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As recently as 1997, over 40% of all apparel purchased in the US was produced domestically. Today, that figure is less than 3%. Given high labour costs, can the US find opportunities in the global apparel market to increase domestic production while simultaneously improving environmental and social performance? This paper explores a potential hybrid solution combining knowledge of the sustainable apparel marketplace with a fast-fashion model that relies on a supply chain that matches shorter-cycle, flexible production with higher product differentiation. Compared with today's dominant model of offshore production in low-cost-labour countries, onshoring more of the supply chain to the US would facilitate quicker response to actual customer demand while manufacturing in a less pollution-intensive manner owing to proximity and tougher domestic environmental rules and enforcement. An environmental review captures differences between the hybrid sustainable apparel/fast fashion-based system and the offshore alternative. A first-trial gross operating profitability assessment indicates that the hybrid system can be more profitable than the offshoring model under conditions that already exist for European-based retailers. This paper shows how, taken together, alternative production methods could support relocalisation of apparel manufacturing in the US, thereby increasing local jobs, resource productivity and brand security.

Keywords: Fast fashion; Industrial ecology; Insourcing; Onshoring; Relocalisation; Supply chain management; Sustainable apparel manufacturing

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2012-03-01

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  • The Journal of Corporate Citizenship focuses explicitly on integrating theory about corporate citizenship with management practice. This means that the journal provides a forum in which the tensions and practical realities of making corporate citizenship real are addressed in a reader-friendly, yet conceptually and empirically rigorous format. The Journal of Corporate Citizenship aims to publish the best ideas integrating the theory and practice of corporate citizenship in a format that is readable, accessible, engaging, interesting and useful for readers in business, consultancy, government, NGOs and academia. This peer-reviewed journal encourages practical, theoretically sound, and (when relevant) empirically rigorous manuscripts that address real-world implications of corporate citizenship in global and local contexts.
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