Ethics and accountability in design appear to have increased momentum as individuals and corporations are increasingly conscious of the detrimental implications of immoral business practices. The accountability and responsibility of both individuals and organisations are significant to business practice. This has become increasingly apparent due to the role business must play if humanity and the environment are to thrive in future. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is mounting in emphasis within corporations, as identified through various bodies of research. This paper positions ethics and accountability in design practice from the lens of CSR initiatives.
CSR is a corporation’s level of focus on the wellbeing of its employees, society and contributions to charitable causes. Many clothing corporations strive for a CSR stance as research shows that CSR adds value to a corporation’s image and brand. Research suggests that the reputation of clothing brands, impacted by their CSR initiatives, or lack thereof, could subsequently affect the stakeholders’ level of trust in a corporation. This view fortified the proclamation of CSR disclosures, which enables the public to follow the CSR initiatives of clothing brands.
As part of a Magister Technologia (MTech) study in Fashion Design which focuses on the role of branding in corporate social responsibility, this paper aims to draw on relevant literature grounded in CSR to contextualise three South African clothing brands and their CSR initiatives. The authors begin with a theoretical positioning of the stakeholder theory and explore the notion of CSR. The stakeholder theory emerges as a means to understand the motivating factors of CSR activities in organizations. The paper then shifts to conceptually analysing the three South African clothing brands and their CSR initiatives as a means to potentially gain a broader perspective on CSR within a South African context. The authors adopt a desktop methodology, to review the stakeholder theory, define CSR and explore the CSR initiatives of three South African clothing brands. This paper contributes to the overarching themes of ethics and accountability in design practice given the scope of CSR initiatives of the three selected South African cases.