Employee volunteer programs as corporate social responsibility in the apparel industry: an investigation of stakeholder perceptions

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Tara Jennifer Konya (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site: http://library.uncg.edu/
Nancy Hodges

Abstract: The twofold purpose of this dissertation was: (1) to explore employee volunteer programs (EVPs) as corporate social responsibility (CSR) among apparel firms, and (2) to understand the value of such programs for a firm’s stakeholders, specifically its employees and the communities it serves. The four objectives of this study were: (1) to explore corporate philanthropy as a form of CSR in the apparel industry, (2) to investigate EVPs as a type of corporate philanthropy, (3) to examine the employee perspective on EVPs as stakeholders, and (4) to consider the impact of EVPs, corporate philanthropy, and CSR within the context of the local community. This study addresses gaps within the apparel, marketing, and management literatures regarding the motivations for employee participation in CSR initiatives, such as EVPs, as well as the social consequences of these initiatives for local communities. Thus, this dissertation is one of the first in-depth academic studies to be conducted on EVPs as a CSR strategy in the apparel industry. An ethnographic approach to research was used to address the purpose and objectives of this study. Data collection methods included participant observation, interviews, and visual documentation. A total of 10 EVP events were observed in the New England and Southeastern areas of the United States. A total of 64 field interviews and 46 semi-structured in-depth interviews with employees of apparel firms and community members were conducted. Visual documentation was used to enrich observations and interview data. Spiggle’s (1994) suggestions of qualitative data analysis were employed to identify patterns in the data, which resulted in the development of three thematic areas used to explore EVPs as CSR: (1) Laying the Foundation, (2) The Employee Perspective, and (3) The Community Context. This study is one of the first to apply a conceptual framework that integrates the theories of equity, social exchange, and social capital to understand the value of EVPs for a firm’s stakeholders, specifically its employees and the community it serves. Together, the theories offer an understanding of EVPs as CSR, and the outcomes achieved through firm-stakeholder relationships. Findings establish CSR as the foundation of EVPs, and, in turn, highlight the outcomes for local communities. That is through EVPs as CSR, EVPs create partnerships between firms and nonprofits, collectively creating value for multiple stakeholders. As a result, employees and community members work together as one for the betterment of society, which results in social capital. As revealed in this study, employees of US-based apparel firms expect businesses to contribute to society and see CSR as the connection between the firm, its employees, and the local community. As such, findings indicate that through the strategic application of resources, firms can offer support in the areas that matter most to stakeholders and to make a difference at home. Findings also suggest that, ultimately, employees are motivated to engage in EVP for various reasons, whether a sense of obligation, a desire to help others, spend time with peers, network, or to learn. This study reveals how and why EVPs clearly benefit multiple stakeholders and that it is the community that benefits the most through relationships that forge social capital. That is, the EVP is a conduit of action that allows employees to use time and effort to improve the communities in which their employers operate. The motivation to participate (equity), when combined with the relationship prompted by the EVP (social exchange) produces social capital that helps to better the community. Thus, it is not a single EVP event, but the totality of multiple events that establishes a firm’s value within the community, and more broadly, within society as a whole. While the findings are significant to enriching and enhancing literature on the topics of CSR, corporate philanthropy, and volunteerism, findings are limited to the publicly traded US-based apparel firms and brands observed in this dissertation. Future studies could examine whether similarities or differences arise that may be related to the geographic location and size of the community and the various cultural differences therein. In the same vein, a cross-cultural study could explore the different global perspectives of CSR strategy and corporate philanthropy in local communities around the world. Additionally, investigating firms with weaker CSR strategies and including employees who are not as committed to CSR initiatives like EVPs would shed light on additional stakeholder perspectives.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2018
Corporate Philanthropy, Corporate Social Responsibility, Employee Volunteerism, Equity, Social Capital, Social Exchange
Clothing trade $x Moral and ethical aspects
Clothing trade $x Social aspects
Social responsibility of business
Social exchange

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