Over the past few years more students have been focussing on business ethics when choosing a topic for their final year business dissertation at Northumbria University.  Four years ago, the North East Initiative for Business Ethics decided to recognise this with an award for the Best Dissertation in Business Ethics at the University.  This both builds on NIBEs close relationship with Northumbria but is also part of our work with young people across the region.   

Students’ topics cover a wide range such as enhancing firms’ energy efficiency, improving employment prospects for employees with disabilities, combatting fraud, managing successful CSR interventions and many others. 

Every year, a shortlist is drawn up of those who have received the best marks from Northumbria’s academics and between three and five projects are shortlisted.  Members of NIBE’s board choose an overall winner. looking particularly for projects that address relevant issues for business and have practical suggestions to make.  They choose an overall winner and provide feedback to the runners up.

This year’s winner is Jane Reynolds

The theme of my dissertation was based on the rise in the consumption of fast fashion amongst Generation Z , a generation who are said to have strong sustainability attitudes. My dissertation explored Generation Z’s behaviours when it came to consuming female fashion, and discovered how pro-environmental attitudes are not being matched with pro-environmental behaviours in terms of fashion consumption. I researched the most prevalent reasons as to why there is a difficulty amongst the generation to consume environmentally friendly fashion and discovered wider structural barriers which are in the way of Generations Z’s pro-environmental purchasing behaviours within the fashion industry. 

I chose this theme due to knowing the role the fast fashion industry has when it comes to environmental degradation and the contemporary issue it is today. In the world we live in, ending the fast fashion crisis is not as simple as telling a fashion-conscious consumer to change their shopping habits, and if it were, there would not be this huge issue of fast fashion. I was aware of the existence of wider, deeper issue which led to the purchase of fast fashion, including economic and social constraints in our society today.

I was extremely interested to research and explore issues within the consumption of fast fashion, from a stance that understands the blame shouldn’t be wholly shifted onto the consumer. by doing this research, I aimed to help consumers understand their own shopping habits and where they can, try and make the changes to greener fashion. I also aimed to highlight the issue of business ethics within the fashion industry.

Multinationals have seen the profit potential in fast fashion, and in turn have blown up the market for it, leaving little room for environmentally friendly fashion, especially at an affordable price. I wanted there to be an understanding of how business ethics within the fashion industry, has a large impact on whether or not consumers are able to match pro-environmental attitudes with behaviours. The ideal goal from my research was to understand what can be done to help Generation Z more easily and freely match pro-environmental attitudes with pro-environmental behaviours. Overall, my research highlighted the need for structural change and an increase in ethical business practices. 

I am delighted that due to winning this award, several others have been able to read my work which i dedicated several hours and long nights to. My original goal of creating a high standard dissertation that I am proud of and to do well in my final year, has been exceeded, as i have been given chance to share my efforts with many others who are interested in the issue of ethical business practices. I would love for it to be shared with others who may not already have the knowledge base about the fast fashion issue there is today. 

Jane Reynolds – Student Northumbria University