding of consumers’ and experts’ world views in terms of sustainability in the fashion industry. In that regard, an inductive method of reasoning is applied to reach general descriptions for the research question based on experiences and observations. These experiences and observations are collected through the primary data conducted for this thesis. The primary data consists of qualitative expert interviews, qualitative focus groups interviews, and a quantitative survey.
Furthermore, to examine the research question different theories are implemented. Consumer theory is applied in combination with the primary data to analyze the social trend of sustainability in relation to the fashion industry. In this context, it is examined to what extent the industry is participating in the sustainability trend. This is analyzed through a use of industry insights consisting of primary and secondary data. Additionally, theory of competitive strategy formation is applied to analyze how differentiation, on the basis of consumer attitudes and the industry’s level of participation in sustainability, can affect a fashion company’s competitive position. This includes theory of the industry-based view and the resource-based view, which will lead to an analysis of a marketing mix in terms of sustainable fashion.
The findings of this thesis include that consumers have an interest in sustainability and are calling for it in terms of fashion. In that connection, an attitude-behavior gap is identified. Furthermore, it is concluded that the fashion industry’s level of participation in sustainability is low. It is then concluded that a differentiation strategy through shared value creation will be beneficial for a fashion company’s brand reputation and enhance its competitive position. For that, recommendations are made in terms of a fashion company’s elements of its marketing mix. It is recommended to make specific alterations towards transparency, availability, and information, since this is identified as wanted by consumers. Adjusting the marketing mix to the learnings of consumer behavior in terms of sustainability will enable a fashion company to enhance its competitive position and diminish the identified attitude-behavior gap.

EducationsMA in International Business Communication (Intercultural Marketing), (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2020
Number of pages212