Neve said “students are very conscious about environmental issues and issues surrounding fair trade and labor practices.” As a result, he said many schools have responded by mandating the businesses they work with abide by safe and fair practices. To address these market concerns, Boardroom Custom Clothing has converted about 20 percent of its materials to environmentally friendly alternatives and been audited for social standard compliance. The company also participates in 1% For The Planet, a group of businesses that donate one percent of sales to natural environmental protection and restoration.
Schools must “consider a different bottom line,” said Neve. Accountability to the students is “a major part of the equation.” Neve said trying to avoid the subject of labor and environmental issues is not a solution. “[Students] know how to use the Internet and they will figure it out,” he said. He described this as a new paradigm of factors driving purchasing decisions. “[Students are] more interested in saving the planet than your company or your corporation saving money,” he explained.
The current college consumer is also a more savvy shopper than his or her predecessors. “I think the student buyer is more sophisticated,” Reed said. “They want quality.” Reed attributes this demand on products to the promotional industry catching up to retail trends. As the gap closes, people are holding promotional products to the same standards as retail products. Students are “shopping at The Gap, Abercrombie and Hollister,” Reed said, and they enter the college bookstore “looking as if it were the same quality.”
Neve agreed. “Traditionally, you could just get away with putting a logo on some cheap shirt,” he said, “but you get what you pay for and 98 cents doesn’t really buy you a terrific shirt, in terms of quality and styling.” Neve said when students are shopping, they know “they can go into another store and find something else that’s much, much more stylish [and] better quality.” He also said the prices tend to be similar
in college bookstores and retail shops, adding further to the comparisons and increased expectations.