Social Enterprise: A New Paradigm For Fashion (OP-ED)

 
We are living in a society that is constantly having debates about poverty, inequality, pollution, global warming, water crises and workplace conditions. We are also living in a society that consumes over 80 million dollars’ worth of clothing a year. A world that is infatuated with looking good, feeling good and doing good. In effect, studies have shown that the new generation is constantly concerned about the world we are in. So now, more than ever, they are challenging brands to pivot to change and embrace a do-gooder mentality. Millennials are increasingly apprehensive about the fast fashion brands they buy from and want to support companies that align with their personal values. Bad purchasing decisions contribute to chemicals in our clothing, the pesticides that come from our fabric and the low paid garment works in places like Bangladesh, so why wouldn’t we want to do good? Fashion is a trillion-million-dollar industry that aids overconsumption and excessive pollution. These issues illustrate why fashion brands need to challenge the status quo and adopt a new system like Social Enterprise. Not only for today’s market, but for today’s world.   
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On that premise, the Social Enterprise has drastically expanded over the last decade and has become an alternative business model for companies that want to combine profits with social impact. These companies are self-sustainable with a mission to tackle global social causes like hunger, lack of education, unemployment and climate change. Social Entrepreneurs accomplish their mission through non-profit or for-profit structures, with collaborations with government programs or pre-existing philanthropic entities.
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The best known example is TOMS, who is notably known for their one for one model and for helping over a million people in need in over 26 countries. This organization initially started with just a shoe line that gave a child in need a pair of shoes after every purchase.
Some people still ask why Social Enterprise? Well, let’s look take a closer look at some of the key reasons:
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1. Global Goal to be Rid of Poverty by 2030
In 2015, the world data lab created the world poverty clock to use as a tool to keep track of how many people in the world are living in poverty. The current poverty rate is still below 35 percent so we need a new solution.
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2. Garment Worker’s Rights
One of the most significant concerns in the fashion world is the mistreatment of garment workers. Retailers like H&M and Zara have been on the forefront for the inadequate worker wages in their factories. Even though the industry has shown some progress, it is still a prominent concern. If more brands adopt the employment model into their business, garment workers can start to see more fair living wages. 
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3. Millenial Demands
With an estimated 30% of the population spending an estimated 200 billion annually, this new generation has enormous amount of purchasing power. Unlike any other generation before, they are more aware and concerned with the brands they invest in and work for. Over 68% said that a company’s social and or environmental commitment is important when deciding which product to buy and 45% admitted that they would refuse to purchase from a brand that is not socially or environmentally responsible. They are speaking out and doing it in numbers, so if brands want to survive this new market, they need to respond.
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4. Good is the New Luxury
A recent study suggests that one-fourth of the millennials have not made luxury purchases worth more than $500 in the last 12 months. The new generation looks less at the brands name and instead value luxury through its social mission. 
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5. Traditional Non-profits are not Working
Statistics have shown that traditional non-profits are losing government funding and public donations. One of their biggest challenges has been their inability to be self-sustainable like regular businesses. By adopting a Social Enterprise model we can bridge the gap between business and non-profit.
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6. Traditional advertisement is not working
Millennials are becoming keener and more aware of the advertisement ploys. They want authenticity and brands that take into account social issues. If brands want to appeal to them, they need to create an army of advocates to help spread their brand. The only way to do that, is to appeal to their personal values. 
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The traditional way of business is failing us and its time that fashion brands recognize where we are and what needs to be done. If brands don’t, they are showing that the they don’t care about the planet, the people, or their consumers.