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Laura Seppälä.
Laura Seppälä.

Dissertation: Responsibility has expanded in the outdoor clothing industry during the past decade

14.11.2022

Over the past decade, responsibility and sustainability have become an inseparable part of the outdoor clothing industry, and acts of responsibility have become a competitive advantage. At the same time, the differences between the companies have grown. This is shown in the doctoral dissertation by Laura Seppälä, PhD, MA where she studies the responsibility communication of international outdoor clothing companies.

In her doctoral dissertation, Laura Seppälä examines responsibility communication by twelve international outdoor clothing companies on their websites in 2009 and 2021. The research sought to find out what has happened to the outdoor clothing industry's environmental and social responsibility over the past decade.

Many of the responsibility actions already noted in 2009 are still relevant.

"Environmental challenges have become more complex, and new ones have emerged. Emerging topics of the last decade included climate change, PFC compounds, microplastics and animal welfare. In addition, during the last decade, issues of social responsibility have surfaced and received more attention. Such topics include, for example, forced labour, living wage, and health and safety", says Seppälä.

The research was a case study of 12 outdoor clothing companies, but it gives an indication of a general change. In particular, climate change, the use of natural resources and social responsibility have become topical in the public debate.

"The general discussion increases users' awareness of responsibility, and responsible actions have become a competitive advantage in ten years. Due to their purpose, outdoor clothing is also required to be more responsible than fast fashion, because users of outdoor clothing are often interested in nature and the environment", Seppälä states.

One of the results of her research is that the websites of the best companies also serve as a data bank for the acts of responsibility.

"These companies openly brought challenges to the users' awareness and also presented the solutions they knew", says Seppälä.

The differences between companies have grown

During the last decade, responsibility and sustainability have become an inseparable part of the outdoor clothing industry.

"On the other hand, the decade has increased the differences between companies. Pioneering companies have managed to invest a significant amount of money and energy in responsibility", Seppälä estimates.

Responsible supply chain management often requires collaboration between brands, industry associations, non-profit organisations, standardisation organisations and NGOs. According to Seppälä's research, the participation of brands in sustainability organisations and third-party audits has increased in the decade.

The results of the research can be used by companies in the clothing industry, designers as well as students. Large companies often already have a comprehensive responsibility strategy, but especially small companies can gain new perspectives on their operations from the overall picture provided by the research.

Information on the public examination

The academic dissertation Responsibility and Sustainability in the Outdoor Clothing Industry based on the Website Communication of the Brands in 2009 and 2021 by Laura Seppälä, PhD, MA, is publicly examined in the Faculty of Art and Design at the University of Lapland on Thursday 24 November 2022 starting at 12 noon (Finnish time) in Lecture Hall 3 (LS3, Yliopistonkatu 8, Rovaniemi). The opponent is Professor Annamari Vänskä from Aalto University and the custos is Professor emerita Kaarina Määttä from the University of Lapland. The language of the event is Finnish.

The public defence can be followed online: https://blogi.eoppimispalvelut.fi/ulapland

Information on the doctoral candidate

Laura Seppälä earned her Master of Arts in 2010 at the University of Lapland. In 2017, she earned her PhD on co-design from the University of Salford. To finalize her dissertation, she received an Esko Riepula grant from the University of Lapland.

Further information

Laura Seppälä, laura.seppala (at) flassi.fi

Information on the publication

Laura Seppälä: RESPONSIBILITY AND SUSTAINABILITY IN THE OUTDOOR CLOTHING INDUSTRY based on the website communication of the brands in 2009 and 2021. Acta electronica Universitatis Lapponiensis 349. University of Lapland: Rovaniemi. ISBN 978-952-337-336-5. ISSN 1796-6310.

Permanent address of the publication: https://urn.fi/URN:ISBN:978-952-337-336-5