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Knight Apparel, PSU Work For Corporate Responsibility

Knight Apparel, a major supplier of college-logo clothing to hundreds of American universities including Penn State, has announced that their new factory in the Dominican Republic pays over three times the country’s minimum wage and allows unions, a groundbreaking step in their efforts to promote corporate social responsibility.

The university has worked closely with the apparel company to bring this initiative to fruition and plans to sell the clothing line in the Penn State Bookstore, according to Geoff Rushton, the Assistant Manager of the News Bureau at Penn State. The products, which will carry the brand name Alta Garcia, will also be shipped to 400 university bookstores across the country.

The initiative, however, has its risks. Because the company has to make up for the increased costs of higher wages and keeping the plant operational, the products are likely to carry a price tag that’s on par with other leading apparel brands, such as Nike and Adidas.

“Obviously we’ll have a higher cost,” said Knight Apparel’s CEO Joseph Bozich. “But we’re pricing the product such that we’re not asking the retailer or the consumer to sacrifice in order to support it.”

Company officials are confident though that students will opt to pay for  good business practice.

“We’re hoping to prove that doing good can be business, that they’re not mutually exclusive,” said Bozich.

Barnes and Noble College Booksellers and Knight Apparel plan on unveiling an aggressive marketing program, and will include web advertising, large store signs and other methods.

“It’s going to be marketed like crazy,” said Joel Friedman, Vice President of General Merchandise at B&N College Booksellers.

The initiative led by Knight Apparel will hopefully lead to more socially responsible business practices among other apparel companies. In fact, Nike has recently announced that it will be paying $1.54 million to over 1500 workers that were laid off in two of its Honduran garment factories in 2009. Penn State played a role in compelling the company to give assistance to its Honduran workers who were fired last year.

Is this a new era for the corporate world, where good, socially responsible business practices become a products main selling point? Or will consumers fail to notice these new initiatives and continue to purchase products based on the brand or price? In any case, it is nice to see companies who have been railed in the past by allegations of sweatshop practices start to grow a corporate conscience. Who knew it was possible?

Will you continue to purchase your regular brand name Penn State clothing, or will you opt to purchase Knight Apparel’s Alta Garcia products in recognition of their new corporate social responsibility initiative?

Representatives from USAS were not available for comment.

[Photo Credit: Flickr / Caitlinator]

About the Author

Tom Kent

I was born in Virginia Beach, raised in Westfield, NJ, went to college at Penn State, moved to Miami, FL. Peruvian on mom's side and English on my Dad's. I'm a Journalism major and Political Science minor. I do not currently own any reptiles.

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