GCNYC is dedicated to sparking
systemic change across industries.

The Center is pleased to showcase our student theses. In line with GCNYC’s Common Good Mission, our M.S. students have chosen to focus on the following categories: Achieving Environmental Sustainability; Sustainable Businesses Practices; Culture, Consumption, and the Consumer; The Impacts of Marketing; Circularity in the Supply Chain; Design and Textile Innovation; Corporate Culture and the Workplace; and Social Impact and Human Rights Initiatives. Abstracts are provided for each thesis, and a representative thesis from each category is available for download.

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Understanding Designers as the Leading Force in Sustainable Fashion, Mireu Park

It is evident that the current fashion industry needs systemic change to become an ethically and environmentally sustainable industry. In the pursuit of a sustainable fashion system, designers have been continuously regarded as key players throughout the sustainable fashion literature. However, understanding of the specific needs of designers to be able to facilitate the shift towards sustainable fashion remains inadequate. Therefore, this study investigates the barriers limiting the ability of designers to be actively involved in the change and determines the ways in which better conditions can be created for designers to be the vanguard of a movement towards a more sustainable fashion industry. Fifteen qualitative, in- depth, individual expert interviews were conducted with designers and educators with professional fashion design backgrounds. Thematic analysis and reflexive methodology were used to analyze the data. Findings indicate that the conflict between their knowledge in designer’s role in sustainability and their actual responsibilities in the work environment is what limits them to better engage in solving the issue. Education and training in sustainable design practices are also lacking among designers. Misuse of the word “sustainability” of their organizations and limited involvement in sustainable strategies frequently limit the designers’ ability to lead the shift. While highlighting the need for systemic transformation of the industry, this study demonstrates the need from designers to take a leading role in driving sustainability in fashion, as well as enable that to happen.

Understanding the Impact Voluntary Commitments Have on Sustainability Strategies Adopted by US Fashion Brands, Shannon Welch

Over the past decade, the fashion industry has been striving to achieve more environmentally sound operations through the adoption of voluntary commitments. Voluntary commitments can be described as pledges that bring many global brands, holding groups, and organizations together who commit to reaching specific environmental goals. This study examines four voluntary commitments and their effect on sustainability strategies reported by Gap Inc., Levi Strauss & Co., Nike, and PVH. Using Bob Willard’s 5-Stage Sustainability Journey as a framework to identify and compare each brand’s stage, this research uncovers the degree to which sustainability is embedded within each company’s operational structures. This study adds to the literature in four main contributions: (1) it enriches and applies Willard’s 5-Stage Sustainability Journey Theory, (2) it builds an analytical tool to determine sustainability embeddedness that can be operationalized for other fashion brands, (3) it provides empirical insights into how four US fashion corporations have approached sustainability, and (4) it presents assessment on voluntary commitments’ effect on sustainability strategies. This research also offers new knowledge on the impact of the on-going COVID-19 pandemic on sustainability strategies. This research reveals several issues that need to be addressed for voluntary commitments, and ultimately sustainability goals, to be successful. The study demonstrates that the continued lack of transparency, precisely the unwillingness to participate in academic research, and internal operational barriers prevent brands from achieving self-set targets and goals outlined within voluntary commitments.

Democratizing Fashion Customization: Accessible Alterations, Sustainable Practices and Consumer Needs, Nancy Rhodes

Globally, 80 billion new pieces of clothing are produced each year, an increase of 400% from only 20 years ago. Consumers purchase double what they bought 15 years ago but keep garments only half as long. The fashion industry continues to produce at exponential rates and the average consumer now disposes of 70 pounds of clothing annually; clothing that can take up to 200 years to decompose. Innovative solutions are required to reduce the detrimental effects of the fashion industry to the planet. Fashion apparel brands are increasingly aware of the importance of adopting sustainable practices, however, the cycle of overproduction and overconsumption continues.

The alterations market, a subsection of the fashion industry, can be a viable solution to engender sustainable practices. In addition, through fit and customization, the practice of alterations can increase consumer body-positivity, inclusivity and self-esteem. A “re-fashion” industry can focus on enhancing consumers’ owned apparel and reduce the unsustainable rate of overconsumption and the amount of apparel waste.

In order to inform new strategies and business models, the current study is designed to identify and understand consumers’ and fashion industry professionals’ perceptions, attitudes and reported behaviors regarding sustainability and fashion alterations. Qualitative in-depth individual interviews (IDIS) were conducted with professionals in the fashion industry representing a variety of roles and expertise (N=9). An on-line survey was conducted with consumers to explore perceptions and preferences relating to alterations (N=165). The results of the in-depth interviews revealed that fashion professionals had not previously considered alterations and customization as a sustainable practice and only carried out alterations on an as-needed-basis. The survey findings were similar and also indicated that consumers considered time and convenience as main barriers to carrying out alterations. Findings indicate that raising consumer awareness and developing new business models to increase alteration accessibility are the foundation for reinvigorating the alterations industry.

Creating Partnership in Brand and Factory ESG Relationships, Amanda Symm

The complexity of the relationship between brands and the factories that produce their goods goes beyond a simple business transaction. Brands are held responsible for social, labor and environmental issues that are at the factories, most of which are located in diverse locations around the world. This study investigates whether the most common tool, the code of conduct compliance requirement, allows factories to be a partner in the process of addressing social and labor issues. Additionally, the study examines whether tools exist that present an opportunity for brands and factories to collaborate on addressing social and labor issues as well as environmental issues in the same conversation. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 4 factories from diverse locations and 3 sustainability professionals representing brands. The analysis shows that factories and brands both consider the code of conduct compliance a necessary task but not one that is particularly effective at addressing the underlying issues. The analysis also shows that there is interest on the part of factories and brands to work together, and a hope that tools such as the Higg Index can provide this opportunity.

Ahead of the Game: USA Based SMEs and Sustainable Initiatives, How Small and Medium Size Enterprises Finance Environmental Practices, Heber Sanchez-Martinez

Small and medium size enterprises (SME) are often thought of as innovators and industry disruptors. Under that premise, this research looks broadly at SMEs as innovators in sustainability-oriented initiatives (SOI). The study’s conceptual framework looks at SMEs from multiple angles through academic research and publications, while it also investigates sustainable finance initiatives in some of the G7 economies, and specifically in the United States. Through Babbie’s Mixed-Mode Interview Survey, this research looks at four (4) well established SMEs in the USA, across different industries, and explores their SOI, as well as top-leadership’s points of view on sustainable finance tools, and the implications of green or sustainable practices at the business level. The primary focus of the research was to find sustainability-oriented initiatives in USA based SMEs, that were developed in spite of lacking sustainable finance tools from government or banks. The key findings point to the incorporation of SOIs by SMEs through self-financing, instead of turning to government or creditors. Furthermore, the findings indicate that SOIs in SMEs are specifically motivated by savings and or capital returns, instead of solely environmental stewardship. Lastly, the research brings to light the reality that most companies start small, hence understanding their environmental initiatives and supporting SMEs at the small and middle stages might instill sustainability driven values within the industry giants of tomorrow.

Planned Overproduction: Quantifying Unsold Inventory and its Financial Impact in the Fashion Industry, Leigh Hickey

This study intends to demonstrate that a reduction of unsold inventory levels, still too often neglected today, can generate added value, profits, and positively differentiate the company against its competitors. The objective of this research aims to describe and quantify the amount of deadstock inventory in the fashion industry in order to determine whether current levels are optimal. This paper tests the hypotheses that (a) current levels of unsold inventory are suboptimal, (b) the financial costs of unsold inventory now outweigh that of stockouts for retailers today, and (c) fashion brands value a reduction of deadstock inventory waste because it provides a competitive advantage of increased cash flow, increased profit margins, and brand loyalty among environmentally and socially focused customers.

Investigating Environmental Disclosure in Corporate Annual Reports: A Legitimacy Theory Perspective, Nathan Frazer

In recent years, corporations have increasingly engaged in voluntary non-financial disclosure practices. This paper uses legitimacy theory to explain why firms engage in such voluntary disclosure practices, particular with respect to disclosures relating to environmental, social, and governance topics (ESG). The objective of this paper is to test and confirm the viability of legitimacy theory as a framework to describe and understand why firms voluntarily publish ESG-related information. A primary mixed method research design was utilized, comprised of qualitative research and an in-depth content analysis of existing data. The key finding was that legitimacy theory is a viable framework to describe and understand corporate social disclosure (CSD) practices, which have increased in recent years through the means of a number of legitimation strategies. This research contributes to the CSD literature by advancing legitimacy theory as a framework for examining voluntary non-financial reporting and applying this in an effort to understand the practices of a US-based law firm and textiles corporation.

Impacts of the Fashion Industry: A Review of Sustainability Frameworks and Holistic Tools to Accelerate Positive Environmental Change, Megan Meiklejohn

There is great momentum in the fashion industry to accelerate positive environmental change. This drive has placed internal and external pressures on brands to show continuous progress, making them eager for data to measure, report, and prove they are contributing to reduced emissions and minimized environmental impacts. Brands often rely on life cycle assessment data to measure environmental impact; however, this review will show that there are challenges when applying the life cycle assessment framework to natural systems. The industry needs to better understand these challenges and the potential unintended consequences that can result when using the data to report on impact and make sustainability-based sourcing and design decisions. If life cycle assessment is not the best tool for fashion brands to assess impact, then what are the other holistic frameworks available to the industry? One methodology that is explored takes a different approach is Ecological Outcome Verification which prioritizes indicators of ecosystem functioning. The research for this review of data usage by the fashion industry uses a mix-methods approach, surveying and interviewing sustainability practitioners to understand how widely the available frameworks are utilized, to gain insight into how the practitioners use the data for impact measurement, and their opinions about the data accuracy and adequacy for their brand.

COVID-19 as a Reset for the Fashion Industry – Where Do Brands Go from Here?, Sophie Kweskin

The COVID-19 pandemic has transformed the way people live, work, and shop. This time of upheaval is a critical moment for the fashion industry to re-evaluate its business practices, as one of the most polluting industries. The purpose of this research is to understand the impact of the pandemic on fashion brands in implementing circularity in their business models and to encourage consumer engagement. Even prior to the pandemic, there has been a shift towards businesses becoming a genuine force for good in society. Consumers are increasingly exercising choices with their dollars that reflect the difference they hope to make. To address growing environmental concerns, brands are looking for ways to reuse or recycle garments and capitalize on the estimated 500 billion dollars of value lost annually in the underutilization of clothing (Ellen MacArthur Foundation, 2017). Circularity, the concept of reducing, reusing or recycling, presents a promising model for the industry to curb its environmental impact. Consumers play a crucial role in the shift towards circularity. The question is: will brands and retailers take the opportunity to reset and prioritize circularity for a more sustainable future? The study was conducted through semi-structured interviews with industry experts in fashion and sustainability. The findings reveal that sustainability remains a focus for the fashion industry, despite COVID-19, but wide-spread implementation of circularity remains in the distant future. In order to move the industry forward, efforts to educate stakeholders and present transparent messaging to consumers will be needed to drive real and lasting progress around sustainability and circularity.

The emergence of Slow Fashion, trends, opportunities and Challenges, Matteo Prodani

This research examines the Slow Fashion Movement to provide a snapshot of its emergence and evolution in response to the Fast Fashion approach that has taken over the last decades. Using a targeted survey, it explores the opportunities and barriers that are perceived by the most visible brands in this market. Despite the companies’ efforts, their size and economic power are still insufficient to influence the society at large. However, their presence in strategic locations coupled with ongoing broad social and environmental trends toward sustainability appears to be contributing to the education of the customers. We are witnessing an embryonic phase of a group of entrepreneurs that still appears highly fragmented and in search of a homogeneous identity; it is encouraging to see the first steps towards the creation of a movement and in few cases, we can see the conditions to its success.

The Value of Certification Schemes for Sustainability and Financial Performance: An analysis of the Leather Industry in Brazil, Juliana Zaffari

This research inquires whether sustainable voluntary private certification schemes (CS) can be effective means of advancing sustainability practices inside companies and of improving financial performance. This thesis focuses on a particular certification, namely the Brazilian Leather Certification of Sustainability (CSCB), this specific certification aims to introduce best practices in tanneries by centering on four dimensions: economic, environmental, social, and sustainability management. Twelve qualitative in-depth interviews were conducted with members of the CICB as well as with owners, directors, and employees of eleven different tanneries. Finds reveal that the certification has a positive impact on tanneries when it comes to data documentation, which allows for improvements in process and operations. Just as importantly, the CSCB helps create and foster a more sustainable culture within organizations. The financial impact of the CSCB on organizations remains statistically uncertain. This being said, findings show that financial performance can be improved in the long term as results of investments in sustainable practices.

Effectiveness and Autonomy for Social Enterprise: Industry Perspectives on Business Models for the Artisan Sector, Dalaiah Kusner

Today’s fashion industry is ripe for disruption as it faces old problems and new demands at all parts of the value chain. Consumers increasingly demand that brands do more to protect livelihoods across the entire value chain, while producers’ need for meaningful work and wages that allow for a life where human rights are fully enjoyed is greater than ever. Meanwhile, social enterprises in the artisan sector for decades have actively addressed global poverty and prioritized makers’ well-being. Yet the legacies of colonialism and capitalism present barriers to social enterprises’ autonomy and effectiveness. Because the priorities of the global value chain do not fully align with those of social enterprises, the need arises for greater autonomy in order to exercise their goals. Current research on social enterprise explores theory, qualitative inputs, and high level metrics. However, available research falls short of examining the central question of how social enterprises’ approach to the market—in essence, their business model—could play a part in driving effectiveness or autonomy in the global value and supply chain. This study explores direct-to-consumer (DTC) and branded wholesale (WS) and the potential contributions to the autonomy and effectiveness of social enterprises in the artisan sector. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with industry leaders across artisan, international development, and private sectors.. Findings yielded practical suggestions and insights for social enterprises in the artisan sector hoping to advance their business strategy to increase their autonomy and effectiveness. The research confirms the need for present day solutions but also the need for systems change in the global value chain.

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Improving Working Conditions in Cambodian Garment Factories: A Framework with Consumers in Mind, Elizabeth Anne Otten

Since the 1990’s, Cambodian garment factories have been under increased scrutiny due to scandals and tragedies that have plagued the industry. CSR initiatives, including codes of conduct and social audits, were introduced by Brands in an attempt to self-monitor their supply chains, while conveniently doubling as a way to improve and protect their image. Soon after, Brands turned to MSIs to supplement their CSR activities, and create more holistic initiatives by including stakeholders with practical, in-depth knowledge on the issues. Despite these efforts, factory workers still experience poor working conditions, excessive overtime, low wages, work-related illnesses and injuries, and discrimination. It is hypothesized that there is a better way to improve working conditions in garment factories than the initiatives currently in place. After on the ground research and a literature review, it is clear that consumers need to be better informed. The analysis shows that unions and suppliers want a direct line to consumers, and when consumers talk, brands listen. From these themes and the lessons learned from the literature review, a new initiative is proposed.

Human Rights in the Fashion Industry: Discovering the Origins of Exploitation Along the Supply Chain, Megan Simmons

In an effort to add awareness to critical issues surrounding the importance of sustainable solutions in the fashion industry, this study examines a growing concern impacting the social aspect of sustainability. Through examining human rights abuses within the industry, the question of ‘Where along the supply chain are these exploitations originating from?’ can bring additional answers needed to provide assessments on how to tackle and solve the prevalence of human rights abuses in the fashion industry.

Through a review and analysis of current research regarding exploitations throughout the supply chain, as well as defining the status of mitigation among brands at their corporate level, a study was set up in the form of surveys and interviews to gain knowledge of the occurrence of exploitations among employees that work directly with brands. This was done to examine potential root causes of exploitations originating in multinational brands by showing that a significant level of exploitation is happening at the very top of the industry and spreading from there.

Research findings indicate that due to demands communicated by top executives of multinational brands, exploitations have an origin within corporate headquarters and are also exacerbated as those demands move through the supply chain. In comparing and analyzing the results of the research collected, there is a congruence of exploitative behavior at various points of the supply chain, stemming from business demands. These findings provide us with the opportunity to better understand that the existence of human rights abuse is pervasive throughout the entire industry, and solutions can and should be implemented at the brand level to initiate change.

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Old Habits & New Behaviors: Developing Plant-Based Nutrition, Instructional Learning Experiences for a Sustainable Food Future, Arissa Agnant

Although a vast amount of academic and mainstream literature exists warning of the negative effects of the animal agriculture industry, collective human behavior has not shifted its course. Individuals in North America, on average, consume more than six times the recommended amount of red meat. Research has also identified the urgent need for a global reduction in animal-based protein consumption and an increase of plant-based protein consumption in order to ensure a sustainable future for the world’s population. The shift of diets from animal-based foods to plant-based alternatives offers the opportunity for a “win-win-win” for the environment, human health, and animal welfare. There is a robust research literature focused on a) animal agriculture’s impact on the environment, human health, and animal welfare, b) the unsustainable nature of the larger food system due to triggers like population and income growth, food insecurity, and climate change, c) the consumer psychology of meat eaters, and d) behavior change tools and applications. Currently, research is needed to provide evidence-based insights to inform the development of effective strategies for engendering individual and societal level behavior change regarding animal-based and plant-based nutrition. The current research is focused on the use of digital channels and online learning to raise awareness, facilitate knowledge and skill acquisition, and engender and increase individual and societal plant-based nutrition consumption. Twenty-one (21) interviews were conducted with a range of Subject-Matter-Experts representing specialized domains, including plant-based food alternatives, online learning, gamification, systems thinking, marketing and consumer psychology. Findings indicate that consumers are open to changing their food preferences and consumption behaviors and that digital, online learning interventions provide a viable pathway for engendering systemic change.

Connection to the Natural World: Interventions to Increase Pro-Environmental Perception, Attitude and Behavior, Tara Patterson

As human-induced climate change becomes a more popular subject researchers are conducting studies on how we can change course and reverse environmental degradation. One of the psychological theories in the field remains that human-nature connectedness could clearly effects how one acts towards the environment. There is research that demonstrates how over time our relationship with nature has changed and has become less important in people’s minds. It is popular opinion that this disconnection is causing a large portion of our environmental crisis. The challenge then becomes; how do we get people connected back to nature to the point where they increase their pro-environmental perception, attitude and behavior. The research reviewed in this study shows three separate ways this could be accomplished. One way is through the Norm-Activation Model which has people see that their actions have a direct effect on the environment and they take responsibility for their actions. Another way is through experiences in Nature. As we have moved from a rural to urban community we have lost the wonderment of the natural world around us and have forgotten how vital it actually is to our everyday life. The last theory we reviewed that could potentially affect people’s favorability toward the environment is implementing a mindfulness practice. Meditation and mindfulness have the potential to connect people back to their true selves and true values. As people connect back to their true values they disassociate with the over consuming western society and naturally start to implement sustainable behaviors into their daily lives. In order to test these three theories, a survey was sent out to 30 participants to gage where they stand in their perceptions, attitudes and behaviors regarding the environment and sustainability. After the researcher received the results of that survey, the same participants were broken out into three groups. Each group was given a different intervention that tied back to the three theories. When the results of the experiment came back it was clear that an intervention could indeed increase one’s pro-environmental perception, attitude and behavior. There was a 5% increase in favorability towards the environment and sustainability. The intervention that produced the highest increase in favorability toward the environment and sustainability was the one that tied back to mindfulness. This intervention had participants sit outside, do a breathing exercise to connect them to themselves and were them prompted to think about how the natural world effects each of their senses. The whole intervention took 10-15 minutes and produced an 8% increase in favorability towards the environment and sustainability. While the results produced an increase in pro-environmental perceptions, attitudes and behaviors it is recommended that the next study use more participants to be able to generalize the results and create an intervention that public service members can use to re-connect our communities back to their natural environment in a way that the environment will be protected and not exploited.

The Evolution of Corn Farming: How farming has changed throughout the decades due to NAFTA, Ashley Prast

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) had paramount impact o n corn industry in the United States and in Mexico. Corn is an economic and cultural pillar in agriculture and continues support economies on a global scale. The crop is encouraged to be overproduced and specifically looking at the corn policies introduced in NAFTA, a clear link can be seen of favoring corporate profits at the expense of individual farmers. By analyzing the aftermath of the initial NAFTA agreement and its future amendments, this research paper aims to bridge the gap between farmer’s experiences and how they related to the policies that are currently in place.

Green Burial: The Last Footprint, Mallory Scott

The research includes an overview of the environmental impacts of burial and cremation practices and the benefits of green burials. Additionally, the study investigates why green burial has not been more widely implemented and offers insight to increase the adoption of this alternative within the United States. A mixed-methods approach of individual interviews and a survey with consumers was utilized. The goals were to identify the awareness, perceptions, attitudes, and reported behaviors of adult consumers regarding their knowledge of green and traditional funeral practices and to gain an understanding of decision making when dealing with death. Interview findings indicate that there was little to no awareness of green burials. However, exposure to the concept raised interest. Additionally, findings indicated that in the face of grief and loss, the environmental impact of traditional practices of burial and cremation was not considered. A positive finding supporting the adoption of green burials was confirmed by survey respondents universally reporting that they would consider a green burial after exposure to the concept. Together, these findings suggest that raising awareness and educating consumers of this alternative to traditional methods could lead to increased adoption of green burials within the United States.

Analysis of socio-political & environmental disaster risks faced by hotels in Dubai, Andrea El hassani

The present dissertation aspires to provide more insight on Dubai hotels risk management practices. This study was conducted in order to identify the socio-political and environmental disaster risks faced by hotels in Dubai. The current analysis in this field remains limited due to the constant situation’s evolution of the Dubai marketplace. This dissertation aims to respond to three research questions: How Dubai hotels manage the risks they face? What are the socio-political risks and the environmental disaster risks faced by hotels? How to create a risk management plan to identify, assess and monitor these risks? Qualitative data were collected through six interviews with experts from the Dubai hotel industry in order to answer the research questions. Following the interviews analysis, recommendations are provided related to the benefits of creating a hotel risk management program and the strategy to implement it.

The dissertation is structured in six main chapters: (1) Introduction, referring to the aim and scope of the study; (2) Literature Review, addressing the academic background of the hospitality in Dubai, the socio-political and environmental disaster risks; (3) Method and Discovery, presenting the research method; (4) Findings and Analysis, including the interviews data analysis of the identified risks; (5) Summary and Recommendations, providing the guidance to create a hotel risk management program; (6) General Conclusion, discussing the relevance of the hotel risk management program and recommendations for future researches.

Holistic Understanding of Urban Innovation Districts: Navy Yard, Brooklyn and Medellin, Colombia., Angela Rodriguez

The changing landscape across all spectrums of economic, political, social, and broader market forces has led many stakeholders within an ecosystem to adapt to the environment. This adaptation varies, and many urban areas have begun to focus on urban resilience, a popularized concept that has become fluid amongst many sectors. Urban areas have begun to approach this through urban innovation districts, coinciding with the growth of innovation, and public private partnerships. These districts have molded and identified to the locality they exist in. These new models of innovation districts have been leveraged to innovate and develop the locality they are in, thus enhancing the resiliency of the community. Navy Yard, Brooklyn and Medellin, Colombia are two locations of many that have implemented these new models of innovation. Their communities have changed drastically, and become known to the larger regions in which they reside as exemplary examples of transformation, particularly for the local communities who were in need of resilience. Their approach and transformation leads to analysis of what are the conditions under which rebuilding local resilience is possible using urban innovation districts?

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Can Farms Save Fashion? Applying an innovative strategic model integrating insights across industry sectors and geographic regions to identify effective solutions to the sustainability challenges confronting the fashion industry., Diana Purcell

The designers, brands sourcing professionals and strategists within the fashion industry are currently searching for a means to make more sustainable decisions in a world that is more global each day. Many efforts to accomplish this task are either driven my marketing or based on data that is not easy to communicate. This study will dig deeper into the stories of professionals along the supply chain to find out what actions can be performed to spur lasting change and transformation based on insights from the doers, innovators and entrepreneurs that are making impactful change.

As a case study in how existing supply chains can pivot to more sustainable practices this this study will incorporate findings from professionals across sectors including but not limited to: agriculture, sourcing, processing, design, corporate social responsibility (CSR) and legislation. In order to keep the sample size manageable and retrieve meaningful data, this study will focus on an emerging industry that is currently being built in the United States: Hemp textiles. This industry has a unique opportunity to build sustainable and modern infrastructure on top of existing solution models. The hope is that these findings can be used to improve other, less sustainable systems.

Preliminary findings indicate that this work is already in progress, however strategic shifts from the top down could help to support the development of many innovative but fledgling enterprises across the country. Legislation has emerged as a double edged sword. It seems to be hindering large scale growth in its vague language and tendency to change unexpectedly while also providing a risky environment that is effectively protecting small businesses from the inevitable arrival of “Big Agriculture” and all of the problematic practices that come with it.

Systems and Infrastructure for a Circular Economy in Fashion: The Business Case for Textile to Textile Recycling, Dinelle Salvador

The fashion industry is facing highly publicized scrutiny for the unprecedented growth in textile waste and extremely polluting supply chain operations. Fundamental changes are needed to the fashion business model in order to minimize the damaging environmental impacts and ensure long-term sustainability. The circular economy has emerged as a possible solution, but systemic change is needed in order to transform the current linear supply chain to one that is circular. The purpose of this paper is to contribute to knowledge of circularity in fashion and build a business case for investment in textile-to-textile recycling infrastructure in order to advance the circular economy in the fashion industry. This research study uses a qualitative approach through semi-structured interviews with stakeholders from the fashion industry and the textile recycling supply chain. Findings demonstrate textile-to-textile recycling can be successful under certain conditions, but it is also inhibited by lack of funding and government support. Brand commitments are necessary in order to incentivize the building of textile-to-textile recycling infrastructure, and funding must be distributed to the areas along the value chain that are needed in order for textile recycling technologies to scale.

Building a Profitable Domestic Textile Waste Recycling and Innovation Industry in New York City in a Covid-19 Impacted Economy, Sharon Silbermann

There is a world-wide apparel and textile waste crisis. This crisis exists at a global, national and municipal level. New York City, the largest city in North America, generates an overwhelming 200,000 tons of apparel and textile waste annually, representing 6.3% of the total municipal solid wastes collected and the New York City’s Department of Sanitation spends $110 million for its collection, hauling, and disposal. The need to develop a profitable and sustainable alternative for addressing the waste crisis is of paramount importance.

The current research was designed to identify the knowledge and insights of key stakeholders in the recycling and innovation landscape to inform the development of a profitable domestic textile waste recycling and innovation Industry in New York City. Qualitive in-depth individual interviews (IDIs) were conducted with thirty-seven (37) representatives of a wide range of stakeholder domains, including waste management, brand sustainability and sourcing, apparel and textile recycling, textile innovation, textile mills, government waste management and sustainability agencies, legal and financial, and industry analysis and policymaking. Additionally, 105 New York City residents representing all five boroughs completed an online quantitative survey designed to identify and understand citizens perceptions, attitudes and behaviors regarding apparel and textile waste and recycling. Findings indicate that there is a universal shared concern by stakeholders and a commitment to developing a local circular fashion and textiles economy.

A wide range of solutions were offered by stakeholders and a single shared strategy did not emerge. However, findings provide important insights for next steps and the possibilities of collaborative partnerships and shared actions along the circular value chain. The necessity of increased government and public engagement and the need for greater support through investment, legislation, and manufacturing commitments in developing and testing circular systems were highlighted. Findings from the survey indicate that over 90% of NYC citizens expressed interest in participating in convenient recycling behaviors (e.g., curbside pickups, etc.). Additionally, findings indicate that the current Covid-19 pandemic is perceived to be a catalyst for public, private and non-profit sector collaborations to mitigate the negative effects of the Anthropocene as we explore the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Circularity in the Fashion Industry: Communication Gaps in Relation to Textile to Textile Recycling, Emily Bass

This paper explores the value chain of textile-to-textile recycling and seeks to identify the communication gaps within this system. The paper examines different areas of the system including fashion brands and textile recycling companies to understand how these stakeholders cooperate with each other. The research also considers how outside contributers, such as circular technology, can affect communication gaps, data collection, logistics, and operations in the circular loop of textile-to-textile recycling. The research aims at understanding how communication can be improved between internal stakeholders, within a fashion brand, as well as between fashion brands and textile recyclers. This research examines if circular technology can help improve the communication between these stakeholders.

Ankole Cow Horn: Identifying Effective Strategies for Optimizing the Supply Chain to Create Empowerment and Sustainable Development from Ranch to Consumer, Shanley Knox Harruthoonyan

“Artisanal” approaches to production and services are a growing trend across industries – from beer to bread, clothing and advertising. But in the Global South, artisan work has the potential to be much more. Across low- and middle-income countries, artisanal approaches to work have proven to be uniquely fit for those experiencing unemployment or poverty, inequality or lack of access to formal employment. With a shift in both market preference and opportunity has come a proliferation of “artisan” goods offered in markets internationally. With it, organizations and companies in the West have begun to use two phrases to define the nature of their sourcing. First, artisan work is described as
“empowering,” and, second, it is described as “sustainable.” Yet, the meaning of, and measurement for, these terms remain undefined.

A growing movement of literature has examined interventions and approaches to the artisan industry and identified an accretion of unintended, negative consequences within supply chains and sourcing relationships routinely described as “empowering” and “sustainable.” The objective of the current research was to understand the predictive variables within a single, artisanal supply chain, in order to develop a strategic plan for shifting current practices toward effective empowerment and sustainable development.

Thirty-seven interviews were conducted with individuals across both the production and purchasing ends of the supply chain. The findings show that artisanal workers are well aware of their needs in order to experience empowerment and sustainability. But to meet these needs, artisanal workers’ known and unknown barriers must be identified and systematically removed, ultimately providing workers with a meaningful voice in the conversations and decisions that define their working experience.

The business of the secondhand clothing market in Africa and its Influence on the local apparel industry: Ghana as a case study, Adwoa Addomah-Gyabaa

This paper examines the secondhand clothing market in Africa using Ghana as a case study to determine how this business is impacting the local apparel industry and the environment respectively. The study seeks to find out what is influencing the importation of used clothing from western countries to Africa, specifically Ghana. The research explores how the local apparel industry can be revived and why it is important to sustain this industry in Ghana. Also, the research identifies the environmental impacts of secondhand clothing waste and measures the EPA can adopt to reduce it.

Incentivising Change in the USA: exploring the business case for textile to textile recycling using post consumer waste, Evan McCauley

The need to tackle the growing textile waste problem is well-established for post-consumer, pre-consumer, and post-industrial waste types. If fibers were made from all the post-consumer textile cotton waste generated annually in the USA alone, it would be ten times the current, annual supply of organic cotton available globally. However, the scale of the problem is larger than the existing sector can handle, and it is not scaling fast enough, particularly outside of the European Union. It is still unclear how infrastructure development in the USA will be financed or conducted over the coming years and decades to address the gap. Technology gaps are no longer the primary barrier to progress; the textile circular value chain faces challenges to scaling which are commercial in nature. These problems relate to securing stable market partners, achieving optimal process economics, proving long-term financial viability and resolving foundational misalignments regarding ownership. The system being developed must be done so with post-consumer waste as a primary consideration because the textile waste problem shows no signs of slowing down and cannot be solved unless it provides solutions for post-consumer waste.

Born Digital: Effective Digital Trigger Methodology and Content that Incentivizes Apparel Consumers to Trust and Engage with Digital Apparel Labels Called Digital Product Passports, Rana Sidahmed

In the United States, 26 billion pounds of textiles end up in landfills. Much of this waste is due to the linear and traditional “take-make-dispose” discard model. This research aims to further the adoption of a circular fashion model by first understanding how consumers engage with digital technologies, and by determining which information is most important to them. This study will answer the following three questions: Which method of digital triggers with a digital product passport will most likely be adopted by apparel consumers? What will enable apparel consumers to trust the tracking and tracing of their products through a digital product passport? What type of content incentivizes apparel consumers to engage with a digital product passport?

Digital Product Passports are digital labels linked to the internet, validated through blockchain, and accessed through a smartphone. These labels can be linked to the item through digital triggers, which are vehicles to communicate with consumers with data controlled by the apparel brand. This enables the identification, authentication, and monetization of apparel through circular business models like resale and recycling across the entire product lifecycle, keeping products out of landfills. Digital Product Passports are starting to be used by the apparel industry to track information and promote circularity of product lifetimes.

This study utilizes a quantitative research design. The data was collected through a structured, cross-sectional 25-question survey with 63 respondents from the researcher’s extended network. The findings of this study demonstrate that quick response (QR) codes are the most familiar form of digital trigger and should be utilized to increase apparel consumers’ adoption of digital labels. Brands can gain consumers’ trust by ensuring that the data is validated and only used for their intended purpose. Suggested content should include information to help apparel consumers understand (1) how to care for their garment, help consumers know (2) what to do at the garment’s end of life, and ensure (3) supply chain visibility.

This research will benefit consumers by revealing their preferences for digital triggers. It will also help brands and marketers understand what content will incentivize consumers to interact with the digital labels. Standardization of digital triggers could also help with adoption as more people get familiar with one method of accessing garment information. Finally, better adoption of the Digital Product Passport will benefit recyclers because it will easily convey to consumers where to recycle their garments and give recyclers instant verified access to their material content, keeping more garments out of landfills, thereby increasing the circular economy.

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A study on status, consumption and perception of sustainable fashion for millennials in a luxury dominant market “UAE”, Mona Kazemy

This paper studies the scope of sustainable fashion and identifies the barriers to switching to sustainable fashion for different generational cohorts in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Since this market is dominated by luxury fashion brands, this research starts by studying the key motivational factors in approaching luxury fashion and focuses on the status and its role in the adoption of sustainable fashion. This study aims to analyze the attitudes of UAE millennials in the purchase decision and compare them to the other generational cohorts. More than a hundred female participants from different age groups responded to a survey distributed through UAE women’s Facebook groups and the researcher’s personal network. The quality and display of status were the main motivational factors in approaching luxury fashion brands. The importance of status and social class was the highest for millennials and generation X consumers. The two main barriers in switching to sustainable fashion brands were the lack of awareness and the increased importance of status. After baby boomers, millennials had the most significant number of consumers with little or knowledge about sustainability. Other barriers identified were limited availability of sustainable brands and a higher cost of sustainability. The important motivators for adopting sustainability were lower price, higher quality, and design variety.

How Sustainable Fashion Companies Can Overcome the Ethical Intention-Consumption Gap, Alexis Archer

Progress towards greater social and environmental responsibility in the fashion industry is being held back by inadequate consumer demand. Sustainable fashion brands would benefit from a deeper understanding of how to increase this demand. My research sets out to understand the motivators and barriers for sustainable fashion consumption, as well as the conflicting variables in fashion purchasing decisions. After reviewing existing literature, I used a mixed-method approach. I combined qualitative and quantitative questions in interview and survey form. While many consumers have a desire for sustainable and ethical products, demand is low due to the ethical intention-consumption gap. There are barriers, motivators and conflicting forces that influence the customer journey; currently, these drive consumers away from sustainable products but can be used to drive consumers towards them. I found that the primary barriers to making ethical fashion purchasing decisions are lack of information and low convenience or availability, while the primary motivators are concerns about waste and the same product attributes considered for non-sustainable items such as style and fit. One of my recommendations for sustainable fashion marketers is to focus on increasing the availability and depth of information, which will educate consumers and reduce research costs. I also recommend that sustainable fashion brands focus their strategies on increasing convenience and broadening the availability of their merchandise. Marketing strategies should be focused on desirable product attributes like style and fit, along with these elements.

Youth, Fashion and Sustainability: The Impact of Re-maker Fashion Workshops on Adolescent Skills, Knowledge and Consumer Behavior, Julie Mastrarrigo Jorsling

The global trillion dollar a year fashion industry is one of the world’s largest industrial polluters. There is an increased focus on transforming the fashion industry and integrating sustainable practices. Addressing the negative environmental and social impacts of the fashion industry has focused on change within the industry itself. However, consumers are an essential component of and a force for moving the industry in the direction of increased sustainability. In this context raising the awareness and educating consumers is essential for engendering change in fashion consumption behaviors. Young Consumers represent the future and are currently uninformed about the fashion industry, the impact of overconsumption and the clothing they wear. This study assesses the effectiveness of a constructivist workshop designed for young consumers age 13-18 in raising awareness and promoting the acquisition of skills and knowledge about the fashion industry, clothing and clothing care. The workshop design is based on the hypothesis that raised awareness, increased knowledge and skill acquisition is the foundation for young consumers’ behavioral change. The researcher design involves young consumers (N=29) participating in one of two Re-Maker Fashion Workshops. All participants attended 8th, 11th or 12th grade. Students completed a pre-workshop survey and post-workshop survey. Additionally students were observed in the workshops and informal discussions were held with the students throughout the workshops. The results revealed that participants displayed a high level of interest in learning about the environmental impact of both the practices of the fashion industry and consumers’ current overconsumption; a range of prior knowledge; and a willingness to engage in behaviors that encourage sustainable practices. The participants currently lack the skills to repair their clothing and are interested in learning. A considerable amount of information discussed in the workshop was retained. Student interest in skill acquisition is an indication of future behavioral change.

A Celebration of Desire: How Knockoff Handbags Signify Status, Mariza Scotch

As consumption becomes a pivotal topic in the context of growing environmental concerns, this study examines the roles of “status,” “branding,” and “quality” and their effects on evolving consumer preferences. By asking the question, “Why do consumers purchase knockoff handbags?” it’s possible to confront the complex systems of power and influence that fuel the luxury accessories industry and shape social behavior. Beginning with a review of conceptual criticism relating to fashion, and then by establishing a framework for understanding the trajectory and impacts of the knockoff handbag market, this exploration addresses the idea of the knockoff from a variety of perspectives: brand, legal, enforcement, consumer, and aesthetic. Based on a qualitative synthesis of in-depth interviews with experts, three design workshops served as a test of consumers’ ability to distinguish between authentic and knockoff handbags in a controlled setting. In researching the feedback loop of customer desire and corporate fashion marketing, this study proposes further appraisal of their inherent duopoly — and the forces which might transform it.

From Paris to New York: A cross-cultural comparison of department stores and their ability to create contextual value during a global pandemic, Mia Lupo

In mid-March 2020, the global pandemic of COVID-19, also known as coronavirus, caused a global disruption that forced the temporary closures of retailers across the globe. Department stores were already facing a set of challenges, but coronavirus accelerated the trends contributing to the decline of American department stores. This dissertation compares and contrasts how two department stores—Bloomingdale’s in New York, NY in the United States and Galeries Lafayette in Paris, France—approached their social media marketing strategies during the temporary store closures caused by coronavirus. Using pre-existing research on distributed cognitive theory and definitions of value from the consumer perspective, this dissertation analyzes each department store’s activities through a new contextual value framework that brands can use to understand how they can deliver value to their consumers, therefore better positioning themselves within their consumer’s context.

The Myth of the Powerful Consumer: Deconstructing the Collective Belief, Michelle Gabriel

The notion that the consumer is in a position of power relative to corporations is taken for granted by corporations, economists, and consumers in today’s mass consumption landscape. This research question and ultimately debunks the belief in the powerful consumer through (1) the concept of power and sexuality put forth by Foucault, (2) fashion as discourse discussed by Barthes, (3) analysis of French and Raven’s uses of power, and (4) consumer interviews. This research shows that consumers are not aware of all the tools for power at their disposal, do not see an alternative to consumption as viable, are unable to extricate themselves from normative dynamics inhibiting their ability to question their position, are trapped by their desires for consumption, and want to see themselves as a powerful entity. Further, this research demonstrates that corporations have the greater power relative to consumers, are invested in perpetuating the myth of the powerful consumer and use their power to reinforce their position. The discussion is concluded by addressing the implications of this research at a societal level, namely in service of sparking a dialog at a policy, cultural, and economic levels about power and value.

Strategy for Customer Development Process (CDP) and retention for a blue ocean Fashion business, Damilola Adepoju

Blue ocean startup companies face the challenge of a non-existing market since the customer is often unknown in a startup. There are new ideas and strategies being developed by marketers to create a relationship between startup companies and customers; one of them is the customer development process developed by Steve Blank. Steve Blank’s books and materials on customer development process (CDP) describes it as non- linear and unpredicted. It requires a company to continuously fail then pivot until a proving scalable and profitable business model is achieved. This dissertation analyses an existing startup’s creation decisions without CDP in comparison to how it would have used Steve Blank’s CDP.

Gen X Women’s Diminished Sense of Meaning in Life and the Impact of Toxic Positivity on American Culture, Charlotte Evers Saleeby

Generation X women are experiencing a diminished sense of meaning in life, rooted in narratives defined by shifting societal values in the formative years of their lives. An explanation for this existential plight is the internalized myth of ‘having it all’ present in American culture. However, previous and limited research on the experiences of the Generation X cohort has neglected to focus specifically on the unique experience of Generation X women. In addition, previous research has not considered how the cultural narrative of toxic positivity has contributed to Generation X women’s challenges in finding and creating meaning and to a lack of meaning-making in the American culture overall. The research shows that happiness and the absence of discomfort does not foster a sense of fulfillment, purpose or connection, which is in opposition to the widely held cultural assumption in the US. The research also shows that narrative identity is a significant tool for meaning processes and creating at an individual, community, and societal level. And finally, the research presents a theory for tangibly making meaning manifest, building from Paul Wong’s work in meaning-making.

All Eyes on Africa: Redefining the Luxury Landscape in West Africa, Olabisi A. Famakinwa

All eyes are indeed on Africa. Irrespective of the financial hardships, food insecurity, and lack of educational opportunities often associated with the continent, major global entities are betting–and moreover, cashing in–on Africa’s economic potential. While consumer-facing industries like tech, music, and packaged goods continue to steadily grow, the luxury industry on the continent is accelerating at an even faster rate. According to the Financial Times, the African fashion industry is valued at $3 billion (Wilson, 2019), positioning the entire value-chain of this emerging industry as a serious economic focal point on the continent for years to come. The outset of this study will begin with my own personal connection to the African luxury industry. This is followed by an examination of the textile market during the pre-colonial era, how colonialism shaped luxury fashion, simultaneously creating a lack of diversity and authentic inclusion of African brands while engaging in cultural appropriation in the context of fashion malapropisms. This examination is complemented by a mixed-methodology triangulation synthesis of in-depth interviews, a comprehensive survey of industry stakeholders, and an assessment on luxury perception. Finally, this study will also discuss opportunities to help African luxury brands to further engage with global luxury stakeholders through substantive agency, e-commerce, social media, and other channels.

Africa is not homogenous. The continent is comprised of 54 recognized countries, over 2000 official languages, and innumerable cultural nuances. Thus, for the sake of clear context, this study will be restricted to the luxury industry in West Africa. Specifically, the study will focus on Nigeria, Ghana, and Senegal as all three countries have established luxury markets. This study is the first of its kind, as there are no research studies that entails an in-depth exploration solely about the West African luxury industry. Africa encompasses an immense amount of both established and burgeoning designers, who are equally talented and innovative as their Western counterparts. They deserve to be seen and heard. This study will serve as a catalyst to help inspire dialogue and spark real change with regards to diversity and inclusion initiatives for African designers both on the continent and within the African diaspora at large.

Gen Z, Fashion, and Sustainability: Co-Creating the Future of Sustainable Fashion, Catrina Reingold

It is largely understood that the fashion industry is environmentally, economically, and socially toxic. Social justice and environmental sustainability are evolving concerns for the American Gen Z cohort today and for the future. Gen Z is increasingly using their technology enabled relationship with fashion brands to influence corporate behavior, especially for the issues they feel passionate about. The Gen Z cohort is re-shaping the fashion landscape and the greater culture through activism, vocalization, and purchasing power. Previous research focused on the Gen Z cohort has examined their purchasing power, their consumption habits, and their connection to video-based platforms like TikTok and Instagram Stories, among other topics. Research, however, has not asked how the unique characteristics and interests of the Gen Z cohort might be leveraged to push sustainability and social impact efforts forward within the fashion industry. Through investigation of fashion brand communication about sustainability and social impact issues and an exploratory Gen Z consumer survey, this paper explores Gen Z’s relationship to fashion brands, their understanding of fashion sustainability topics, and their preferred channels of interaction in order to explore how brands and Gen Z consumers might work together to drive more sustainable outcomes for the fashion industry.

This research shows that Gen Z is trusting, engaged, and interested in communicating with fashion brands independent of the depth of their understanding of sustainability and social impact issues. These findings illustrate a difficult balance for fashion brands to strike: while Gen Z are willing to engage and largely trust fashion brands’ sustainability and impact claims without verification, they also use their digital savviness to take down those they feel have breached their trust.

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The Impact of Women Only Organizations To Close The Gender Gap in Startup Culture Women Entrepreneurs and Women Venture Capitalists in the post #MeToo era, Margaret Ha

Women in the startup industry have been faced with challenges of inequality for quite some time. Although the gender gap in startup culture is not new, the growing magnitude of women empowerment has led to an influx of women entrepreneurs and women venture capitalists. The purpose of this research is to look at the effects of women-only organizations, groups, networks and spaces that have surged out of the #MeToo movement and their effect on women in the startup industry.

This study utilizes a qualitative research method by means of nine in-depth interviews of women in the startup industry with varying degrees of experience, spanning both entrepreneurs and venture capitalists. Each participant shared personal experiences on gender bias, networking, women-only organizations and provided suggestions on efforts to close the gender gap. As a result, while some women were members, supporters, and even a founder of a women-only organization, it was conclusive that women-only initiatives do not aid in furthering women in the startup industry.

While 56.6% of the participants are members of women-only organizations, groups, networks and spaces, an overwhelming 88.9% believe that these groups do not help women in business. The hypothesis of this study rings true that women-only initiatives do not solve the gender gap issue in the startup industry and in fact further segregates men and women. The interviews suggest that there are more important systemic issues to be addressed such as
diversity, inclusivity, education and views of gender roles. As evident from this research, men are not only welcomed but necessary in affecting change for women, therefore the best recommendation for closing the gender gap in the industry is promoting a more collaborative and inclusive startup culture.

To further this research, a global study across multiple countries would uncover a macro pattern of women entrepreneurs around the world. Another continuation of this research would be compiling a larger sample size of evenly distributed women across venture capitalism, entrepreneurship, and women-only networks and spaces while spanning a longer time period to track the success of their startups.

The Culture of Luxury Fashion Brands: How Employee Perspective Impacts the Fashion Industry, Laurine Grere Osborne

The Small Medium-size Luxury Fashion Brands (SMLFB) niche is an essential source of design trends and innovation that drives the fashion industry’s overall growth. Across the western hemisphere the fashion industry is confronted by challenges such as record-high retail closures, a rise in e-commerce, emergent technology and a growing call for sustainability from investors and consumers. SMLFB Career Professional Employees have become concerned about their role in the new economy. The overall purpose of the current research is to identify the strategic course of action needed for engendering change in the SMLFB work culture in order to meet the challenges facing the fashion industry. The specific objective of the research is to include the employees’ perspective in our understanding of SMLFB work culture. Therefore, this study investigates the culture of SMLFB and its ability to meet the challenges facing the fashion industry. In order to meet the research objectives, a combined qualitative and reflexive method research design was utilized. Qualitative semi-structured individual in-depth interviews (IDIs) with seasoned career-level professionals in SMLFB provided uncomfortable results. Findings revealed a general atmosphere of distrust due to management’s broken promises and hypocrisy; the lack of open, respectful and productive two-way communication between career level employees and upper management; and management’s lack of appreciation and support of employees’ contributions. However, the findings also provide actionable insights for reforming SMLFB work culture by focusing on successfully adapting new socio techno systems through careful planning; ensuring positive communications, and building authentic employee and management relationships characterized by mutual trust and respect.

The Relationship Between Employees’ Satisfaction and Corporate Culture: The Role of Community in Workplace Culture That Enhance Employee Well-Being and Institutional Success, Peju M. Onile-Ere

Enhanced well-being of employees is essential for any organization to improve their institutional success in productivity, innovation as well as financial growth. Organization’s definition of an employees’ well-being at work is subjective, therefore this research paper gives a new definition of well-being. Well-Being refers to how comfortable, healthy or happy state of being comfortable, healthy, or happy people are in their lives. Employees with enhanced well-being tend to be more engaged and committed at work to grow and help their company achieve their goals. Turnover in service-based companies or with knowledge workers is at its highest rate and highest pace in history and research shows that it will continue to rise. This calls for employers to search for new ways to retain employees by bringing new meaning to their organization. Employers need to understand that well-being is not only related to physical or mental health, which is usually supported through corporate wellness programs, but related more to various different elements such as trust, sense of belonging and others, discussed in this paper, which should be the foundation of their work culture. This research paper proposes the. This research paper presents a potential conceptual framework on the role of community in the workplace culture and how that engenders the well-being of employees and institutional success, which should be a valuable contribution to the current body on knowledge in this area.

Understanding Social and Organizational Capital & Decision Making for Take-Off Stage Firms in the Food Industry During Unexpected Environmental Change, Frances Sweeney

This study contributes to the fields of organizational behavior, decision-making, and change readiness. I observed take-off stage organizations which are disrupting systemic food categories in the US food industry during the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic. More specifically, these organizations build values like sustainability and social impact into their business model from the start. This research aims to answer the question: Can a firm proactively build change management strategies into their decision making structures in the context of unexpected environmental change in time to avoid failure? In order to answer this question, I conducted semi-structured interviews with five C-suite and founder level executives in this population. I coded these conversations for recurring themes and trends that indicated change readiness. To supplement and validate my findings, I analyzed two impact and sustainability reports from an organization that shares the identified value structure but has grown into a leader in their category. The findings are categorized into five themes: values alignment, supporting social capital, reinforcing activities, documentation, and understanding externalities. I conclude that organizations who build key processes and structures around stakeholders like the environment, local communities, the well-being of their workforce, and a holistic view of the supply chain are inherently building preparedness for unexpected change and are therefore better equipped to weather extreme external events. For future studies in this field, I recommend a comparative analysis of these disruptor organizations against their more traditional competitors to understand the most vulnerable conditions of our food system and work to address them in sustainable and holistic ways.

Establishing Best Practices for Risk Management for mental Health Institutions: Integrating the Perspective of Mental Health Service Providers as an Essential Component of Risk Management Culture, Chioma Nneka Venessa Iheaturu

Mental illness is one of the most prevalent health issues in the United States. It is estimated that one out five adults lives with mental illness. The mental health workforce in the United States can barely keep up with the growing need for services. Today, the focus to combat mental health illnesses is to use various treatment options to identify mental disorders or substance abuse disorders. Although there is now more awareness of the need for better mental health hygiene, it is becoming increasingly difficult for some people to access mental health services because of healthcare barriers. Many mental health professionals also suffer from burnouts and other risks that could affect how they practice and work with patients or clients. Some professionals can barely keep up with the growing number of people who suffer from mental illnesses. The continuous growth of people with mental illnesses has outnumbered mental health professionals who can help with diagnoses and treatments. The current objective of this research is to help identify risks that mental health professionals face at the workplace and how risks are analyzed, resolved, or mitigated. This research also evaluates the need to implement or improve the workplace’s risk management culture to help reduce clinical risks identified by mental health professionals in their workplace. Twelve qualitative, in-depth, individual expert interviews were conducted with Psychiatrists, psychologists, Social Workers, Nurse Practitioners, and Psychiatric Nurses. Findings indicated that several factors and dynamics are needed to ensure that risk management strategies, risk culture, an improvement on identifying risk and safety, and the valued input of mental health workers are incorporated into mental health services. These Factors and dynamics identified include: (I) The need for constant job training about risks management and risk culture ; (II) The need for increased awareness for employee safety (III) How to identify risks and safety issues in the workplace; (IV) How care providers can utilizing care practices that improve patients care; (V) Types of mental facilities; (VI) Examining if mental healthcare professionals have autonomy in the services they provide and (VII) the need for experienced risk managers in mental health facilities.

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A Study on Water Repellent Fabrics, Its Evolution, Innovation, and Its Importance, Tapti Tapan

This research aims to understand and explore consumers’ experiences with water-repellent finishes on apparel and willingness to try on new or different garments with the finish. This thesis explores the innovations and advancements in technology that led to a broader range of products with water-repellent finishes. The research paper also provides a historical overview of how water-repellent finishes came into existence. What started as a crucial necessity during harsh weather conditions for soldiers in the trenches during World War I became a fashion product popularized by celebrities and fashion brands. This research paper explores the properties and importance of water-repellent finishes on apparel, identifies problems posed by water-repellent finishes, and offer solutions to these problems that will make the finish effective, functional, comfortable, and long-lasting. The purpose of this research paper is to examine and understand consumer preferences regarding water-repellent finishes on apparel. As such, this study aims to identify the preferences for water repellent garments for consumers between the ages of 18-45 in the United States. In order to gather quantitative and qualitative data: a mixed-method approach was used. A survey was utilized to explore consumer preferences in regards to water repellent apparel. Moreover, the survey questions wanted to explore if the consumers had previous experience with water repellent apparel, how many garments would they purchase with the finish at a given time, and where would they wear the water repellent apparel? The findings illustrated that the consumers surveyed valued water-repellent finishes and are willing to try different apparel with the finish. Furthermore, the consumers also value functionality and comfort as the main components of the finish. As a result, they are willing to suggest water-repellent finishes to their friends and family.

Overproduction and Overconsumption: The Relationship Between These Two Forces and How Disruptors Can Change the Industry, Carver Queally

Overproduction is a problem in the retail industry and too much unsold inventory is being created. However, disruptive fashion rental services provide an interesting solution to the problem of too much inventory. Rental services could lead to less unnecessary inventory being created and could also leave the customer with more options at a potentially lower price. The topic of this research is the role of retail in disrupting the cycle of overproduction and overconsumption in the fashion industry. The specific focus is understanding the rapidly changing retail landscape; identifying the barriers to changes in consumer behavior; and developing new models of sustainable consumer apparel production, acquisition and use. Survey research was conducted via Survey Monkey with one hundred consumers and was focused on consumers’ awareness of overproduction and overconsumption; purchase behavior; and level of interest in the innovative practices that exist in the market. Findings indicate that consumers are aware of both overproduction and overconsumption in the market. Additionally, findings showed that a segment of consumers are open to innovative processes. 54% of consumers between the ages of 26-34 who live in urban locations reported to use clothing rental services. Lastly, the study aimed to understand the consumer mindset regarding sustainability and retail purchase decisions. Findings showed that customer purchasing behavior is influenced by competing forces and not necessarily sustainability. In sum, the research achieved the objective of providing actionable insights for developing innovative retail models.

Textile Artisans in the Philippines: Accessing and Sourcing Sustainable Raw Materials and Fibers, Lorenza Lecaroz Wong

The vast availability of low cost, low-quality clothing and textiles brought about the near disappearance of the textile industry in the Philippines. Today, the Philippine textiles industry is experiencing a revival including the sector of traditional artisanal textiles. However, Philippine artisans are facing challenges, in the sourcing of local materials. As a result of the lack of available and accessible sustainable raw materials and fibers, artisans are using alternative materials resulting in low quality and non-authentic products. The objective of the current research is to contribute to an in-depth understanding of the artisanal textile industry in the Philippines and the sourcing and access of local sustainable raw materials and fibers. Ten qualitative, in-depth, individual expert interviews were conducted with designers, artisans, educators, advocates and government agency employees from the Philippines. Findings indicate that several factors and dynamics are needed to ensure the continued revival of a prosperous and sustainable Filipino artisanal industry producing product comprised of local sustainable raw materials and fibers. These factors and dynamics include increasing awareness and interest in local natural fibers; the establishment of circular ecosystems characterized by localized micro-production regional processing within local communities; a partnership of national government agencies, local government agencies and other advocates committed to the continued revival of a productive, prosperous and sustainable artisanal industry.

Using Human-Centered Design in the Fashion Design Process to Maximize Sustainability and Improve the Adoption of Innovative Ideas, Brittany DeColli

The actions caused by the fashion industry are causing substantial, and in some cases, irreversible damage to the environment. With an estimated eighty percent of environmental impact happening in the product design stage, fashion brands need to change the way they are currently working (“Make Fashion Circular,” n.d). While other industries have been early adopters of Human-Centered Design as a way to spur innovation and sustainability, fashion has only utilized this framework in a narrow way. This dissertation explains why the application of Human-Centered Design can lead to sustainable and innovative design solutions within fashion companies. If companies are able to change their mindset around the relationship between sustainability and innovation, design products with the intent to be reused, and use sustainability as a criteria for innovation, the fashion industry may be able to reverse its impact on the environment while maximizing profitability.

Facilitating the Process of Micro-Sized Fashion Brands’ Integration of Sustainable Practices: Assessing an Intermediary Concept to Connect Designers and Manufacturers, Wesley Scott

Entrepreneurship in the fashion industry is growing. Fashion school graduates are entering the industry by starting their own fashion lines built on their aesthetic visions, their values, and their philosophies. Social entrepreneurs are starting fashion brands to make an impact and pursue sustainable-focused business. These small brands, referred to as micro-size brands, make up a significant portion of the fashion design industry but tend to have financial issues, low margins, and limited industry knowledge due to lack of scale, capital, connections, and experience. To mitigate the aforementioned barriers that micro-size brands face, an intermediary model can offer sustainability education and matchmaking services for brands and manufacturers and suppliers.

To assess and concept test a new intermediary business model, this study is designed to identify and understand fashion industry professionals’ perceptions, attitudes, and experiences regarding implementing sustainable-focused practices in the supply chain. Eleven semi-structured in-depth individual interviews (IDIs) were conducted with micro-size fashion brand owners and sustainability-focused fashion manufacturers and suppliers to gather their perceptions, attitudes, experiences, reported behaviors and information about implementing sustainable practices in the fashion supply chain. The results of the research revealed that the new accessibility of the fashion industry has led to an influx of new brands founded by untrained designers with unrealistic expectations of sustainable-focused manufacturers and suppliers. It was further revealed that the structure of micro-size fashion brands, where the designer is often the only employee, results in a lack of time for designers, which makes it difficult to accomplish prolonged searches for manufacturers and suppliers that fulfill the designer’s needs. Findings indicate that the barriers faced by micro-size fashion brands when pursuing a sustainable-focused Facilitating the Process of Micro-Size Fashion Brands’ integration of Sustainable Practices 5 supply chain are the same as when pursuing a traditional supply chain. Findings also indicate that there is a need and opportunity for sustainability education for brands and a matchmaking service between brands and sustainability-focused manufacturers and suppliers to address the barriers revealed in the interviews.

Harnessing Technology to Reintroduce Value to Artisanal Handloom Craftsmanship in Varanasii, India, Maila Arzadon Suelto

Technology continues to play a key role in making supply chains more efficient and adding value. However, technology is also disrupting how labor is allocated. Artisan producers, one of the main segments affected by this manufacturing efficiency are challenged by increased competition from globalization and evolving consumer tastes and preferences. Despite this, the artisan market, generating $34 billion a year, has immense potential for growth, partly buoyed by a growing interest in handmade goods, and a return to an appreciation for traditional and heritage craft products. The market segment, comprised of marginalized communities and informal economies, continues to face many challenges that traditional companies, banking systems, state and national governments, have yet to fully addressed. Intertwined with these issues is the role of craft skills and communities in preserving heritage arts and culture within their respective regions. The conflict between cultural conservation and economic progress comes to a head when one is prioritized over the other. The research aims to show that technology can be harnessed to reintroduce value to artisan skills and products in the Handloom Weaving communities of Varanasi, India. It draws on current literature on the realities and challenges of artisanal productions in the last twenty years. In addition, nine in-depth expert interviews (IDIs) were conducted with artisan industry stakeholders representing the fields of artisanship, technology and manufacturing from different parts of the world. . Findings indicate that technology, when used in conjunction with economic opportunities, can positively impact artisans. However, factors including robust infrastructures; accessibility of technologies introduced; novel business models and solutions; as well as the continued support and collaboration of NGOs, design companies, retail businesses, and local and state government, are all key elements in the preservation and continuation of traditional craftsmanship and communities for future generations.

The Future of American Hemp: Roadblocks and Opportunities in the American Hemp Market, Olivia O’Neill

This paper explores the viability of the modern American hemp market following the 2018 Farm Bill which made it legal to grow hemp on a large scale in the United States for the first time since the late 1930’s. Looking to the future it will now be possible for farmers to get production licenses, get loans to grow hemp, and to acquire crop insurance. This begins a new era for a plant with a long and politicized history in this country. It does so by examining the roadblocks and opportunities in the current American hemp market through interviews with stakeholders in the industry.

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Memes, Marketing and Communications: Developing a Strategy for Representation and Fair Compensation for Meme Creators, Frank Gargione

Social media users value memes; encountering, sharing, and creating them on a daily basis across multiple platforms. The meme format has affected the ways individuals communicate, has informed their politics, and has changed the look and sound of mainstream marketing. Behind these humorous images are creators whose work is being shared, altered, and co-opted by social media consumers as well as aggregators, curators, and marketers who use memes to sell products and advertising. Meme creators exist outside the mainstream and represent a diverse cohort in terms of gender, race, sexuality, education, and geography. Largely, they are struggling to generate income from their work and unable to access the individuals and brands that might pay for their authentic voices and creative talents. Based on a comprehensive overview of the history of memes and their impact on communication, culture, and politics, the current study is designed to yield findings and insights to inform a strategy for increasing acknowledgment and compensation for memers. Additionally, the overall research objective was to identify and understand the perceptions and attitudes of memers, marketers and consumers regarding the impact and value of memes and the memetic tone that has seeped into mainstream culture and marketing. The research utilized a mixed-methods design, and twelve (12) qualitative In-depth Individual Interviews (IDIs) were conducted with both memers and marketers, and a quantitative online survey was completed by 122 social media-user consumers. The research was designed with the goals of establishing the level that respondents value memes; consider memes as art; and perceive the role of memes in communication, activism, and marketing. An additional goal was to identify the level of respondents’ interest in a hub, database, or management system where memers could feature their talents, interests, and availability to the marketing community as an opportunity to secure legitimate creative work and fair wages. Findings indicate that social media users value memes; creators would be responsive to such a database; and marketers are generally open to working with memers.

The Power of Social Media: Leveraging the Digital World to Influence Change in the Fast Fashion Industry, Emma Christensen

The research in this paper will allow readers to comprehend that social media, the platform that has helped spur the growth of fast fashion, can ultimately be an effective platform to influence consumers to start thinking differently about this particular industry. The primary question of research asks if a social media cause marketing campaign from an environmental advocacy group can effectively raise awareness of the negative impacts of fast fashion to generate behavior change. The objective of this research aims to understand and measure whether consumers must be aware of the negative implications of their current purchasing patterns in order to change these consumption patterns. This paper tests the hypotheses that a social media cause marketing campaign created by an environmental advocacy group can successfully raise awareness of the harmful effects of fast fashion if ordinary people spread the campaign within their network. The research predicts that advocacy groups can successfully leverage social media as a platform to raise awareness of the negative impacts of this industry to generate behavior change.

The Business Model of Social Media and the Influence of Marketing on Consumer Well-Being, Kiki Van Son

For over a decade, research has shown a decline in well-being due to social media use. In all of these studies, however, a key stakeholder of social media companies is left unexamined. My research introduces the role of marketing into the conversation surrounding social media and mental health. I include a comprehensive look at the literature to show how a business model built on advertising revenue manifests negative externalities for consumers of social media platforms. This is supplemented by primary research in the form of a survey design which samples Instagram users specifically. Findings show how personal users are more vulnerable to negative impacts on well-being than professional users, or users who are marketers professionally and possess an understanding of social media as fundamentally a marketing channel. By revealing clear differences in levels of engagement and reasons for using Instagram between these two types of users, my research illustrates personal strategies that can be used to disrupt the business of social media and positively impact those using the platforms.

Inclusive Sizing: A New Digital Branding Position, Alexa Pereira

In the 21st century, the issue of size inclusivity in the fashion industry has become paramount for the success of brands. Particularly, the fashion industry dealing with women’s clothing has received pressure from models and women shoppers to embrace size inclusivity in their brands. With technological advancement, customers can get information on products and previous shoppers, determining their choice to purchase goods. If the company does not align with customers’ needs and wants, they can easily change brands to those who value them. This calls for a need to study size inclusivity from both customer’s perspectives and fashion designers to provide action items fashion companies can incorporate into their marketing strategies to ensure maximum client satisfaction, resulting in customer acquisition and retention. The project interviewed five marketing professionals and surveyed 30 female customers to understand further the concept of size inclusion in the fashion industry. Open and closed-ended questions were used to collect information from participants. The questions ranged from customers’ opinions on what it means for brands to incorporate diversity in their websites and marketing strategies to their recommendations on embracing diversity in their fashion lines. The two central research questions that guided the project are; a) How accurate are the current marketing data and technologies that measure inclusive sizing? Are brands utilizing these findings effectively? And b) In what ways can inclusivity be a brand pillar that allows for customer retention and brand favorability even if a consumer doesn’t fall into a minority category (i.e., plus size)? As noted in the results, diversity is a key factor in women’s shopping decisions. Women are cautious with brands that do not send a message of appreciation to the broad women market. For example, women tend to avoid companies that do not represent all body sizes, especially when advertising with models. Authenticity was another important factor for female shoppers. When customers feel the brand genuinely understands and consider their diverse body sizes, they tend to be loyal. It is recommended that brands use available technology to integrate customer-based marketing tools and foster size inclusivity in the fashion industry. Despite the extensive research and insightful results from this study, gaps are noted that call for further research. These include but are not limited to; Biases of selling tools and technology (i.e., user experience tools, virtual try-on, in-store mannequin sizes) and their effects on size inclusivity, corporate diversity training and its effects on size inclusivity expansion and, effects of image retouching and social media filters and how this affects size inclusivity.

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