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Jul 23, 2020

Sustainable Sportswear Honors Thesis

For his senior honors thesis research project, Chris Karras, BSBA ’20, was able to merge a personal interest in sports and sportswear with his interest in marketing and sustainability. We sat down with Chris to discuss his research.
What first prompted your interest in sustainable sportswear?
I have been passionately involved in the sportswear industry as a consumer for the last decade. My love for sportswear derived naturally from my participation and interest in sports, but has evolved into an admiration for the many dimensions of sports product. I have seen the rise and fall of many movements within the space. In 2016, I noticed the foundation of what has now become a substantial move towards sustainable sportswear with the announcement of the Adidas X Parley partnership. This initial seed of curiosity sprouted throughout my four years at Carolina, was watered by many great classes, and ultimately bloomed in the form of my honors research.
What was your most surprising finding?
My research suggests that sustainable assertive claims exert a uniquely negative effect on a consumer’s willingness to recommend a product to a friend. I find this result fascinating in that it suggests marketing messages’ ability to influence post-purchase behavior is not as intended. This finding also may reflect deeper consumer behavior concepts tied to the social aspects of consumer-to-consumer recommendation. It is important to note that these findings reflect the specific context of my research and simply provide a first look into the world of sustainable sportswear marketing.
What part do you see consumers’ playing in making sportswear companies more sustainable going forward?
Sustainability in the sportswear industry takes many forms. From responsible raw material acquisition to working conditions throughout the supply chain, companies have a responsibility to act sustainably and think re-generatively. With a focus specifically on product, I propose three responsibilities for a future that is better than the present.
1. Consume with resources in mind – The sportswear supply chain is resource intensive. Consumption drives creation, so consume mindfully.
2. Demand sustainable product innovations – The sportswear industry thrives on supply and demand. If consumers do not find sustainable sportswear interesting enough to purchase, manufacturers have little incentive to create. The day sustainable sneakers sell out in minutes will be a great day for the future of green sportswear.
3. Hold your company to the highest standards – Ask these questions: how can we make more with less, better products with fewer resources, exciting innovations with limited environmental externalities. Call upon leading companies to answer this call. The consumer voice is a strong one.
See Chris’ website, Sustainable Sportswear…the future of sportswear for details about his research and a video chat with Professor Patricia Harms.

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